There might not be a more beloved public-access golf course in Utah than Bonneville, a hilly layout with treacherous greens nestled in the foothills above Salt Lake City.
Many of the state’s top amateur golfers got their start at Bonneville, which first opened for play in 1929. It remains one of the most-played courses in the entire state.
That’s why so many of the state’s best female golfers are excited to test the par-74 (for women) course at the 112th Utah Women’s State Amateur, which begins Monday and runs through Thursday.
“I love it out here,” said defending champion Kelsey Chugg, having won the tournament last year at Davis Park. “I am a city course kid. I love coming up here in the evenings, and you can feel the history all over the place.”
The Women’s Am is returning to Bonneville for the first time since 1992, when Lisa Imamura won the second of her two State Am championships. Imamura is now an accountant with the Utah Golf Association.
“Winning it at Bonneville really meant a lot to me,” Imamura said, recalling a win when the tournament was still a 54-hole stroke-play event. “I saw my husband with tears in his eyes, and said, ‘aha, I finally made you cry.’”
Bonneville also hosted the tournament in 1946, 1958 and 1965. Utah Golf Hall of Fame member Mary Lou Baker, who recently died at the age of 96, was the winner in 1946. Another Hall of Famer, Marge Fillis, won in 1958 and Sue Thompson won in 1965.
“For me, I see all these pictures around, of guys like Dick Kramer, Tom Sorensen and Tommy Reese,” Imamura said. “There’s so much history here. It’s a wonderful place for the tournament.”
Chugg, a Weber State product who played in the U.S. Women’s Open last month, is looking for her fifth State Am title. She defeated BYU golfer Anna Kennedy 2 up in last year’s championship match, and also took home the trophy in 2012, 2013 and 2015.
Having won the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur last November, the soft-spoken UGA staffer is one of the best female golfers in Utah history, if not the best.
“Some of it is luck, to be honest,” she said of her State Am dominance recently. “I have had matches that were so intense, and have come down to the last hole, and a short putt is missed, or something like that, by the other player. If I stick to my game plan, I usually do pretty well.”
Imamura and Chugg said Bonneville favors golfers with outstanding short games who can read the tricky greens and hit accurate approach shots.
“The greens are so tough that you need to land it in the right spots or you are going to have a tough time two-putting,” Chugg said. “There are greens out here where you have to be on the right tier, or you are done.”
Chugg is one of the favorites, but defending her title won’t be easy.
Utah Valley golfer Carly Dehlin won the Women’s Stroke Play championship last week and is having a sensational summer, having also qualified to play in the Utah Men’s State Amateur. Alpine’s Kerstin Fotu won the Mary Baker Open and is also playing well. Grace Summerhays, sister of State Amateur champ Preston Summerhays, is also entered.
Then there are the BYU golfers — Kennedy and Annie Yang.
“The BYU girls — I don’t know who is going to play, but they have just been getting better and better every year,” Chugg said.
112th Utah Women’s State Amateur
At Par-74 Bonneville Golf Course, Salt Lake City
Monday: First round of stroke play qualifying
Tuesday: Second round of stroke play qualifying
Wednesday: Round of 16 matches (morning) and quarterfinals (afternoon)
Thursday: Semifinals (morning) and 18-hole final match (afternoon)