SALT LAKE CITY — Mike Jorgensen has been playing in the Utah State Amateur nearly every year for most of his adult life. He's never won the tournament, but has made it to match play several times, including last year.
Still, the 49-year-old business owner from Richfield was surprised to be atop the leaderboard at the end of the first day of the State Amateur at the difficult Salt Lake Country Club golf course.
Usually a 70 isn't good enough for first place or even sixth or seventh. However, at the hard and fast Salt Lake Country Club layout that was a very good score when scores above 80 outnumbered those in the 70s.
Jorgensen was one of just four players able to break par in the opening round and shares the medal play lead with BYU golfer Devon Purser at 2-under-par 70. Two other golfers, BYU golfer Cole Ogden and 26-year-old Christian Jensen of St. George are at 71, while another BYU golfer, Mike Jurca, was the only golfer at even-par 72.
"I'm pretty surprised I'm leading — those greens were so difficult today," Jorgensen said. "The key to this golf course is hitting it in the fairway because you can't stop your ball out of the rough. Even from the fairway, it's going to roll past the pin."
Former champion Jason Wight, who struggled to an 83 said, "Those greens are as fast as any I've ever seen in the state."
Tournament chairman Steve Brinton called the setup "fair" and said "we didn't do anything different than we have with USGA events we have hosted here." Brinton said the greens were a 12 on the stimpmeter, which is comparable to many PGA Tour events.
Jorgensen started on the more difficult back nine and began with a bogey before coming back with a birdie. He made the turn at one-under and said the key to his round was making three par-saving putts in the 8- to 15-foot range. He was even-par coming into the par-5 9th hole, when he hit "one of the best shots I've ever hit," a hybrid from 245 yards to within three feet for an eagle.
Jorgensen had a brief scare after his round when rules officials told his group it might be penalized for slow play. Ten golfers were penalized a stroke for slow play on the day, but after an appeal, Jorgensen's group was spared a penalty.
"It scared me to death," Jorgensen said afterward.
Purser is a 19-year-old from Syracuse who had two bogeys at the start of his round and two at the end, but six birdies in between. He said his strategy was to hit to the middle of the greens rather than go after any of the tucked pins.
In each of the past two years the cut came at 145, but Thursday's cut is expected to be at least 150 and as high as 153. The field will be cut to 32 for the start of Friday's match play. By Saturday eight players will be left and the two survivors will play Sunday in a 36-hole final.
AM NOTES: The last time a score of 70 or higher led the first round of the State Am was 1991 when Brett Taylor's 70 led at Jeremy Ranch. … Brinton, a former State Am finalist, who is the tournament chairman, had received an exemption to play in the tournament. However, he injured his shoulder earlier in the week and had to withdraw Tuesday. For the 62-year-old Brinton it was especially disappointing because he missed the State Am the last time it was at the Country Club in 1975 when he was in the service. … Brinton's spot was taken by another member, Keith Olson, who shot 83. Among the other Country Club members in the tournament, Jon Wright, Tom Young and Chris Grant each shot 74, Max Metcalf shot 80, David Cannon an 81 and Jim Tybur shot 86. … The large State Amateur trophy, which was on display near the scoreboard, was damaged when a gust of wind knocked over a patio umbrella, knocking the trophy to the ground. It ended up in three pieces, but it was being repaired Wednesday afternoon and is expected to be back in action this week. … Defending champion Jeff Evans, who has a bye into match play as the No. 1 seed, shot an 82 Wednesday.
Salt Lake Country Club
70 — Mike Jorgensen, Devon Purser
71 — Cole Ogden, Christian Jensen
72 — Mike Jurca
73 — Brady Stanger, Mason Casper, Jordan Herzog, Carl Jensen, Nic Booth, Tanner Higham
74 — Kyle Chappell, Casey Halliday, Jon Wright, Chris Grant, Thomas Young, Conner Jones, Dan Horner, Zac Blair, Kenny You, Steve Poulson, Patrick Fishburn
75 — Karl Avant, Brad Millard, Alex Stulce
76 — Kirk Siddens, Troy Owen, Joe Webber, Stratton Schulz, Dana Nelson, Mike Bingham
77 — Gentry Hicks, Nick Despain, Preston Richards, Tanner Clark, Brent Bryson, Matthew Wahlen
78 — Jonathan Oettli, T.J. Telford, Steve Borget, Andrew Barton, Craig Woodward, Trever Johnson, Adam Harris
79 — Grant Rowan, Eric Hogg, Jacob Wagstaff, McCoy Willey, Jason Russo, Bill Probst, Craig Wilson, Jeff Powars, Nathan Nyman, Gary Stewart
80 — Josh White, Max Metcalf, Rich Tripp, Chad Crowther, Alton Anderson, Jason Struck, Mike Branca, Joshua Jensen, Brady Boman, Paul Norman, Russell Hook
81 — Darrin Overson, Devin Tovey, Greg Diaz, Greg Buckway, Josh Summerhays, Cory Slocum, David Cannon, Jon Bridges, Gregg Oliphant, Kurt Jamison, Michael Membrila, Jim Stubbs, Jacob Christensen, Shane Romano, Brett Wilson, Dan Hatch, Brandon Olson
At Salt Lake County Country Club
Mike Jorgensen 70
Devon Purser 70
Cole Ogden 71
Christian Jensen 71
Mike Jurca 72StateAm