State Amateur: Ex-Ute Jon Wright, UVU's Preston Richards advance to finals
Ogden • With his caddie carrying a University of Utah golf bag in the State Amateur, Jon Wright might have talked about how he defeated two BYU players Friday.
He also could be motivated to show that his 2012 victory was more than a product of home-course knowledge. And then there's the matter of proving that golfers in their 40s can beat the collegians.
All that matters to Wright is having a shot at a second title. "I just want to win another one," he said, dismissing any extra incentives.
His opportunity will come Saturday morning at the Ogden Golf and Country Club against Utah Valley University's Preston Richards, who's confident about his own chances.
Remembering his loss to Wright in the round of 32 last July, Richards said, "It'll be a little payback tomorrow. I think I'll take this one."
Wright and Richards trailed in the middle of the back nine during their semifinal matches, then kept making pars while their opponents faded.
Each claimed a 2-up victory, thanks to a clutch tee shot on the par-3 No. 18, with Wright beating Tommy Higham and Richards eliminating Maple Mountain High School's Kai Ruiz.
Wright knocked off defending champion Cole Ogden 3 and 2 in the morning quarterfinals, making five birdies. His late surge in the semifinals was product of steady play, while the left-handed Higham suddenly struggled with shots that sailed to the right, resulting in three straight bogeys that cost him holes.
Wright lost No. 17 after a wild drive, but regrouped quickly. His high, fading 5-iron shot stopped 5 feet from the hole at No. 18 and Higham conceded the birdie.
Moments later, the other match ended similarly. Richards had taken the lead by winning Nos. 14 and 15 with pars, then made a heroic bogey at No. 17 to stay ahead. His caddie, UVU teammate JT Timmons, talked him into hitting a 6-iron (not a 7-iron) at No. 18. Richards found the middle of the green and won the hole with a par.
Timmons caddied for Ogden last year in the finals at Soldier Hollow Golf Course and hopes to assist in another victory. Richards, a Jordan High School product, played Division II basketball for Montana State-Billings before transferring to UVU, where he'll be a senior golfer in 2014-15.
"I'm finally putting everything together," said Richards, 24. "I know I hit the ball as good or better than anybody out here. â¦ It's just my putting has finally clicked this week."
Wright's ball-striking has improved throughout the week, once he recovered from a surfing vacation in California. The former professional golfer, 43, labeled his emotional victory two years ago at The Country Club of Salt Lake City "the biggest win of my life," and he'd love to follow through with another title.
"As I get older, I realize the window is getting shorter, to where you can still hit it up with these college kids and still walk 36 holes and still keep your nerves," Wright said, "because it gets a little hairy out there."
Utah State Amateur
O Jon Wright and Preston Richards both come to No. 18 with a 1-up lead and win the hole, clinching their semifinal matches.
• Wright, a University of Utah golfer in the early 1990s, defeats two current BYU players Friday.
• Richards, of Utah Valley University, will meet the 2012 champion in Saturday's 36-hole State Amateur final, beginning at 7:30 a.m.
• Jon Wright def. Cole Ogden, 3 and 2.
• Tommy Higham def. CJ Lee, 4 and 3.
• Kai Ruiz def. Thomas Young, 4 and 3.
• Preston Richards def. Kurt Owen, 4 and 3.
• Wright def. Higham, 2 up.
• Richards def. Ruiz, 2 up.
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