Utah’s historic State Amateur golf tournament is pushed back to September

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Preston Summerhays, 16, repeats as State Amateur golf champion at Soldier Hollow Golf Course on Saturday, July 13, 2019, beating Chase Lansford 7 and 6 in the final championship match.

The world’s longest continuously held golf tournament is being rescheduled for Sept. 1-5, when the Utah Golf Association intends to stage the 122nd State Amateur at Jeremy Ranch Golf and Country Club.

The State Am originally was booked for late June at Jeremy Ranch, with Bonneville Golf Course co-hosting the first two days of play. The schedule would have required the UGA’s launching an extensive set of qualifying events at courses around the state in mid-May; that phase is being rescheduled in August. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the UGA board of directors has postponed or canceled all events until mid-July, when the Women’s State Amateur will be played at Soldier Hollow Golf Course in Midway.

As part of its rescheduling plan, the UGA will reduce the State Am field from 288 to 144 players for the finals at Jeremy Ranch, eliminating the Bonneville portion of stroke-play qualifying. That also means 32 golfers, instead of 64, will advance to match play.

The UGA is “disappointed that we were forced to reschedule and cancel championships, but we are committed to hosting our championships in the safest and most socially responsible way possible,” the organization said in a news release. "These changes will allow the UGA to mitigate health and safety issues while providing us an opportunity to conduct our flagship event."

The Utah Championship, part of the PGA Tour-sanctioned Korn Ferry Tour, remains booked for June 25-28 at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington. The tour’s revised schedule calls for a June 8 restart, with two events in Florida to be followed by the Utah stop. If the Korn Ferry Tour follows the PGA Tour’s pattern, fans will not be allowed to attend tournaments in June.

The PGA Tour recently announced that due to a reduced 2020 schedule, no Korn Ferry Tour players will be fully promoted to the PGA Tour for the 2020-21 season that begins in September. That move affects KFT rookie Patrick Fishburn, who’s from Fremont High School and BYU. Fishburn stands 29th on the tour’s points list; the top 25 players ordinarily would graduate to the PGA Tour.

Aside from the UGA’s official events, other amateur tournaments on the Utah golf calendar are subject to the decisions of the host venues. The Richard C. Kramer Salt Lake City Amateur, unofficially ranked No. 2 on the schedule in prestige behind the State Am, is scheduled June 6-7 at Bonneville.

Having used the two-course, 288-player format since 2013, the UGA is the only state association to hold an amateur event of that size, UGA executive director Jacob Miller noted recently.

Stemming from an interview with ABC 4 of Salt Lake City, with his quotes picked up by national publications, Miller has brought considerable attention to the State Am in the past month by saying he didn’t want to be known as the administrator who ended the tournament’s annual run that began in 1899. He consistently has suggested the tournament could have a different look than in recent years, though, as a concession to COVID-19 restrictions.

The UGA will absorb a financial hit by reducing the State Am field. Golfers pay $80 to enter and another $135 if they qualify for the finals. With 144 fewer players advancing, that’s a loss of nearly $20,000 — minus the cost of renting Bonneville for two days.

Preston Summerhays, who will turn 18 in July, is the State Am’s two-time defending champion. His family lives in Arizona, but spends the summers in Davis County. Summerhays will be unable to defend his U.S. Junior Amateur title this summer, with the United States Golf Association having canceled the 2020 tournament.

The Utah Section PGA’s primary events are the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open at Riverside Country Club in Provo and the Utah Women’s Open at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi. Those tournaments remain in their original slots in August.