For the second time in the last three years, a Utah State golfer is one win away from reigning supreme at one of the most prestigious tournaments in the Beehive State.
Chase Lansford gutted out a pair of one-stroke victories on Day 5 of the 121st installment of the Utah State Amateur Championship on a toasty Friday at Soldier Hollow Golf Course in Midway. The Aggie senior-to-be will now square off against defending champion Preston Summerhays in a 36-hole title match, starting Saturday morning at 7:30.
“Man, it means a lot,” Lansford said. “I always love to represent Utah State in a positive way. And we had Cameron Tucker as well that made it to the round of eight, and unfortunately lost this morning to a really good player, Elijah Turner, but to have two Aggies in the top eight was really an honor. But yeah, it certainly means a lot to me, as well as to Cameron ... and I’ve been talking to my (Aggie) teammates and they’re obviously really proud.”
Lansford, the 16th seed, started his second straight 36-hole day with a back-and-forth 1 up triumph over Methodist College golfer Zane Brownrigg, the 56th seed. Both athletes won three holes apiece on the front nine and headed to the back nine at even par.
Lansford took the lead for good by parring the 10th, and birdied the following hole to secure a two-stroke advantage. Brownrigg pulled to within one stroke on two occasions, but Lansford halved the final two holes to close out the match.
The native of Coffeyville native drained a couple “really long putts that really kept my momentum going” in the quarterfinals. Lansford shot a 1-under par 71 against Brownrigg, which was also what he fired in the semifinals against BYU golfer Spencer Dunaway.
For the first time this week, Lansford faced a two-stroke deficit after the 21st-seeded Dunaway captured No. 6 and No. 7. To his credit, the business administration major immediately bounced back by winning eight and nine to square the match after the front nine. Lansford sank a birdie putt to claim No. 8.
Lansford then proceeded to take a lead he wouldn’t relinquish when he parred the 16th hole. However, it was a couple of clutch shots on earlier holes in the back nine that allowed Lansford to capitalize on this opportunity.
Dunaway was in excellent shape to take a one-stroke lead on 13 when his drive landed six feet away from the par 4 hole. Meanwhile, Lansford was facing “a really difficult chip that I was able to get within about four feet, and I was fortunate to have Spencer miss his eagle putt just slightly.”
“It was just shocking to me,” Lansford admitted. “I didn’t think in any way that I was going to be able to tie him on that hole.”
That was the first of two pressure-packed saves for Lansford. The second came on 15. Once again, Dunaway was primed to seize a one-stroke advantage as he rolled his second shot on the par 4 to within 10 feet of the cup. On the flip side, Lansford’s second shot carried long “by a good 10 yards.”
Nevertheless, Lansford was undaunted as he “hit this little flop shot” that landed on the fringe and rolled to within an inch or two of the cup. Dunaway missed his birdie putt and Lansford was able to keep the match level.
“Under the circumstances and the pressure, the chip that I hit on No. 15, that difficult chip, was probably the best chip I’ve hit in my life, especially under the circumstances,” said Lansford, who made it to the round of 32 at this tournament in 2017.
It was after the 15th hole Lansford said the fatigue started to set in. Lansford recalled looking over at his wife, the former Alicia Little, who was serving as his caddie, and saying, ‘man, I’m just so gassed.”
Lansford mustered up enough strength to win 16 with a par, then parred 17 and 18 to keep his one-stroke lead intact. It’s the fourth time in his five matches Lansford has prevailed by one stroke.
“The golf shots I was able to hit being as exhausted as I was were great, but to be fully honest I wasn’t really tired until about the last three holes,” Lansford said. “And I almost think it was more of a mental exhaustion, rather than a physical exhaustion. I mean, I was tired, but I’ve played plenty of 36-hole days in college. I’ve played well over 30 events where you walk 36 holes one day.”
On the other side of the bracket, Summerhays, the No. 2 seed, held off BYU golfer Elijah Turner for a 1 up triumph. The 16-year-old will attempt to become the first back-to-back champion since his uncle, Daniel Summerhays, accomplished this feat in 2001.
Lansford knows Summerhays, who just completed his sophomore year of high school, will have a large throng of followers in the championship match. Lansford said one of the keys to success will be to “embrace the pressure of playing Preston.”
“I’m very excited to play Preston,” said Lansford, who raved about Summerhays’ all-around game. “I don’t think there is anybody that I would rather play at this stage. You know, if I’m going to win, I want to do it the right way and beat the best.”
Another Aggie golfer, Cameron Tucker, was also hoping to get his shot at Summerhays, but was bounced by Turner in the quarterfinals, 3 and 2. Turner, the 51st seed, eliminated former Aggie Brennan Coburn in the round of 16, and also defeated former Utah State Am champ Dan Horner earlier in match play.
Turner won the first three holes against Tucker, who never fully recovered. The sophomore-to-be did claim holes five and six to pare his deficit to one stroke, but Turner bounced back and eventually led by as many as four.
To his credit, the sixth-seeded Tucker made one last-ditch effort as he won 13 and 15 to close the gap to two strokes. However, Turner won 16 to slam the door.
“It’s extremely difficult,” Tucker said of his early deficit. “This far into the tournament you have to play great golf against another great player. Being down that much early forced me to play aggressive and fire at pins. I knew that I was going to have to make birdies to win holes. Elijah was playing great, so I knew that he wasn’t going to just give away holes and make mistakes like that. I was able to get a few holes back, but there were a few times he got a fortunate break or I just couldn’t capitalize when I had the advantage.”
Nevertheless, it was still a memorable week for the former Bonneville High standout.
“My confidence has grown so much after this week,” Tucker said. “I was playing good before the event and was able to keep it going into the tournament. After this week, along with my experiences from last year on the team, I know what to expect in college events and how to handle them. Playing the way I did, I know that I can play with the best players in any field.”