Jeremy Ranch • At the end of the longest semifinal round in State Amateur history, University of Utah golfer Blake Tomlinson stood beside Jeremy Ranch Golf & Country Club’s No. 3 green, waiting to congratulate his college teammate and upcoming opponent.
Mitchell Schow asked Tomlinson, “How’d your match go?”
Tomlinson replied, “Awfully similar to yours.”
True, only not quite as long. Tomlinson ended his match with Southern Utah’s Jake Vincent with a birdie on the second extra hole, before Schow went three additional holes and made an eagle to overcome 27-year-old Hayden Christensen of St. George. So the 122nd State Am will deliver an all-Ute final match for the first time in nearly 40 years. Eric Hogg topped Doug Bybee in 1981, the last time an active Ute golfer took home the trophy.
The two Utes will tee off at 8 a.m. Saturday in a scheduled 36-hole match that could last longer, judging by Friday’s events. Tomlinson and Schow each won No. 18 in regulation to stay alive, extending a day that included Schow’s defeating Ute freshman Brandon Robison 4 and 3 in the morning quarterfinals.
Tomlinson’s match with Vincent was “awesome … thrilling, to say the least,” he said. “I guess I just made the clutch shots when I needed to.”
That’s accurate. He nearly holed a wedge shot from 75 yards on No. 18, leading to a birdie to extend the match. And then his two nice wedges on each of the two extra holes set up birdies, with the second one finally eliminating Vincent. Afterward, the players’ fathers hugged each other, feeling both drained an exhilarated from watching an intense match.
Saturday’s pairing reminds Tomlinson of the 2018 semifinals at Oakridge Country Club, where he lost to then-teammate Kyler Dunkle. Before facing Robison, Schow had beaten Braxton Watts, another incoming Utah freshman, in Thursday’s round of 16.
Tomlinson will be an even a more familiar opponent. “It’s going to be fun,” Schow said. “Either way, if I’m playing good or bad, I’m going to give Blake a little crap, being an underclassman.”
That’s an exaggeration. Tomlinson, a Skyline High School graduate, is a senior academically, although he has two more years of eligibility after the 2020 spring season ended early due to COVID-19. Schow, who moved from Ogden to Park City for high school, expected to be finished with college by now, but chose to take the NCAA’s offer of an extra year. If not for the coronavirus that canceled the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica schedule, he would have turned pro this summer.
As he said earlier this week, “Five, six months ago, if someone had told me I’d be playing in the State Am, I would have said they were crazy.”
Yet here he is, facing a teammate in the final match. Once he heard that Tomlinson had advanced, just as he was starting extra holes, Schow was even more determined to get there.
Schow and Christensen tied 10 straight holes (Nos. 7-16), before Christensen won No. 17 and Schow took No. 18, each with a par. Schow had chances to win with birdies on the first two extra holes, but putted too cautiously and Christensen made tough pars.
As he stood in the par-5 No. 3 fairway, Schow said, “I knew I had to step up and hit a good shot or I was going to get beat.”
He came through, knocking a 6-iron from 205 yards to within 12 feet. His eagle putt became unnecessary, after Christensen three-putted from the back fringe. Even so, Christensen could say he lost to an eagle and Schow was happy to drill the putt, for the sake of a more memorable finish.
Blake Tomlinson def. Dan Horner, 4 and 2; Jake Vincent def. Daren Johnson, 2 and 1; Mitchell Schow def. Brandon Robison, 4 and 3; Hayden Christensen def. Luke Crapo, 1 up.
Tomlinson def. Vincent, 1 up (20); Schow def. Christensen, 1 up (21).
Saturday’s final match
Tomlinson vs. Schow, 36 holes, 8 a.m.