Utah Golf Association determined not to let coronavirus end State Amateur's 121-year streak
At the state amateur level, there’s a growing uneasiness about how the competitive golf season is likely to play out in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The large majority of state golf associations have put their tournament schedules on hold, hoping better news moving forward will allow for play in the second half of 2020. Yet with golf courses closed in more than a dozen states and no clear timeline as to when facilities around the country will return to regular operation, postponements feel likely to become cancellations.
Jake Miller, however, doesn’t want to subscribe to such negative thinking just yet. Miller is the executive director of the Utah Golf Association, which annually holds the Utah State Amateur. And by annually, we mean every year. Since its inception in 1899, the tournament has never not been contested. With no interruptions due to world wars or other health crises, the UGA tout’s the event as “the oldest continuous tournament in the world.”
This year’s event is scheduled for June 22-27 at Jeremy Ranch Golf and Country Club in Park City and Bonneville Golf Course in Salt Lake, with the first qualifier set for May 18. While the UGA has canceled its golf schedule through the end of April, there’s still hope it could hold the State Amateur on time. And if it can’t for safety reasons, Miller is determined to figure out a way for the tournament to be played at some point in 2020.
“I refuse to go down as the executive director that allowed us to lose the moniker of the longest continuously held tournament in the world,” Miller told a Utah TV station earlier this month. “So if it’s the week after Christmas in St. George where we’re running this thing, we’ll do it.”
Miller’s desire to keep the streak going isn’t entirely hubris. There is a civic pride in the tournament and its legacy.
“If you look around the state, the professionals around the state, so many of them played in this event when they were in college or high school and it holds a special place in a lot of golf professional’s hearts,” Miller said. Past champions include PGA Tour pros Tony Finau (2006) and Zac Blair (2009).
Preston Summerhays, the reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion and son of former PGA Tour pro Boyd Summerhays, is the tournament’s two-time defending champion.
Among the factors in play for rescheduling the event is the qualification system used to determine the 288-player field. Typically, the UGA holds 11 qualifiers in a six-week run-up to the championship. If the event is delayed, a truncated version of the qualifying will likely be needed. It seems a reasonable alternative to make sure the tournament is held at all, something Miller sounds determined to make happen.
“The State Am may not look like it normally looks like in 2020,” Miller said, “but we will be playing golf and somebody will hoist the trophy.”