Jensen Impresses at State Amateur Tourney

By By Tye Smith

By Tye Smith

A group of U golfers performed admirably this past weekend in the Utah State Amateur Tournament held at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi.

After dominating the first two rounds of stroke play, Utes grabbed four of the top six seeds going into match play. One Ute made it all the way to the 36-hole match play final on Sunday. Carl Jensen, a 23-year-old senior, faced 22-year-old Colorado State graduate Tommy Sharp in a battle that lasted more than eight hours in brutally hot conditions. The match went to the 36th hole, where Jensen fell just short of the championship. Sharp won the duel, 1-up, and kept the State Amateur title out of the hands of a Ute. The title has not been won by a U student since 1981 when Eric Hogg accomplished the feat.

While Jensen’s performance was nothing short of remarkable, many U golfers fell short of their goals at the State Am. This is especially true considering how well they played as a whole during the first two rounds of stroke play. Utah senior Luke Swilor was the stroke play medalist after beating the rest of the field by four strokes.

“Being medalist doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win the title,” he said before match play started. His words would prove to be prophetic, as Swilor was beaten badly in just the second round of match play.

Utah students Steve Newren, Garrett Clegg, and Pete Stone (considered by many as the pre tournament favorite) were all able to advance to match play by scoring well in preliminary stroke play. Jensen was the only Ute not to be seeded among the top six; in fact, he barely qualified for match play at all, squeaking in as the No. 30 seed out of 32.

As luck would have it, Jensen faced Clegg in the first round of match play, and Jensen won the match, 1-up. After winning his second-round match, he faced another Ute in the quarterfinals, former teammate Stone. Jensen defeated Stone, 2 and 1, and then proceeded to win another close match against 17-year-old Sterling Clark in the semifinals.

“The whole thing is pretty surreal,” said Jensen before Sunday’s final. “I had never even made it to match play before this year.” Jensen’s ability to control his demeanor was critical in his win against the emotionally charged Clark.

“I stayed pretty even emotionally,” Jensen said.

The final match between Stone and Sharp featured two drastically different styles of golf. Sharp describes himself as a person who tries to “par the course to death.” Conversely, Jensen’s style is more emulative of Phil Mickelson. “In college we have a saying: ‘Go big or go home,'” Jensen said.

These highly contrasting styles were evident during the final round as Jensen repeatedly outdrove his opponent by 80 yards or more, but also displayed a tendency to make costly mistakes.

The finals match was very close, going back and forth for most of the morning and into the afternoon.

A critical point was reached on the long par-5 14th hole of the final 18. After losing the previous two holes, Jensen was down two with five to play. According to his caddy, Jensen knew that he needed at least a birdie on the hole to stay in the match. Playing into the wind, Jensen hit a huge drive that landed at least 100 yards beyond Sharp’s.

Sharp laid up with his second shot, leaving him 150 yards away. Then, in a highly unconventional move, Jensen took his driver again-this time from the fairway, without a tee-and blasted his second shot 300 yards, rolling it onto the green within 10 inches of the cup.

Sharp conceded the eagle and, after some deliberation, also conceded the hole, leaving Jensen down only one hole with four to play.

On the next hole, Jensen made another clutch shot on the 219 yard par 3, sticking a 3-iron within six feet of the cup. Sharp’s ball went into the bunker, and Jensen’s birdie won the hole, leaving the match all square with three to play.

Jensen’s “go big” style finally caught up with him on the next hole, as his bogey would lose the hole to Sharp’s par. After back-to back pushes on the last two holes, Sharp eked out a victory-and the State Amateur title.

“I didn’t lose, I got beat,” said Jensen after the match about his opponent’s play. “He’s just so steady.”

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