Just like he had all tournament long, Chase Lansford went out and played solid, consistent golf for 18 holes.
Unfortunately for the Utah State senior-to-be, his opponent caught fire and never looked back in the title match of the 121st installment of the Utah State Amateur Championship on Saturday at Soldier Hollow Golf Course in Midway.
Lansford, the 16th seed, and second-seeded Preston Summerhays were all square through nine holes during the first of two rounds on the Gold Course, but the 16-year-old juggernaut proceeded to drain seven birdie putts over a nine-hole stretch to build a five-stroke lead he wouldn’t relinquish. Summerhays made it back-to-back Utah State Amateur titles with a par putt on the 12th hole of the afternoon round to close out a 7 & 6 victory.
“I had won three out of four holes (on the front nine) to get in back to all square and really thought the momentum had flipped in my direction, but little did I know Preston was going to birdie seven out of the next nine holes and really just shut the door on me,” Lansford said. “The second nine holes of the morning match were devastating, to put it in simple terms, for me. I mean, he just played absolutely flawless golf, and when I saw flawless, it was truly flawless.
“It was probably the best golf I had ever witnessed in a nine-hole stretch, and there was truly just nothing I could do about it. Obviously I would have had to make just as many birdies as he had, but it wasn’t quite sustainable for me.”
Indeed, things were looking promising for Lansford when Summerhays bogeyed eight and nine during the morning round, allowing the Aggie to pull even. Summerhays had birdied three of the first four holes to open up a three-hole advantage, so Lansford felt fortunate to be all square after nine holes.
To his credit, the defending champion immediately bounced back from his back-to-back bogeys and shot a scintillating 7-under-par 29 on the back nine. Summerhays only bogeyed once during the final 21 holes of the match.
The five-hole deficit was a difficult pill for Lansford to swallow, inasmuch as he only bogeyed once during the first 18 holes and fired a 2-under-par 70. On the flip side, the 24-year-old didn’t feel much pressure to start the second round because he was so far behind.
“It allowed me to just go out there and play almost mindless golf,” Lansford explained. “I didn’t have to think meticulously over shots like I did in the morning round because I knew that it was going to be hard for me to come back unless I played absolutely perfect golf.”
Conversely, because the native Texan was so far behind, he did have to take more risks. A double bogey, followed by bogey on back-to-back holes at the beginning of the second round essentially terminated any slight chance of a Lansford comeback.
Lansford was able to finish strong as he played bogey-free golf over the final seven holes, which included a pair of birdies from the business administration major.
Ultimately, Summerhays was just too good Saturday. The soon-to-be high school junior became the event’s first back-to-back champion since his uncle, Daniel Summerhays, accomplished this feat in 2001.
Preston Summerhays, who was 11-under-par through the 30 contested holes, is now the 17th athlete to capture Utah State Amateur titles in consecutive years.
“If Preston hadn’t brought his A game today and I had lost to him, I would have different emotions right now, but the fact that I don’t think anybody in the field could have beat him today (I can’t feel bad),” Lansford said. “... He was unbelievable. He had his absolute A-plus game. He might not even tell you he did, but I can’t imagine him playing any better than he did today, so because of that I only take positives from this week. You know, I didn’t lose today, I just flat-out got beat.
“But then I can look at the matches that I played the last three days and take a lot of positives from those, because I did beat some really good players. ... It really gives me a lot of confidence going into the rest of the summer.”
Lansford is the second Aggie in the last three years to finish second at this tournament, joining Braydon Swapp (2017). USU’s last State Am titleist was Jason Wight, who beat all comers at the Logan Golf & Country Club in 1995 — the final of a three-year reign of State Am champions for the Aggies.
All in all, it was a good week for the Aggies, current and former, at the State Am, which started with 288 competitors. Lansford’s teammate, sophomore-to-be Cameron Tucker, made it to the quarterfinals. Former Aggies Brennan Coburn and Swapp both advanced to at least the round of 32, with Coburn bowing out in the round of 16.
“Yeah, I’m very much looking forward to the fall (season) of this (academic) year,” said Lansford, who went on to praise Tucker and USU junior-to-be Andy Hess. “We have a great team of good players, but not only do we have good players, we have great chemistry. ... We have great chemistry between the players of our team and I think that makes all the difference.”