Golf: BYU’s Patrick Fishburn wins Utah State Amateur
Alpine • Growing up in the Ogden area, Patrick Fishburn watched other great golfers win the Utah State Amateur golf tournament and figured “it was a little out of reach” for someone of his abilities.
But it was the long-hitting Fishburn who was head-and-shoulders above the field in the 118th iteration of the most prestigious amateur tournament in Utah this past week, and he proved it on Saturday with a commanding 4 and 2 win over gutty father of four Aaron Smith at Alpine Country Club.
The 6-foot-4 Fishburn, a former high school basketball star who will be a junior at BYU this fall, said he watched now-PGA Tour regular Zac Blair win the State Am at Layton’s Valley View Golf Course in 2009, and wanted to have the same feeling Blair had.
He does now.
With another boyhood friend and Fremont High product, Ryan Sarlo, on his bag throughout match play, Fishburn never trailed against Smith, the dental technician from Draper who was hospitalized after collapsing during his semifinal match on Friday against Weber State golfer Kyler Dearden and had to return to the course early Saturday morning and finish the 2-up win.
“It feels awesome. It is something I’ve thought about for a long, long time, ever since I was a kid,” Fishburn said. “To actually have it happen feels amazing, especially to be on the trophy with all those guys who have won it before me. That’s pretty good company, to be on it with them.”
True to form, Smith did not go quietly. Fishburn took a four-hole lead in the morning through eight holes, but Smith rallied on the back nine and tied the match with birdies on the 17th and 18th holes.
The same thing happened on the front nine in the afternoon, with Fishburn jumping out to another four-hole lead through eight holes.
“He has that front nine down pat,” Smith said.
This time, though, Fishburn held the advantage, although Smith won the 27th hole (No. 10) to cut the deficit to three holes. Fishburn answered that with birdies on holes 11 and 13 to go 5-up and dormie.
Once again, Smith refused to quit. He won holes 14 and 15 (the 32nd and 33rd holes of the match) with birdies to push the match to the par-3 16th.
Fishburn hit a 6-iron to within 4 feet on the 216-yard hole — observers near the green said it almost went in the hole — and Smith conceded the birdie, and the match, after almost holing out a chip from off the green.
“It was a lot of relief to know the dogfight was over,” said Fishburn, who becomes the third BYU golfer to win the State Am since Blair, joining Joe Parkinson (2010), Cole Ogden (2013) and Jordan Rodgers (2015), who cruised to the title last year at Soldier Hollow in similar fashion.
“It was just a birdie bonanza out there,” Smith marveled. “How do you beat something like that?”
The closer-than-expected match concluded a wild week for Smith, a former Utah Valley State College golfer who prepped at Alta High and returned to competitive golf only last summer after a 20-year absence from tournament play.
He needed to survive a playoff late Tuesday night to make match play, then had the well-publicized collapsing incident near the 11th green on Friday afternoon.
“I was just having a hard time [on Friday],” he said. “My body was kind of shutting down and I was doing my best until my body said, ‘no more.’”
Smith said when he came to in the hospital and first talked to UGA executive director Bill Walker, he figured he had lost the match by default to Dearden. He took a couple of hours to think about it when Walker told him he could resume playing because Dearden had agreed to do so, then decided to give it a try when doctors told him to listen to what his body was telling him.
“Well, it is a gentleman’s game, and I thought that was awesome of him [Dearden] to let the match resume,” Smith said. “That was very kind.”
Dearden won hole No. 12 shortly after 7 a.m. to square the match, but Smith prevailed.
When he conceded the birdie putt to Fishburn, he had played 41 holes on Saturday.
“I’m tired,” he said after the trophy presentation. “It’s been a long run, but I wouldn’t give any of it away.”
Neither would Fishburn — even if he never dreamed it was possible.