Farmington • Utah Valley University’s Carly Dehlin is in the field for the 120th State Amateur, joining the best men’s golfers in Utah.
This development is not nearly as surprising as Dehlin’s rise among the top players in Utah women’s golf and the Western Athletic Conference. Mix in how she was unaware that women were allowed to enter the State Am until BYU’s Naomi Soifua qualified last year, and Dehlin will be worth watching as the stroke-play portion of the tournament is staged Monday and Tuesday at Oakridge Country Club and Davis Park Golf Course.
The field of 288 will be reduced to 64 for match play at Oakridge, with the 36-hole final match scheduled Saturday.
The State Am is the first two of major tournaments at Oakridge, with the Web.com Tour’s Utah Championship returning in July. The tour event’s Golf Channel booking forced the State Am’s move from its traditional July dates, with regional qualifying events moved up to May.
Dehlin advanced at Glenmoor Golf Course in South Jordan in windy conditions, shooting a 6-over-par 78 after being even through 12 holes.
Having grown up as a competitive soccer player, Dehlin joined Alta High School’s girls golf team only as a senior. And now she’s one of the best golfers in UVU history, with credits including a school-record 67 in a tournament in Arizona and a victory in the Grand Canyon University Invitational.
“It’s kind of crazy,” she said. “I never expected this to happen.”
Dehlin follows Soifua and Annie Thurman Young (2005) as women who qualified for the State Am. She’s a daughter of Devin Dehlin, a longtime club professional who’s now the executive director of the Utah Section PGA, Yet soccer was “all I did” for most of her youth, she said. Dehlin’s athletic ability enabled her to improve quickly as a golfer. It helped that her father became a part-time assistant coach to UVU’s Sue Nyhus, following Carly during tournaments and offering advice mostly about the mental side of the game.
“Baby steps … thanks to a lot of influential people,” Dehlin said, describing her climb in UVU’s program. Having graduated, she will play as senior in 2018-19 while pursuing a master’s degree.
For all of her recent golf achievements, Dehlin was topped in a one-hole snapshot last week by her brother Connor, who made a double eagle at South Mountain Golf Course in Draper. The other witness? BYU golfer Kelton Hirsch, the State Am defending champion.
Hirsch upset former Cougar teammate Patrick Fishburn in last year’s semifinals at Ogden Golf & Country club, Fishburn’s home course. Hirsch will take his turn as a defending champ on his course, Oakridge. He says being comfortable with the surroundings will help him, although the course is straightforward enough that local knowledge is just a slight advantage.
Davis High’s Cole Ponich, another young star among Oakridge’s membership, should contend this week. Ponich won the Utah State Junior Amateur last week, with the semifinal and final matches at Oakridge. He felt a lot of pressure to win that tournament on his home course, but expectations should be more realistic for him in the State Am.