Midway • Soaring afternoon temperatures, a pesky wind and a suddenly hot opponent twice his age threatened to rattle 16-year-old Preston Summerhays on Thursday afternoon in the 121st Utah State Amateur golf tournament at Soldier Hollow Golf Course.
Forgive the defending champion for barely noticing.
Summerhays calmly rolled in a breaking 12-footer to save par on the Gold Course’s 18th hole in a Round of 16 match, then escaped when 32-year-old Layton CPA Reed Nielsen — who had made a spirited comeback — missed a 5-footer for par that would have prolonged the match.
Just like that, the tables were turned, and Summerhays was advancing to Friday’s quarterfinals, where he will face Southern Utah golfer Jake Vincent, the reigning Big Sky Conference individual champion.
“I really felt my line,” said Summerhays, who became the youngest Utah State Am champion in history last year when he won at Oakridge Country Club. “I could really see it going in, and I just put a confident stroke on it.”
Nielsen called the putt “very, very impressive,” but didn’t think it affected his nerves, despite leaving his attempt short.
“I hit my line, I just didn’t hit it hard enough,” he said.
Summerhays, who defeated Boston Watts 3 and 2 in the morning’s Round of 32 matches, led by five holes through eight before Nielsen rallied. The reigning Mid-Amateur champion squared the match with birdies on 15 and 16.
“Reed played amazing,” Summerhays said. “It wasn’t like I was giving up holes, He was earning them.”
Vincent, 21, a rising senior who is from Palm Desert, Calif., should be able to give Summerhays another good test. He knocked off BYU-bound Zach Jones, one of the pre-tournament favorites, 3 and 2 Thursday afternoon.
“I got lucky that Zach didn’t have his best stuff,” Vincent said. “But my game has been trending in the right direction, for sure.”
Vincent has played in the State Am twice before, “because it’s a great golf tournament,” and landed at SUU because coach Richard Church spotted his talent, gave him his only scholarship offer, and got him to Cedar City.
“Without coach Church, I probably wouldn’t even still be playing golf,” Vincent said.
As is often the case, college and college-bound golfers comprise the bulk of the final eight.
Another of Friday’s quarterfinals will pit former Lone Peak High golfer Elijah Turner, who is also bound for BYU, against Cameron Tucker, a Utah State golfer from Bonneville High. Turner qualified for the tournament two days after returning from a church mission to Ghana.
The most unknown quarterfinalist, at least locally, is 19-year-old Zane Brownrigg, a rising junior at Methodist University in North Carolina who is working at Red Ledges Golf Club this summer and is originally from Cincinnati. He downed Moab’s Alec Williams 3 and 1 and will face Utah State golfer Chase Lansford, who needed 19 holes to knock off former SUU basketball star Ryan Brimley.
“I’m hitting it really well,” said Brownrigg, one of the survivors of Tuesday’s playoff for the final nine match-play berths.
In the fourth quarterfinal, BYU golfer Spencer Dunaway will tangle with Steve Croft, 27, a former University of Utah golfer. Dunaway led 2016 State Am runner-up Aaron Smith by three holes through 12, then had to hang on to advance.
“I didn’t really come into this tournament with any expecations,” Dunaway said. “I’m not usually a very good match play player. ... I don’t make a lot of birdies. I’m more of a par guy."
121st Utah State Amateur
At Soldier Hollow Golf Course, Midway
Round of 32
Preston Summerhays def. Boston Watts, 3 and 2
Reed Nielsen def. John Owen, 1 up
Zach Jones def. Braydon Swapp, 3 and 2
Jake Vincent def. Masen Ward, 3 and 1
Brennan Coburn def. Cole Ponich, 2 up
Elijah Turner def. Dan Horner, 2 and 1
Cameron Tucker def. Derek Penman, 1 up
John Reid def. Nathan Ouimette, 4 and 3
Ryan Brimley def. Colton Tanner, 1 up
Chase Lansford def. Nick Becker, 3 and 2
Alec Williams def. Mitchell Schow, 3 and 1
Zane Brownrigg def. Thomas Young, 3 and 2
Blake Murray def. Cooper Jones, 2 and 1
Steven Croft def. Kelton Hirsch, 21 holes
Aaron Smith def. Spencer Wallace, 1 up
Spencer Dunaway def. Christopher Cheney, 1 up
Round of 16
Summerhays def. Nielsen, 1 up
Vincent def. Jones, 3 and 2
Turner def. Coburn, 5 and 3
Tucker def. Reid, 3 and 2
Brownrigg def. Williams, 3 and 1
Lansford def. Brimley, 19 holes
Croft def. Murray, 4 and 2
Dunaway def. Smith, 1 up
Friday’s Quarterfinal Matches
Lansford vs. Brownrigg, 7:30 a.m.
Croft vs. Dunaway, 7:40 a.m.
Summerhays vs. Vincent, 7:50 a.m.
Turner vs. Tucker, 8 a.m.