Ogden • When Jon Wright was reinstated as an amateur eight years ago after an unspectacular professional golf career, Saturday afternoon’s scene at Ogden Golf and Country Club is exactly what the former University of Utah golfer envisioned when he returned to playing the game for fun back in 2006.
OK, Wright probably didn’t foresee receiving the Utah State Amateur Championship trophy for the second time in three years on the 100-year-old club’s 16th fairway — more on the reason for that later — but it was validating just the same as he raised the silver trophy and put two fingers in the air to signify his second win in the 116th iteration of the longest continuously held tournament in the world.
Saturday’s highlightsJon Wright, a 43-year-old commercial realtor who lives in Sandy, won the title for the second time in three years, taking down Utah Valley University golfer Preston Richards 3 and 2 at Ogden Golf and Country Club.
» Wright, a former pro, led the entire 36-hole match, which ended when Richards played the wrong golf ball and automatically lost the 34th hole.
"I am just still kind of numb," Wright said after holding off Utah Valley University golfer Preston Richards 3 and 2 in Saturday’s 36-hole championship match. "I thought I could win it, especially after I [got to] the finals. But only then did I think that I could win it. Once you actually win it, it is kind of hard to fathom."
Fortunately, Wright has had the experience before, having won the 2012 title at his home course, The Country Club of Salt Lake City. Now it is probably time to start considering the 43-year-old commercial realtor who now lives in Sandy as one of the better amateur golfers in state history.
If nothing else, Saturday’s win validates his win on his home course two years ago, as Wright showed that he can still get the better of long-hitting college golfers nearly half his age at a venue with which he was relatively unfamiliar when the week began. And he did it with a painful back, although he refused to make an issue of that after the match, saying it only flares up when he makes bad swings.
"I don’t know where this ranks on anything," Wright said when asked about his growing legacy. "I will let someone else decide that."
Wright said a good friend tells him he’s the third-best golfer that friend has played with, behind Masters champion Mike Weir and three-time State Am champ Doug Bybee.
"I am going to text him and say I am gaining on [Bybee]," he said.
Wright never trailed in the final match, taking a three-hole lead after seven holes in the morning’s 18 and going into the lunch break with the same lead. Richards’ best moments came just after lunch, as he won the 19th hole with a par when Wright missed a short putt and the 20th hole with a 12-foot birdie. But Wright won the 22nd hole with a birdie to go 2 up, and Richards would get no closer.
"I felt like my swing was finally coming back. It was going back and forth a little bit," Richards said of the afternoon’s opening holes. "But it seems like I was at that barrier the whole day, down three. When I got it to one it felt really good. I was very confident. I never felt like I wasn’t going to win, even until that very last incident, I thought I was going to win, still."
Ah, yes, the last incident.
On the 34th hole, No. 16 at Ogden G&CC, Richards hit his tee shot down the tree line right of the fairway. A spotter pointed to a ball in some deep rough and Richards made the cardinal mistake of hitting a ball without first identifying it as his.
It wasn’t. He learned that about 50 yards closer to the green when he came across his correct ball. At that moment, he picked it up and shook Wright’s hand, knowing he had automatically lost the hole by hitting the incorrect ball.
"The ball back there was buried. You could just see the [top] of it. And that’s the one that the officials pointed me to. They had been doing that all day, and that’s nice. But they made a mistake, and I made a mistake," Richards said.
Wright had hit his approach to 12 feet, and quite likely would have won the hole (and the match) anyway. So, instead of having the traditional trophy ceremony near the green the match ended on, UGA officials staged it on a fairway — quite possibly for the first time in tournament history.
"I was probably in the driver’s seat anyway, but it is a shame he didn’t get to finish it out, or me, either," Wright said. "But I guess that’s golf. That’s one of those crazy things that happen."
Kind of like a man who has to work for a living beating a bunch of college guys. But then, Jon Wright had already proved that was possible two years ago.
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