Utah Men's State Amateur: BYU golfer Zac Jones cruises to 2022 title

Utah Men’s State Amateur: BYU golfer Zac Jones cruises to 2022 title

MIDWAY — Suffice it to say that BYU rising sophomore Zac Jones won’t be doing any chores this week, after growing up with the thought of having to do his brothers’ chores like laundry, dishwashing, mopping the floor or mowing the lawn if he lost to them in a golf match.

And the only dusting the 21-year-old Jones will be doing will involve polishing the large silver Utah State Amateur trophy, after the Lone Peak High product handled Cal golfer Simon Kwon 4 and 3 Saturday at Soldier Hollow Golf Club in the championship match of the longest continuously held golf tournament in the world.

“I felt like I was in the zone all week,” said Jones, who was also the medalist after rounds of 66 and 66 on the Gold and Silver courses in the foothills just north of Deer Creek Reservoir.

Like the nearby Heber Creeper, Jones bulldozed his way through six matches to claim the 124th Utah Men’s State Amateur title and set himself up nicely to defend next year when the venerable tournament will be held at The Country Club in Salt Lake City.

“Zac played great and I want to give him a lot of his props because he is a great player,” said Salt Lake City’s Kwon, a 2021 Skyline High graduate who just completed his freshman season in Berkeley.

The rising sophomore never led Saturday but refused to go away despite trailing by as many as five holes in both the morning 18 and the afternoon 18.

Kwon is the grandson of Hall-of-Fame golfer and former BYU great Johnny Miller, who wasn’t able to make it to the championship match but texted the 19-year-old Friday night and told him he was proud of what he had already accomplished.

“He is a good player, so I knew he would hang around, even though I won some holes early on,” Jones said of Kwon.

“… I knew he was going to make a run at some point.”

With his father on his bag, Jones won holes 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12 in the morning 18 to go 5 up, and was 4 up when the contestants broke for lunch after 18 holes.

He went 5 up again with an eagle on No. 2 in the afternoon, only to see Kwon cut it to three holes with birdies on 7 and 8.

The short par-4 9th hole proved to be pivotal, as Kwon apparently had the advantage after hitting his tee shot on the green, above the hole.

Jones’ drive missed the green right, and he had a tricky chip to get it close, but get it close he did, to “within kick-in range,” and when Kwon 3-putted, momentum was clearly back in Jones’ bag , along with a four-hole lead.

“I knew at that point No. 9 was going to be a deciding hole because if he gets it two going into the back nine, at that point it is anyone’s game,” Jones said.

“I was in the rough there, just right of the green. I knew that chip was really important because his putt from him was n’t easy, but it is kind of a momentum thing. If I don’t hit that chip good, his putt gets a lot easier. … That really switched the momentum back because he was starting to build and get some momentum going.”

After leaving his eagle putt well short, Kwon said he got “too concerned about speed” and didn’t stick to his plan of being aggressive with his putts.

It was costly.

As he fought back tears after the trophy ceremony on the 15th green, Kwon was asked if he was emotional because he was disappointed, or proud of himself.

“A little bit of both,” he said. “I mean, there are always going to be mixed feelings, but at the end, I will be proud.”

With good friend Charlie Thomas, another Skyline High product, caddying for him, Kwon won 12 and 13 to cut the deficit to three holes again, but on 15 he missed a short putt that would have prolonged the match, and Jones and his large contingent of friends and family could start celebrating.

“It is pretty awesome. I mean, losing is hard. It really hurts, so it doesn’t feel like this week is really nice, really nice,” Jones said.

“Being a medalist was cool, but that wasn’t my goal. … The week was kind of a blur, just because I was focused on every shot, one at a time. I think that is what helped me get through it.”

Jones caddied for his father, Clark, nine years ago at Soldier Hollow when Clark won a first-round match, and wasn’t really thinking about adding a State Am title to his bucket list.

But the thought started to take hold when he was 13 and qualified for the tournament, and gained steam when he was 15 and won a first-round match himself.

“I think it was then when I thought I could win this thing,” he said, talking about how he did research and learned guys such as Zac Blair, Joe Parkinson, Tony Finau and Daniel Summerhays won when they were in their teens and/ or high school.

He said being part of the “Jones family golf culture” helped a lot. His brothers of him, Tyler and Cooper, were also in the tournament.

Matches at nearby Alpine Country Club resulted in the loser doing the winner’s chores for the week, so they were highly competitive.

“So I have played with pressure, and playing against them really helped,” Jones said.

He’s also felt the pressure of college golf tournaments, although he said he didn’t play in all of BYU’s tournaments this past year because he wasn’t quite good enough.

“I think honestly my struggles and my frustrations kinda made it possible (to win the State Am),” he said. “Coming home from a mission a year ago, it has been pretty frustrating. This game will put you down and keep you down there.

“So I think going through the struggles of my freshman year, kinda not making the (BYU) team, really forced me to make changes in my game, and work even harder, press even harder,” he continued.

“So that made a tournament like this, a really big tournament, possible for me to win.”

Jones said the win wasn’t just for himself, or his family, but also the BYU golf team, which hadn’t won the State Am since Kelton Hirsch in 2017 at Ogden Golf & Country Club.

Making matters worse for the Cougars, University of Utah golfers won the last two State Ams, Mitchell Schow at Jeremy Ranch Country Club in 2020 and Martin Leon at Alpine last year.

When he was asked if getting the trophy back from the Utes was a big deal, Jones nodded affirmatively.

“I was looking at my mom and she said, ‘Heck yeah,’” he said. “I think for sure it is a big deal. We are competitive with the Utes, and they are a good team, and so are we.

“It is for sure big, any time we are competing.”

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