By Beaux Yenchik, UGA Intern
Millcreek, UT – In its nine-year history as an event, the Utah Four-Ball Championship has only had multiple winners twice but only once as back-to-back.
Jon Wright and Brigham Gibbs left the Valley View Qualifier with a target on their backs. For one, they tied for the low round with a 7-under-par 65 – on one of the state’s toughest public golf courses mind you. Secondly, Gibbs and Wright were the defending champions and determined to show last year’s victory was no fluke.
Leading the 16-team field, plus the eight teams in the senior division, Wright and Gibbs looked to tackle Park Meadows Country Club – a 6,981-yard course nestled just northeast of downtown Park City – and bring home the trophy for the second year in a row.
Despite having severe frost delays each of the two mornings and a slight fear that play would get suspended due to darkness, the duo never flinched as they made relatively short work of each opponent – not once seeing holes 16-18 in any of their four matches.
“We teamed up really well,” Wright said. “When he was making a bunch of birdies, I wasn’t. Then when he wasn’t, I was. I don’t know if we ever birdied the same hole. We’d usually come up with six or seven birdies per match.”
Entering as the No. 1 seed, Gibbs and Wright opened the tournament against Richard Wadley and Jeff Scott, the 16th seeded team. Keeping the match competitive for their first time playing in a Utah Golf Association event, Wadley and Scott began to succumb to the strong play of the former professionals, eventually losing the match 5 and 3.
Gibbs said: “We both hit it a fair distance. We both hit it straight and [on] fast greens, we both are really good putters.”
Gibbs and Wright came out again in their afternoon quarterfinals match against Greg Slack and Jeff Keye on fire. Not missing a beat, the victors worked their way around the Jack Nicklaus design to win 5 and 4 in a convincing manner.
Thursday morning’s semi-final matches were again delayed due to frost, this time just a half hour instead of an hour like the day before – presenting the possibility of again not finishing the tournament before nightfall.
With a match against Jeff Jolley and Jason Struck in their way of getting back to the championship match, Gibbs and Wright did what they had done all tournament long, make birdies.
With only losing four holes the entire tournament and only ever trailing by one shot, on two separate occasions, Gibbs and Wright said they relied on their ability to lean on each other at any given moment.
“We just have a lot of confidence in not only our games but each other’s games,” Gibbs said. “We don’t stress, we don’t grind, [and] we don’t really have to worry about it because I know we are going to be in [it] pretty much every hole.”
“We are supposed to be having fun out here,” Wright said. “We both played at a much higher level than this, so, I don’t think we get too worried about [poor] shots.”
With this formula for success working every time, Gibbs and Wright put away Struck and Jolley 5 and 4 early Thursday afternoon.
In what was a surprise championship matchup for the top seeded team, Gibbs and Wright faced the No. 6 duo of Matthew Lupinacci and Aaron Robbs – the team who took the likes of Shane Brady and Darrin Overson all the way to the 18th hole and won, 1 up.
Just like they had done in their previous three matches, the tantalizing duo used their light-hearted nature to fuel their match and eventually lead them to victory. Keeping with the theme of winning by five, Gibbs and Wright defended their title by defeating Lupinacci and Robbs, 5 and 3.
In the senior division, Kirk Siddens and Brett Sampson defended their 2017 title by beating the likes of Guy Child and Kurt Jamison, 2 and 1.
“When we are playing good, we’re very tough to beat,” Sampson said.
“I think our ball-striking carried us … and today, we got the putters going,” Siddens stated.
With every higher seed winning in the opening round of the senior bracket, Sampson and Siddens immediately became the team to beat as the No. 5 seed. After barely sneaking through the qualifier, the winning tandem knew, no matter what seed they were, they were going to be tough to beat.
Sampson and Siddens defeated Mike Holm and Ryan Job 2 up in the quarterfinals. They stopped the run of Patrick Murphy and Chuck O’Brien in the semi-final match by winning, 3 and 2.Then, the dynamic partnership took care of Child and Jamison, 2 and 1.
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