Onward to Soldier Hollow
It was a mix of oohs, aahs, relief and sadness at the Utah State Amateur At-Large Qualifier at the Wasatch Mountain State Park "Lake" Golf Course on Wednesday morning. Several Parkites tried their luck on the links in Midway, with a few advancing to the Utah State Amateur Golf Tournament, which will be held at the nearby Soldier Hollow Golf Course, July 6-9.
Arizona State University (ASU) golfer Steele DeWald led the Park City morning session shooting a 71, one under par.
"The course is playing pretty easy," said DeWald, who spends most of his time practicing and competing in various tournaments.
Zach Fisher and Danny Clark, will join DeWald at Soldier Hollow, both shooting a solid 74, two-over-par and one under the 75 needed to qualify for the finals.
"This means a lot," said Clark who has not played much competitive golf since graduating from Park City High School last spring. "This is what I’ve been playing for all summer."
According to DeWald, the key to the Wasatch course is playing smart.
"On this course, you won’t get into too much trouble," DeWald.
DeWald last played in the Utah State Am two years ago. Last year, he earned his way into the tournament on an exemption, but a sprained ankle prevented him from competing.
Although DeWald easily made it through to the next round, he understands the difficulty and pressure of performing well in bigger tournaments.
"When you play in tournaments, you realize how many possibilities there are about a lot that could go wrong," said DeWald.
He said playing competitive golf on a regular basis makes a big difference in settling competition nerves. He has also learned a lot from the other golfers in the top-ranked ASU program.
Former Michigan State University golfer Jason Plawecki knows all about tournament jitters. The twenty-something golfer has slowly made the shift from competitive golfer to casual golfer to accommodate a nine-to-five job over the years and he returned to the tournament arena on Wednesday after a two-year hiatus.
"The competition going from just casual golfer to competitor is a huge transition," Plawecki said. "It’s definitely more nerve-wracking and intense."
He was so nervous that he said he felt uneasy during the first nine holes and shot nine-over-par. He calmed down on the back nine and recovered with an even par 36, finishing with an 81 about eight over his normal score on the Wasatch course.
DeWald says that comfort level plays a huge role in tournament success.
"Golf is day to day," DeWald said. "Your feeling about yourself is a big part of being out here."
Former Miners golfer Barrett DeWald, Steele’s younger brother, and David Wintzer also missed the cut, shooting 76 and 85, respectively. Barrett had a bit of a rough start after his ball completely vanished on the fairway of the first hole and he had to tee up the ball again. Barrett, who will play Division I golf in California next year, was able to regain his composure, barely missing the needed score of 75.
The entire Wednesday contingent featured talented golfers from around the region. All of them had to have a handicap index of 9.9 or lower to enter the tournament qualifier. Similar regional qualifiers are being held this week around the state.
The Utah State Am is widely regarded as the premier tournament in the state. It is said to be the longest continuously running state tournament, and gives some of the more talented players in Utah a chance to show off their skill.
"Golfers look forward to it every year," DeWald said. "It’s a big deal in Utah."
Plawecki sees it as an opportunity to test skills against other competitive golfers in the area.
"It’s pretty much the first step in seeing what your abilities are compared to other golfers," Plawecki said. "It’s a great way to gauge your true abilities."
DeWald feels fairly confident about his chances in the State Am. The close proximity of the Soldier Hollow course to Park City has allowed the collegiate golfer to get to know the assistant pro and he plays on the course a couple of times a year.
Skyler Distefano and Steven Maxwell were co-medallists in the morning qualifier, both finishing three-under-par at 69. Twenty-six golfers in the morning session and 26 in the afternoon session advanced to the finals. In the afternoon session, golfers needed a 77 or better to make the cut.
For all of the regional qualifier results and the Utah State Amateur, log onto http://www.uga.org.
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