Salt Lake City’s Jon Wright left his amateur status for professional golf after his career at the University of Utah, then regained it a half-dozen or so years ago.
But the ex-Ute’s personal rivalry with BYU has apparently never left the 41-year-old member of The Country Club.
114th Utah State AmateurChampionship match (36 holes): Jon Wright vs. Christian Jensen
Sunday, 7:30 a.m., at The Country Club (Salt Lake City)
Yes, even in low-key, amateur golf.
Shortly after downing BYU golfer Zac Blair, 2 and 1, in the Utah State Amateur semifinals at his home course in front of about 50 supporters, including six brothers and his only sister, Wright brought up the fact, unprompted, that he had taken out two Cougars on Saturday. To get to Blair, Wright eliminated BYU’s Mike Jurca, 1 up, in the quarterfinals Saturday morning.
"That always makes it sweeter," Wright said.
In what he estimates is his 10th State Am, Wright has made the final, 36-hole match for the first time. Sunday morning, he will take on St. George’s Christian Jensen for the title.
Clearly, course knowledge has helped Wright all week, especially on the greens where he has three-putted just once — on the 11th hole against Blair in a match he never trailed. Blair missed short putts on the first and second holes to quickly fall behind by two after cruising past 2011 runner-up Stratton Schulz of Vernal and Utah Valley University in the morning.
"I played about as bad as I could today," said Blair, the 23rd-ranked amateur in the world.
There was a chance that the 114th State Am final would feature a former Ute against a current Ute, but Jensen knocked off Alta High product and rising Utah senior Joe Webber, 2 and 1, in the other semifinal. Jensen ended the Cinderella run of former Utes basketball player Chris Grant in a quarterfinal, 3 and 2.
"This is a dream of mine, to win this tournament," said Jensen, 26, who owns a flooring company in Utah’s Dixie. "It has been a lifelong goal to win this tournament, so the sooner the better."
Now is a good time, he said, because his wife, Angie, is due in September with the couple’s first child, a girl.
"I don’t want to say I am surprised to be here. But I am happy to be here," said Jensen, who played for Dixie State College in 2007. "OK, I am a little surprised. I don’t play golf [more than] maybe once or twice a week."
Webber played well in the morning while dispatching recent Alta graduate Kenny You, 5 and 3, but said his ball-striking wasn’t up to snuff against Jensen, and he missed a couple short putts that would have prolonged the match.
"I gave him a couple holes," Webber said.
In the heavily followed Wright-Blair match of contrasting styles — a tortoise vs. hare affair, if you will — the fast-playing Blair seemed to be on the verge of drawing even, but the more deliberate Wright sank an 8-footer for birdie on No. 16 to go 2 up.
On the par-5 17th hole, Wright hit a 2-iron from 252 yards to within 12 feet of the pin, and cozied his eagle putt close to close out the match. No fewer than 35 golf carts — some carried rules officials and media members — were in the vicinity of the 17th green.
Wright said Blair was "more of a favorite" to win the match than he was, but the fact that Wright was the crowd favorite seemingly unnerved Blair, the 2008 champion at Valley View, a little bit, although he wouldn’t acknowledge that afterward.
"Not really," Blair said. "It was a little frustrating getting around here with all the carts, kind of everybody in the way. But no, it was not [a big deal]. He just played better than me. That’s all it was."
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