Midway • In early March, hardly anyone would have imagined the 114th Women’s State Amateur becoming the first event of the Utah Golf Association’s 2020 calendar.
Thanks to the cancellation and rescheduling of other tournaments, the Women’s Am will lead off the UGA schedule Monday in its original mid-July spot. A field of 61 golfers will compete in two rounds of stroke play, with 16 qualifiers advancing to match play Wednesday and Thursday at Soldier Hollow Golf Course.
BYU golfer Kerstin Fotu, from Lone Peak High School, will try to join a long list of multiple winners of the tournament in this century, after coming through in an unusual competition last year in Logan. No former champions were entered in 2019, likely the first time that’s happened since the inaugural tournament in 1900.
Sacramento State’s Tess Blair, the 2018 champion, and Kelsey Chugg, whose most recent of four titles came in 2017, will be among the favorites on the Gold Course, where the UGA is staging the Women’s Am for the first time. Melanie Warren Christensen, the 1993 winner, also is entered.
Chugg, 29, laughed when she caught herself using the word “youngsters” to describe most of the field, but it’s accurate. College golfers with Utah ties and teenagers such as Berlin Long, Lila Galeai and 2019 runner-up Grace Summerhays will be among the favorites. As members of the Utah Junior Golf Association, those three have played many more competitive rounds in the past two months than other entrants.
Summerhays turned 16 on Thursday, the day after posting a 63 at Davis Park Golf Course in a Utah PGA Junior Series tournament (she added a final-round 66 at Valley View GC). Last July at Soldier Hollow, she became the second woman ever to reach match play in the historic State Amateur.
Blair, a Bingham High School graduate, was named the Big Sky Conference Player of the Year as a freshman in 2019-20. Southern Utah’s Chanikan Youngyuan, from Thailand, also made the all-conference team and should contend at Soldier Hollow.
Blair surprised herself by winning two years ago at Bonneville Golf Course, saying, “I didn’t know if I had what it takes to win something like this.”
She’s more confident about her game now, knowing what she can do. “But with that knowledge comes some expectation,” she said.
Chugg’s first shot at a fifth title ended with a semifinal defeat in 2018. Her work in a new job with Salt Lake City’s golf program kept her from entering last summer’s event. Monday will mark her first tournament round of the season, resulting in “not a lot of high expectations,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to sharpen up my game, hopefully, as the week goes on.”
Fotu posted 70-81 last summer at Soldier Hollow in the UGA Women’s Stroke Play event, finishing one shot behind Idaho State golfer Tyler Erickson.
Fotu didn’t handle the wind very well in the final round. “I think my swing’s a lot different and [so is] the way I’m just managing the course better,” she said. “I’ve learned so much at BYU. That’s the biggest game-changer.”