Jeremy Ranch • After winning a prestigious national event, Preston Summerhays chose to pursue bigger ambitions than trying for a third straight State Amateur victory.
Before reaching the round of 16 in the U.S. Amateur in mid-August, Carson Lundell somehow missed the deadline for entering the State Amateur.
The absence of those two big names from the 122nd State Am that starts Tuesday at Jeremy Ranch Golf & Country Club is part of the fallout from the pandemic-related rescheduling of the event, originally planned for late June. The field includes 144 players — down from 288 in recent years, when two courses were used for the stroke-play portion of the tournament. Match play will feature 32 contestants, instead of 64.
The reduced opportunities didn’t discourage 900-plus golfers from trying to qualify to play at Jeremy Ranch, widely viewed as an outstanding venue for match play. And the temporary return to the traditional 32-player bracket should produce five rounds of great competition, even without Summerhays and Lundell.
Summerhays planned to pursue another State Am title until he won the Sunnehanna Amateur in Pennsylvania and became a candidate for the 2021 U.S. Walker Cup team. He’s entered in an American Junior Golf Association invitational at TPC Sawgrass in Florida this week, chasing more World Amateur Golf Ranking points than the State Am offers. Summerhays, 18, could have become the first golfer since 1934 to win three consecutive titles.
In a text message to The Salt Lake Tribune, Summerhays praised the Utah Golf Association and said he’ll miss playing at Jeremy Ranch. “The UGA has done an amazing job of making the Utah State Amateur such a prestigious event,” he wrote. “Winning it back to back will always be one of my most special memories in golf and a big part of my development as a player.”
Lundell thought he had entered the State Am, but his electronic submission was not received, he told Utah Golf Radio.
The BYU golfer would have been among the favorites in an event that will feature several talented college players, as usual. BYU’s Kelton Hirsch, Cole Ponich and Elijah Turner, Utah’s Mitchell Schow, Blake Tomlinson and Tristan Mandur, Utah State’s Andy Hess and Weber State’s Hunter Howe should contend in an event that has become more significant to them, amid the uncertainty of this fall’s college golf schedule.
“A tournament where you can have a competitive field is a good experience, especially not knowing if you’ll have other opportunities,” said Hirsch, the 2017 champion.
The long-hitting collegians may not have as much advantage as at other venues, though. “The fun thing about Jeremy Ranch is it’s not a golf course you can overpower,” Hirsch said. “It’ll even the playing field.”
Two-time champion Jon Wright, who won last week’s Senior State Amateur at Wasatch Mountain shortly after turning 50, also likes the Jeremy Ranch design. “It’ll be really fun in match play, because there’s some holes where with a good drive you can make it an easy hole, but with a bad drive you can make a big number,” he said. “There’s also a lot of holes where driving it past 300 yards doesn’t help you. … It kind of brings more players into play, because if the fairway runs out at 300, it doesn’t do you any good to hit it farther.”
Other players to watch include Hayden Christensen, the low amateur in the recent Utah Open; David Jennings, who shot a 60 at Davis Park Golf Course to win the Utah Mid-Amateur in July; and Skyline stars Tyson Shelley and Simon Kwon, who led the Eagles to a team win in a national high school tournament this summer.
Jeremy Ranch last hosted the State Am in 2004. Clark Rustand, who won the title that year when Todd Miller declined to play in the Sunday final match, is entered this week. The course also was the site of Utah’s PGA Tour Champions event from 1982-92.
State Am rules require players to walk in Friday quarterfinals and semifinals and in Saturday’s 36-hole final match. That will add to the challenge of Jeremy Ranch, although the course is not as difficult to walk as Soldier Hollow’s Gold Course, a frequent host of the tournament.