Provo • Lea Garner figured Sirene Blair was going to birdie the 18th hole and force a playoff in the inaugural Utah Women’s Open, so Garner went ahead and made a birdie putt of her own.
The former BYU golfer’s 20-footer was good for a one-stroke victory and a $3,000 check Sunday at East Bay Golf Course.
Blair had stuck her approach shot to within 6 feet on the par-4 No. 18, so Garner knew exactly what she needed to do. She came through with “one of the more nerve-wracking putts I’ve had,” she said, wanting to avoid a playoff. Garner succeeded, winning with a total of 11-under-par 133 as BYU coach Carrie Roberts caddied for her.
Garner earned an exemption into the traditional Utah Open, beginning Friday at Provo’s Riverside Country Club. Blair collected $2,000.
Garner and Blair, who just finished her San Diego State golf career, each closed with a 6-under-par 66. BYU assistant coach Juli Erekson (69-69) was next at 138 as pros took the top three spots. The Cougars’ Anna Kennedy was the low amateur at 140, one stroke ahead of Kelsey Chugg, who recently won her fourth Women’s State Amateur title.
When the Utah Section PGA created the Women’s Open, some members of the Utah golf community wondered if the event would become just another version of the State Am. That sort of happened, in the sense that Garner and Blair are former stars of junior, high school and amateur golf in the state, and the final round resembled match play. But they’re pros now, and they loved having the opportunity to play for money on familiar turf.
“I was super-excited, because there’s been no professional tournament in Utah at all,” Garner said.
Garner has played on developmental tours since turning pro in February. Blair is headed to the first stage of the LPGA Tour Qualifying Tournament this week in southern California with good memories of Sunday’s duel, even though she lost.
“You can’t help it when you get outplayed,” she said.
Garner moved ahead with a birdie on the par-4 No. 15 and maintained her lead over the last three holes, although the win didn’t come easily. She had to make three tough putts for two birdies and a par, while Blair barely missed her attempts for an eagle at No. 16 and a birdie at No. 17.
Siegfried & Jensen Utah Women’s Open
East Bay Golf Course (Par 72)
133 – Lea Garner (67-66). 134 – Sirene Blair (68-66). 138 – Juli Erekson(69-69). 140 – a-Anna Kennedy (68-72). 141 – a-Kelsey Chugg (69-72).143 – a-Carly Dehlin (72-71). 144 – a-Alina Vannarath (74-70), a-KendraDalton (73-71), a-Naomi Soifua (69-75). 146 – a-Annie Yang (73-73),a-Sadie Palmer (72-74), a-Tess Blair (72-74). 147 – a-Gracie Richens(74-73). 148 – a-Kerstin Fotu (77-71). 149 – Apelila Galeai (72-77).