A lot of people at The Country Club of Salt Lake City wanted to see Jon Wright win the 114th Utah State Amateur golf tournament on Sunday afternoon, seeing as how the 41-year-old Wright has been a member there since he was 15.
Naturally, Wright went out and won it for someone who wasn’t there.
Wasn’t there physically, anyway.
Wright defeated 26-year-old Christian Jensen of St. George, 3 and 2, to become the oldest champion since Todd Barker in 1997 and the first reinstated amateur to win the oldest continuous tournament in the world since Doug Bybee in 1996.
“This means everything to me,” said Wright. “I’ve been trying to win it for a long time.”
Wright’s father, prominent Salt Lake City attorney William Robert Wright, was claimed by Alzheimer’s Disease in January after a 16-year struggle, and the golfer dedicated the tournament to his father and wrote his initials on his golf ball.
“I wanted to win it for him, so I did,” Jon Wright said.
Fittingly, Wright remembers glancing at the initials before rolling in the 8-footer for bogey on the 16th green — the duel’s 34th hole — to close out the match that wasn’t extremely well-played, but was tight most of the way.
Jensen won the 33rd hole with a short birdie putt to trim Wright’s advantage to two holes, and appeared to have the momentum swinging his way on No. 16 when Wright chili-dipped a chip. But Jensen made a mess of the hole as well, and his double-bogey wasn’t good enough to continue the match when Wright rolled in the putt.
It was that kind of day for Jensen, who played collegiately for Dixie State College but now owns a flooring company in St. George. He said he never got a decent handle on the greens, which he said got a little softer and a little slower each day.
He also acknowledged feeling tired and worn out from playing so much golf the past five days.
“For as much golf as I usually play, I am thrilled to [have gotten] to this point,” Jensen said. “It was a great experience, something I can take into next year. I will be back, and I am going to win it for sure.”
Wright spilled coffee on his shirt and shorts before even teeing off in the morning, requiring apparel adjustment No. 1, then changed shirts again after the fourth hole because the new one bugged him, and because he had lost three straight holes to see Jensen go 2 up.
After 18 holes, however, the match was all square, and Wright decided to forgo lunch and headed to the practice range.
Holes 19 through 25 were halved with pars, before Wright took the lead for good with a par on the 26th hole when Jensen missed a tricky 3-footer. Oddly, Wright’s tee shot on that hole went about 50 feet right of the fairway and struck a rules officials’ cart before ending up partially under a tree.
He managed to hit the green, and salvage the par, after he and his caddie berated the rules official (Wright later apologized).
“The real key was going to be whoever took the lead first was going to have the advantage,” Wright said. “Since I had the lead, I knew I would be tough to beat on the back nine.”
Wright described the win as “a big relief.” The four-time Country Club champion, who has played this course more than 2,000 times, was followed Sunday by about 75 friends and fellow members.
“”That was the hardest part, is [that] I have been hearing from every member, every day, since the course opened in March, ‘you are going to win the State Am, right?’ And I am like, ‘yeah,’ ” he said. “... So I had my own expectations. The members all expected me to win. I guess I lived up to it. I was trying to get to match play. I felt like if I got to match play, then I would be very hard to beat. And it worked out.”
And somewhere, a father who got Wright into golf about 35 years ago must be very proud.
114th Utah State Amateur
R Reinstated amateur Jon Wright, a 41-year-old member of The Country Club, defeated St. George’s Christian Jensen, 3 and 2, to win the championship match at a course he has played more than 2,000 times.