As an amateur, 16-year-old Kihei Akina isn’t eligible for the $20,000 check that will go to the low professional in the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open after Sunday’s final round.
But that doesn’t mean the rising sophomore at nearby Lone Peak High won’t be gunning for the tournament title in the 54-hole event at par-72 Riverside Country Club in Provo.
Akina, one of six 16-year-olds in the field of 156, shot his second-straight 67 on Saturday to get to 10-under in wet, somewhat windy conditions at the course just northwest of BYU’s LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“Just keep everything the same. Everything is going well for me right now.” — Golfer Kihei Akina, 16, on his strategy in the final round of the Utah Open.
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, playing in the event for the second straight year, shot a 77 Saturday to go with the 70 he carded on Friday and did not make the cut, finishing at 3-over. The CBS Sports NFL analyst finished a 4-under last year and tied for 42nd.
Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, also an amateur, also missed the cut at +3.
Akina will be a sophomore at Lone Peak this fall. Last fall, he won the 6A state high school golf tournament with a 6-under par score at Davis Park Golf Course and helped the Knights win their eighth state team title in nine years.
That was a few months after he tied for second at the Utah Open for low amateur honors with his brother, BYU golfer Keanu Akina. They shot 8-under 208s last year, five shots behind low am Cole Ponich of Farmington, also a BYU golfer.
Having started on the No. 10 tee Saturday, Kihei Akina made a 25-footer for birdie on No. 9 to finish with another 67. He had bogeyed holes 3 and 5 to drop down the leaderboard, but made an eagle on the par-5 seventh to recover.
His strategy for Sunday?
“Just keep everything the same,” he said. “Everything is going well for me right now.”
Akina said hit putter has been on fire through 36 holes.
“I would say off the tee I have been pretty solid, but definitely putting” is the reason he’s in the top five, he said.
Current and former BYU golfers Zac Jones and Zac Blair are also out 10-under, both having shot 68s on Saturday. Jones won the Utah State Amateur last month and Blair has been playing on the Korn Ferry Tour as he rehabs from shoulder surgery. He will join the PGA Tour again next month.
Another BYU golfer, former Skyline star Tyson Shelley, is at 8-under after a 69 Saturday. First-round leader and BYU golfer David Timmins ballooned to a 74 in the second round to fall out of contention.
To become the first former or current Cougar to win the Utah Open since Peter Kuest in 2020, Jones, Blair and Shelley will have to contend with a former Ute, Blake Tomlinson.
The newly turned pro from Salt Lake City added a 67 to the 66 he shot in the first round and is at 11-under. Former BYU golfer and Masters participant Clay Ogden is also at 11-under.
“It was good. I hit a lot more quality shots today,” Tomlinson said. “My driver was a lot better, and then I just put myself in good spots to make birdies and relied on the putter to make long ones when I didn’t hit it close. So it was a good day.”
Tomlinson’s day would have been even better if not for an errant approach on the par-5 16th that found water.
“My only bogey was on a par-5,” he said. “Hit it into water, but almost got up and down.”
Tomlinson, who has been playing on the Canadian Tour this summer, said his strategy will be to continue to attack the par-5s and stay aggressive.
“You have to birdie at least two or three of them, just to have a chance to have a good round,” he said. “Especially when the wind is up like it was for our last couple of holes, you just gotta take advantage of those.”