Can a Utah golfer win the local Korn Ferry Tour event? Zac Blair is 1 off the lead

Zac Blair hits to the second hole during the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament on the South Course at the Torrey Pines Golf Course Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, in San Diego.

Zac Blair hits to the second hole during the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament on the South Course at the Torrey Pines Golf Course Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, in San Diego. (Chris Carlson, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

FARMINGTON — In the history of the Utah Championship and its many iterations as a PGA-sanctioned event played in different rounds of developmental and mini-tours since John Daly's inaugural title in 1990, a host of champions have made their way through the Beehive State.

Some of them have passed through Utah in some form or fashion, but most have barely touched down on the Wasatch Front before skirting off with the trophy, a champion's purse, and — in many cases — a PGA Tour card for the next season, like reigning champion Joshua Creel.

Several prominent Utah natives have been in contention to win at the event, including the most recent Daniel Summerhays, who fell in a playoff en route to a runner-up finish in 2020 on his home course. Would a local champion ever be crowned?

Sporting a freshly clean-shaven face, Zac Blair aims to end the streak.

Blair, the BYU alum who prepped at Fremont High, shot a bogey-free round of 7-under-par 64 Thursday to finish just one shot off the lead after the first day of the Utah Championship at Oakridge Country Club.

"I kind of just did everything you're supposed to do out here, kind of got all three of the Par 5s, made a couple birdies with wedges, made a couple of good putts and felt like I had one kind of nice save on — I don't even know what hole it is, the second Par 3 on the back nine," Blair told the Standard-Examiner after the round.

Teeing off the back, which was really the front for Oakridge members but plays as the back nine in the championship setup, Blair carded three birdies to hit the turn at 3-under 32. He then added three more to move to 6-under overall before sinking a mid-range birdie putt on the par-4 ninth hole to finish one shot off the lead.

Germany's Jeremy Paul, Canadian Ben Silverman and American Andrew Kozan are tied for the lead at 8-under 63. They're followed by a group that includes Blair, Billy Tom Sargent, Akshay Bhatia and Hayden Springer.

Fellow BYU and Fremont graduate Patrick Fishburn, who entered the week ranked No. 71 on the Korn Ferry Tour's top 75, is one shot back and tied for ninth. Former BYU golfer Austen Christiansen is tied for 23rd at 4-under 67, followed by recent Cougar graduate Peter Kuest in 38th with 68 — tied with rising BYU senior Carson Lundell, who is playing as an amateur on a sponsors exemption.

Summerhays shot 70 to finish tied for 88th, and Brighton High graduate and BYU golfer David Timmins, who advanced via a Monday qualifier at TalonsCove in Saratoga Springs, shot 73.

The top 75 on the Korn Ferry Tour at the end of the regular season advance to the tour finals, a three-tournament series that helps decided the top 25 players who will earn PGA Tour cards for the upcoming season.

Fishburn is motivated by another local golfer — and a key sponsor — in Tony Finau, who became the first PGA Tour pro to win back-to-back regular-season events since 2019 last week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

"Tony's inspired me the last couple of weeks," Fishburn said before the tournament. "He's won two in a row, and I'd love to duplicate that."

Blair is making an injury rehabilitation start on the Korn Ferry Tour as he tries to get back to the PGA Tour, where he made 23 starts in 2019-20 with 12 made cuts and four top-25 finishes, to say nothing of the $745,273 in prize money. Since then, he's made just four starts with one made cut, in addition to the three events played on the Korn Ferry Tour this season while also undergoing a pair of surgeries to repair his right labrum.

With such little playing time — an extended absence due to shoulder surgeries doesn't help — Blair is ranked just 147th on the Korn Ferry Tour. But his return is about more than money as he balances a return to golf with designing a new course in South Carolina.

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A proud graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Walker has covered BYU for KSL.com since 2015, while also mixing in prep sports, education, and anything else his editors assign him to do.

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