Friday , June 08, 2018 - 5:30 PM
FARMINGTON — Cole Ponich saw the putt miss and a sense of relief coursed through his body — though he didn’t show it.
His adversary in Friday’s final round of the Utah Junior Amateur Golf Championship at Oakridge Country Club, Preston Summerhays, didn’t look the least bit perturbed either — even if his missed short putt clinched the final match in favor of Ponich on the first playoff hole.
Ponich’s work might not be done yet. The rising Davis High senior and reigning 6A individual state champion won the Junior Amateur by completing six matches in four days.
Next week’s 120th Utah State Amateur Championship, which begins Monday, brings the potential of nine rounds across six days. Can Ponich take home the “big boy” amateur title?
He’s certainly feeling a lot better after narrowly defeating Summerhays on Friday.
“It feels good to know I can get it done, especially in extra holes. A lot of confidence builds from that,” Ponich said. “I’ve never been too good of a match-play player, so it feels good to get some practice in and show myself that I can perform in match play.”
Ponich has qualified for the state amateur twice but didn’t make it past stroke-play qualifying. He was younger then and says his game has come a long way.
“I’ve missed it. It’ll be fun to play in it again,” he said.
Ponich hardly showed nerves in Friday’s up-and-down match, even when he botched a seemingly routine chip shot from just off the green on the 17th hole with a 1-up lead, a shot that resulted in him losing the hole when his 40-foot par putt fell short.
“I wasn’t too worried about it, I tried to not get upset about it because it was a bad lie and I couldn’t do much with it,” Ponich said. “Obviously I was under pressure ... but it was OK because I had that 1-up lead, so I knew that going into 18 if I hit a good shot in there, anything could happen.”
His emotions were instead funneled into what looked like a pretty enjoyable round of golf with Summerhays, a good friend of his.
They would walk with each other between shots to talk, joke, complain about putting or laugh after a bicyclist nearly ran into a golf cart crossing Shepard Lane between the 10th and 11th holes.
Ponich was verbally committed to UCLA until recently when he switched his commitment to BYU. Friday’s round was played under the watchful eye of one of BYU’s men’s golf coaches.
“I love to hear advice, love to hear what people have to say, I’m not a player that likes to stay in myself and ask questions — and I feel like (head) coach (Bruce) Brockbank and (assistant) coach (Todd) Miller will give me a lot of advice for the PGA Tour, that’s definitely my dream,” Ponich said.
Ponich not only showed Friday why college coaches were all over him from an early stage, but also why he might have a chance at the State Am.
His second shot on the Par-5 11th hole from 225 yards landed about 15 feet away from the pin.
On the 15th hole, he had about a 35-foot, uphill birdie putt while Summerhays — who hit a laser off the tee about 2 feet from the cup — sized up his short birdie putt.
Ponich rattled the putt home to keep the match all square.
His chip shot on the first playoff hole — with the memories of his debacle on the 17th still fresh in his mind — rolled to within inches of the hole.
Summerhays missed a short par putt to decide the match and Ponich conceded that, yes, he was nervous the final four holes despite outwardly displaying a relaxed and calm demeanor.
So what’s his big secret to keeping his head in the right place?
“You have to know your own game, and know that you’ve been in these situations, you’ve performed in these situations so you just don’t want to doubt yourself at all,” Ponich said.
There are plenty of local high school players current and former, as well as college players with local ties, playing in this tournament. Defending champion Kelton Hirsch (Viewmont High, BYU) is back to defend his title.
Ponich’s Davis High teammate Jack Sargent, a top-five finisher at the 6A state championship last fall, is playing, as are fellow Region 1 players Hunter Howe (Weber High, Weber State commit) and Tanner McMillan (Clearfield).
Region 5 has a lot of representation, including the 5A state third-place finisher Drew Smith (Viewmont), fifth-place finisher Grant Wilson (Woods Cross) and Brandon Robison (Viewmont).
Cameron Tucker (Bonneville, tied for ninth at the 4A tournament) and Matthew Milburn (Morgan, tied for 11th at the 3A tournament) also are playing in the tournament.
Patrick Fishburn, the former Fremont and BYU golfer, isn’t playing as he turned pro at the conclusion of his college career this spring. Utah State golfer Braydon Swapp (Venture Academy) and former Layton and USU golfer Brennan Coburn are playing.
Weber State is represented by Boston Watts (Viewmont) and alumni Kyler Dearden (Northridge), Tyler Herzog (Fremont), Luke Crapo, Colton Dallimore, Kurt Owen and Marty Jacks
Jayce Frampton (Viewmont), Landon Anderson (Davis), Dane Nelson (Davis) and Spencer Wallace (Layton) round out a four-person Dixie State contingent. Davis alumni Jake Godfrey (Utah Valley University) and Jesse Henderson (North Idaho College), and former Viewmont golfer Logan Skalka are in the field.
SCHEDULE & FORMAT
The State Am begins with two rounds of stroke play for a field of 299 golfers Monday and Tuesday. Each golfer plays a round at Oakridge and another at Davis Park Golf Course.
The top 64 players from stroke play are seeded into a match-play bracket, which runs Wednesday through Saturday to determine the champion.
Mon.-Tues, June 11-12: Qualifying stroke play
Wednesday, June 13: Round of 64
Thursday, June 14: Rounds of 32 and 16
Friday, June 15: Rounds of 8 and 4
Saturday, June 16: 36-hole championship match.
Sign up for e-mail news updates.