Golf: Local favorites chasing Arizona pro in Utah Open
Provo • Organizers of the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open undoubtedly are thrilled to have Dean Wilson, Chris Moody, Clay Ogden and B.J. Staten tied as the golfers enter Sunday's final round at Riverside Country Club.
The problem is they're merely part of a big group that's tied for fourth place.
Having built a four-stroke lead through two rounds by shooting 65-66 for a 13-under-par total, Arizona pro Nathan Lashley is positioned to take most of the intrigue out of Sunday's episode at the course that's hosting the Utah Open for the first time in 39 years. His closest pursuers are 2013 runner-up Jesse Mueller (67-68) of Arizona and first-round leader Zahkai Brown (64-71) of Colorado at 9 under.
Otherwise, the cast of characters with varying ties to Utah and Riverside would make the final round a lot of fun and still may do so.
The group at 8 under includes Wilson, a former BYU star, Riverside employee and PGA Tour winner; Moody, the club's native son and longtime assistant pro; Ogden, another ex-Cougar and a two-time Utah Open winner; and Staten, a relatively new Utahn.
They're all chasing Lashley. The 2009 champion, having emerged from a slump, is finding golf "pretty easy right now, which has really been nice," he said.
Once he "stopped trying to change stuff," in his words, Lashley rediscovered his game. He saved difficult pars at the par-4 Nos. 6 and 8 after coming up short with his approach shots from fairway bunkers, and has performed well through two rounds.
Sunday's strategy? "Just keep playing the way I've been playing," Lashley said. "If I can do that, I'll be just fine."
Overnight rains pushed Saturday's starting times back two hours, so the 36-hole cut will come after several groups complete the second round Sunday morning. The leaders will tee off at about noon in pursuit of the $21,000 first prize.
Any of the players with Utah ties would love to emerge from the pack and threaten Lashley's lead.
That includes Wilson, who's basically retired "a weird word," he acknowledged at age 44 after having success as a touring pro in Japan and the United States with one PGA Tour victory. "It just feels fun for me, just to be back and see everybody and play at Riverside," Wilson said.
The course has been subtly redesigned since the days when Wilson played it hundreds of times in college and subsequently as a pro shop worker, making some of the driving angles different, but "the footprint's the same," he said.
Living in San Diego, he intends to play selected tournaments, but "not put so much importance on it," he said. "I still love it and I still want to be involved in the game, but I just don't want to get after it 60 hours a week and get on planes and sleep in hotels and eat in restaurants anymore."
Staten is happily married with a second child on the way, but he would love to resume that traveling lifestyle, for economic reasons. He's had little access to Web.com Tour events this season, after playing regularly at that level which is how he met his wife, Alisha, during the Utah Championship at Willow Creek Country Club, and became a Cottonwood Heights resident.
Staten could have used a member's bounce at Riverside. His approach shot on No. 18 one-hopped the flagstick and caromed 30 feet down the slope of the green. "They put 'em there for us to aim at, so we've got to aim at 'em, right?" he said good-naturedly.
Farmington's Kurt Owen, the low amateur, is in the group at 8 under, with three holes left in his second round.
131 • Nathan Lashley (65-66).
135 • Jesse Mueller (67-68), Zahkai Brown (64-71).
136 • Chase Barnes (65-71), Chris Moody (69-67), Dean Wilson (68-68), Clay Ogden (68-68), B.J. Staten (69-67), Brian Vranesh (68-68).
137 • Nick Mason (71-66), a-Jon Wright (70-67), Taeksoo Kim (70-67), Ryan Hogue (67-70), James Drew (68-69).
138 • Scott Smith (68-70), a-Cole Ogden (71-67), a-Jordan Rodgers (68-70), Brandon Bingaman (68-70), Kurt Watkins (67-71), Nick Killpack (69-69), Martin Trainer (71-67).