MIDWAY — Cole Ogden was in pretty good shape as he stood on the 18th tee of his State Amateur semifinal match against Jake Holt Friday afternoon. He was 1 up, which meant he couldn’t lose the match on 18. If he lost the hole, the match would go to extra holes.
Still, Ogden had a big decision to make with the tees on the par-4 hole moved up from 460 yards to 300 yards, daring the golfers to try to clear the creek right in front of the green rather than lay up short with an iron.
The smart play with a 1-up lead might have been to lay up with an iron, but Ogden decided to go for it.
“I knew if I layed up, he was going to go for it. ... He already had pulled his 3-wood out,’’ Ogden said.
Ogden smacked his 3-wood shot across the water just in front of the green and the ball bounced up and starting rolling across the green toward the hole. Ogden’s caddy, J.T. Timmons, yelled “Go in” — something you rarely hear on the first shot of a par-4 hole — and it nearly did, finishing just a couple of feet past the pin. The gimme eagle gave Ogden a 2-up victory and a spot in Saturday’s final against 2011 State Am champion Jeff Evans.
Evans defeated 2008 champion Dan Horner 3 and 2 in the other semifinal after beating another former State Am champion, 2010 winner Joe Parkinson, in the quarterfinals.
“That was one of the best shots I’ve ever hit in my life, especially under the circumstances,’’ Ogden said of his spectacular shot at No. 18. “I honestly didn’t see it. ... My caddie J.T. just started freaking out.’’
Ogden, who just turned 21 two weeks ago and will be a junior on the BYU golf team next year, pointed out that he’d never made it past the first round of the State Am before this year. But it’s no surprise he’s one of the finalists since he’s already won four amateur events in Utah this year and was the medalist after the first two days of this tournament.
It hasn't been easy, however. The West Point, Utah, native barely made it past his first match play opponent, Craig Wilson, winning on the 19th hole. He also edged Jonathan Oettli 2 and 1 in the second round before beating Kai Ruiz in the third round.
On Friday morning, when it was rainy compared to the sunny afternoon, he was matched up against scrappy Jeff Powars, the 54-year-old school administrator from Davis County. Powars took an early 2-up lead, but Ogden went ahead for good by winning holes 6, 8 and 9. He also won the 14th hole and closed it out on No. 17, 2 and 1.
Against Holt, a senior-to-be at SUU, Ogden never trailed but watched his 2-up lead disappear as Holt won 11 and 16, the latter when Ogden hit what he called one of his worst chip shots of the year, stubbing it halfway to the hole from 50 feet and making bogey.
With the match all square at the 222-yard 17th hole, both players missed the green and Holt missed his 10-foot par putt, while Ogden rolled in his 7-footer — “one of my better strokes of the day,’’ he said.
The other semifinal featured the two golfers who won the previous two State Ams contested at Soldier Hollow. Horner had knocked off defending champion Jon Wright, who played with a sore back he tweaked a day earlier, 3 and 2 in the morning.
But in the afternoon, he was off his game against Evans, saying, “My swing was bad and my legs got tired.’’
Horner, a 35-year-old native of New Jersey, took a quick 2-up lead after five holes, but didn’t win another hole the rest of the afternoon. Evans won four straight holes to take a 2-up lead at the turn and won No. 13 with a birdie. He won the match 3 and 2.
“It’s been awhile. It seems like it’s been longer than just two years since I won,’’ Evans said. “I haven’t been playing much. It feels good to be playing pretty good and to come out here and compete.’’
Evans said he can’t compare his game to 2011 when he handily beat Stratton Schulz in the finals, but did say his experience helps. The 23-year-old graduated from SUU in 2012, is working toward his MBA, and he and his wife Heather are parents of a 1-year-old.
“I’m older. I have more knowledge of how to play when you’re not playing well,’’ he said. “When I was young, I thought I had to hit every shot good and now I know if I miss it in the right spots, I’ll be OK.’’
Saturday’s 36-hole final will begin at 7:30 a.m. and like Friday’s two rounds, the competitors will be required to walk.