FARMINGTON — This year’s Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank, a key stop on the Korn Ferry Tour, had a distinctly Utah flair, with seven products of Utah high schools in the PGA Tour-branded tournament.
In the end, though, it was a foreigner who ran off with the oversized $180,000 first-place check, as Canada’s Roger Sloan — a former UTEP golfer — birdied his last two holes to overtake Christopher Petefish of Cumming, Georgia, in the annual event at Oakridge Country Club.
“It feels great. To (win) here is special just because this place reminds me so much of being back home (in British Columbia). I love Salt Lake City. It is a great place. It will always have a special place in my heart now.” — Utah Championship winner Roger Sloan.
Sloan, 36, was greeted on the 18th green by his wife, Casey, and three children after tapping in for a 3 to shoot a 66 for the day, 24-under 260 for the tournament.
The final round of 5-under ended “a dismal display of Sundays,” for Sloan, who seemingly came out of nowhere as Utah Championship winners often do.
The resident of Merritt, British Columbia, hadn’t won on the KFT since taking home the 2014 Nova Scotia Open when it was called the Web.com Tour.
But none of that mattered on a picturesque August afternoon in Davis County, as Sloan got his round rolling with an eagle on the par-5 7th hole and overcame bogey on holes 11 and 13 with birdies on three of his last four holes.
“It feels great,” Sloan said. “To (win) here is special just because this place reminds me so much of being back home (in British Columbia). I love Salt Lake City. It is a great place. It will always have a special place in my heart now.”
As 3-year-old Jude played with the big cardboard check his father had just won on the green after the trophy presentation and 286 volunteers were honored for making the tournament another success, Sloan talked about how it is “a great time to be a Canadian golfer right now” and described his friendship with fellow Canadian golfer Mike Weir, the BYU product who still lives in Utah and won the 2003 Masters.
“Every golfer in Canada knows where they were when Weirsy won the Masters,” Sloan said.
One of the biggest paychecks of his career “is better than Canadian (money),” he quipped, but it was difficult to say this one feels nicer because after he won in Nova Scotia they played “O Canada,” the Canadian national anthem, over the loudspeakers and he was on home soil.
He only brings his family to a couple tournaments a year, but loves Utah so much that he had them circle this one on the calendar months ago and stayed in Park City all week.
That dinner reservation they had at 8:30 p.m. in the resort town would have to be canceled, he said at the trophy presentation, obviously not worried about the alternative.
“Anytime you win, it is very special,” Sloan said. “This one, my family was here. To see my kids run onto the green and hug them, that’s a moment I’ll never forget.”
For much of Sunday it appeared that Petefish was going to prevail. The 28-year-old Californian who played for Georgia Tech played bogey-free the entire tournament.
He eagled No. 15 to get to 23-under, but on No. 17 he missed a short birdie putt, a miss that would loom large.
On 18, Petefish hit his tee shot under a tree left of the fairway, and his second shot ricocheted off another tree and went nowhere.
But he stuck his pitch within 4 feet, and sunk the clutch par putt to stay in the lead.
Then came Sloan, having started in the second-to-last group of the day, with four-time PGA Tour winner Sean O’Hair.
As his family gathered greenside in anticipation of the tournament-clinching putt, he took plenty of time to take it all in, smiling at his wife and children, Leighton, 5, Jude, 3, and Cade, 7 months.
“I knew I was tied for the lead,” Sloan said of coming up 18. “I knew once I had that (birdie) putt on 17, I had a feeling we might be able to do something on No. 18.”
Sloan said he had the perfect yardage, 95 yards, for his 56-degree wedge and just stuck it within a couple feet, if that.
“Couldn’t ask for anything better,” he said.
Robert Diaz and third-round leader Kevin Dougherty tied for third at -21, while Danny Walker was fifth at 20-under.
Amateur Tyson Shelley was the big story among Utah golfers, as the rising junior at BYU fired a 69 on Sunday to finish at 17-under and in a tie for 12th place.
Former BYU golfer Carson Lundell shot a 69 in the final round and finished at 13-under and in a tie for 40th place. Former Ute Mitchell Schow, also a pro, shot a 74 and finished in a tie for 68th.
If he were a pro, Shelley would have won around $17,000, but at least he gets to play in new week’s KFT event in Omaha, Nebraska, for finishing in the top 25 in Utah.
“It was fun, for sure. Especially doing it on my home course. It was an unbelievable experience and I am excited to come back next week in Omaha and do the same,” said Shelley, a Skyline High product whose family are members at Oakridge.
Shelley, 20, shot 33 on the front nine, and was tied for sixth place when he made the turn. However, bogeys on 10, 11 and 12 derailed his momentum. The nines that Oakridge members are accustomed to are flipped in the tournament.
He recovered nicely after that, but those three bogeys cost him a top-five finish. Every golfer in the field, except Petefish, made three or more bogeys.
“It just gives me confidence, I think,” Shelley said of his performance this week. “It just seems like I can play with the best, I feel like, and I know I can contend with these guys and yeah, it just boosts my confidence up.”
What is the tournament’s future?
The Utah Championship has been around since 1990 and has been conducted at Oakridge the past seven years. However, the three-year contract between Oakridge, the Utah Sports Commission and the presenting sponsor (Zions Bank) expires this year, and so the future of the event is not totally clear.
However, Jeff Robbins, president and chief executive officer of the Utah Sports Commission, said it is not unusual for contracts to expire and he believes all parties are interested in keeping the event at Oakridge if it can be worked out.
“Right now, with the contracts, we are still looking at the next round (of talks),” Robbins said. “We haven’ finalized anything yet. We are just talking. … Hopefully it comes back. Oakridge does well (financially) with it. I think everyone will be excited to bring it back. It is just a matter of putting everything together. … We will start that conversation soon.”