HIGHLAND — Nick Nelson had no intentions of finishing the second round of stroke play on top of the leaderboard Tuesday during the 123rd annual Utah State Amateur Championships.
But as a past champion, he also knows how quickly things can turn.
On Tuesday morning, the winds blew in his favor.
The 2007 Utah State Amateur champion followed up his opening-round 66 with an even-par 72 for a two-day total of 6-under-par 138 to clinch medalist honors by one stroke Tuesday, securing the No. 1 seed for Wednesday's match play.
Nelson will face Utah golfer Colton Tanner at 7:30 a.m. MT Wednesday at Alpine Country Club.
"Winning medalist is exciting and a huge accomplishment by itself," said Nelson, who played collegiately at Utah Valley. "But like everyone else that came out and qualified, ultimately I'm here to try to take the state am trophy home at the end of the week.
"There's nothing like holding the trophy after all those rounds of golf and intense competition.
Nelson, who lives in Utah County, plays sparingly these days — he jokes that the Art City Amateur in Springville is one of the few times he gets out — between his day job and four children under the age of 12.
So finishing atop a leaderboard that includes the top amateur golfers in Utah, including top collegiate golfers in the state, will take on a little extra importance.
"I came out to enjoy myself, the experience — and to win," Nelson said. "It's the same mentality I have every time I show up. I don't play much, and don't get the opportunity to play in a lot of events — but it never feels unexpected to win."
Nelson held off recent BYU graduate Spencer Dunaway, Dixie State's Camron Saunders, BYU's Elijah Turner and former Utah Valley golfer Jake Godfrey, who finished in a four-way tie for second with a two-day total of 139.
Turner, a Lone Peak graduate who just wrapped up his sophomore season with the Cougars, nearly forced a playoff with Nelson. But the 2019 state amateur semifinalist left his 15-foot birdie just short on No. 18 after carding four birdies in a bogey-free round.
"Pretty tough to do on 18," Turner said with a laugh. "My whole mentality for the state am is to make match play and go from there. I wanted to play well enough to get a good seed, but I didn't feel like I had to have a great round.
"I just wanted some momentum. That helps a lot."
Jake Vincent, the 2019-20 Big Sky golfer of the year at Southern Utah, finished in a tie for sixth with BYU's Brock Goyen at 4-under 140.
Former BYU golfer Kelton Hirsch shot the low round of the day at 5-under 67 to finish tied for seventh with Weber State's Hunter Howe, one shot ahead of first-round leader Max Brenchley of BYU, Utah's Blake Tomlinson, Andrew Cottle, Keanu Hiram Lester Akina, Jack Sargent and John Owen to round out the top 10 with ties.
Dunaway opened the front nine at Alpine with four birdies to surge ahead by as much as two strokes when he birdied the par-4 ninth.
But the recent BYU graduate who won the state amateur in his native Hawaii struggled on the back nine as the winds picked up near the mouth of American Fork Canyon. Dunaway had a double bogey on the par-3 12th hole, before back-to-back bogeys on the 14th and 15th pushed him out of contention.
That is, out of contention for medalist honors. But Dunaway kept himself in clear contention for the amateur championship — and perhaps moreso, after a birdie on the par-5 17th hole.
"I made an awesome par on 16, and honestly didn't miss a shot after that," Dunaway said. "The tee shot on 17 was unreal, and it just ran out for me to a 25-footer that I lagged up for an easy birdie. I also had a good drive on 18 … and made another good swing on the second shot."
The No. 1-seeded golfer hasn't won the state amateur in more than 10 year. So not winning medalist honors isn't a big deal for the current state amateur champion from his native Hawaii.
"My goal was just not to make any big numbers as I was coming in. My swing got a little off on the back nine," Dunaway said. "Medalist is always the goal, but I feel like my game is trending in a good way. There are a lot of good players, and honestly, I wasn't too worried about medalist honors. At the end of the day, it means nothing; it's going to be a long week – hopefully — and I don't know how many times the No. 1 seed has won the tournament."
Dunaway is playing a host of amateur tournaments in Utah and around the west, in part to keep his wife closer to her native Draper — and also to prepare for Q school and turning pro this fall, as early as the Utah Open on Aug. 20.
"It was a tough adjustment to get used to Utah from playing golf at sea level," Dunaway said. "But I'm living here, and just go back and forth between Hawaii and her.
"I'll be back and forth all summer."
Brenchley surrendered his one-shot lead after the first day with a 1-over 37 on the front nine, including birdies on Nos. 1 and 6. But the BYU freshman who returned a year ago from a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was only one shot back with nine to play of former champion Nelson, who finished his second round at Thanksgiving Point earlier Tuesday in less averse conditions with an even-par 72.
The final day featured a 16-man playoff for the final 11 spots in the match-play field of 64, with each spot decided over one hole as five golfers made bogey for elimination.
Live scoring is available at uga.org.
Below are the first-round matches, which will tee off Wednesday morning at Alpine Country Club:
Nick Nelson, Buck Club, vs. Colton Tanner, Park City GC, 7:30 a.m.
Luke Crapo, Ogden G&CC, vs. Cameron Howe, Mountain Dell GC, 7:40 a.m.
Tyler Wooldridge, Wolf Creek GC, vs. Tyson Tanner, Riverbend GC, 7:50 a.m.
Denny Job, Buck Club, vs. Brad Parker, Murray Parkway GC, 8 a.m.
Kelton Hirsch, Oakridge CC, vs. Oscar Maxfield, Mountain Dell GC, 8:10 a.m.
Tyson Lund, River Oaks GC, vs. Justin Shluker, Park City GC, 8:20 a.m.
Hunter Howe, The Barn GC, vs. Preston Cheney, Willow Creek CC, 8:30 a.m.
Leo Torres, Cedar Ridge GC, vs. Jacob Marx, Eagle Mountain GC, 8:40 a.m.
Jake Godfrey, Talonscove GC, vs. Christian James, Park City GC, 8:50 a.m.
Cooper Jones, Youth on Course Utah, vs. Davis Heslington, Canyon Breeze GC, 9:00 a.m.
Jack Sargent, Youth on Course Utah, vs. Derek Penman, Mountain View GC, 9:00 a.m.
Carl Jensen, Alpine CC, vs. Adam Harris, Thanksgiving Point GC
Camron Saunders, Eagle Mountain GC, vs. Carter Frisby, Youth on Course Utah, 9:30 a.m.
Brock Nielson, Gladston GC, vs. Jake Griffin, Cedar Hills GC, 9:40 a.m.
Blake Tomlinson, The Country Club, vs. Brady Stanger, Stonebridge GC, 9:50 a.m.
Steven Croft, Mountain Dell GC, vs. Evan Lawrence, Alpine CC, 10 a.m.
Elijah Turner, Alpine CC, vs. Martin Leon, Bonneville GC, 10:10 a.m.
Ryan Seamons, Birch Creek GC, vs. Brendan Thomas, Bountiful Ridge GC, 10:20 a.m.
Keanu Hiram Lester Akina, Fox Hollow GC, vs. Brett Smith, Green Spring GC, 10:30 a.m.
Reed Nielsen, Valley View GC, vs. Cooper Wayment, Birch Creek GC, 10:40 a.m.
Jake Vincent, Cedar Ridge GC, vs. Brock Sivulich, Glenmoor GC, 10:50 a.m.
Braxton Barber, Fox Hollow GC, vs. Ron Davis, Alpine CC, 11:00 a.m.
John Owen, Mountain View GC, vs. Ron Davis, Alpine CC, 11:10 a.m.
David Timmins, Willow Creek CC, vs. Josh Howe, Eaglewood GC, 11:20 a.m.
Spencer Dunaway, Timpanogos GC, vs. Tyler Jones, Fox Hollow GC, 11:30 a.m.
Landon Herndon, Mick Riley GC, vs. Carsen Dopp, Ogden G&CC, 11:40 a.m.
Andrew Cottle, Lakeside GC, vs. Darrin Overson, Timpanogos GC, 11:50 a.m.
Ryan Brimley, Bountiful Ridge GC, vs. Landon Anderson, Oakridge CC, 12:00 p.m.
Brock Goyen, Fox Hollow GC, vs. Zachary Dallimore, Davis Park GC, 12:10 p.m.
Nick Killpack, Bloomington CC, vs. Cameron Tucker, Valley View GC, 12:20 p.m.
Max Brenchley, Alpine CC, vs. David Jennings, Valley View GC, 12:30 p.m.
Braxton Leetham, Fox Hollow GC, vs. Danny Hafen, Valley View GC, 12:40 p.m.