GOLF

BYU golfer Lila Galea’i to headline Utah Women’s Amateur

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The 116th Utah State Women’s Amateur Championship golf tournament next month at Ogden Golf & Country Club will feature one of the strongest fields in the event’s history, especially if the 2020 champion Grace Summerhays of the Arizona State University women’s golf team plays, as has been said. .

But the girls and women won’t necessarily be chasing the 18-year-old Summerhays, who won the title two years ago at Soldier Hollow Golf Course.

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“The pro at the time, Kean Ridd, noticed me and gave me my first set of clubs, and I went from there. I owe a lot to him and East Bay for getting me started. – Lila Galea’i, defending Utah Women’s State Am champion

There was a new champion last year, and long-hitting Lila Galea’i of the BYU women’s golf team is as intimidating with her length as any player in recent memory.

“She’s definitely one of the favourites,” said the woman who lost to Galea’i in 19 holes in last year’s championship game at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington, new to Lone Peak’s Berlin Long Cougars High.

Long, her sister Aadyn, four-time champion Kelsey Chugg and Galea’i all played Thursday at the par-72 layout bordering Washington Boulevard in Ogden and said the course was ready to test the state’s best players. The tournament begins August 1 with 18 qualifying holes in stroke play to determine the final 32 players to advance to match play.

The 18-hole championship match will take place on August 4.

Berlin Long, who won two 6A women’s individual state championships during her career at Lone Peak, said winning the tournament was “up there” on her to-do list, especially after what happened. happened last year. She led Galea’i by two holes with two to play, but Galea’i birdied 17-and-18 to force a sudden-death playoff, then birdied No. 1 in the playoff to win the trophy.

“I guess my favorite memories from last year were that last putt against Berlin and how on number 17 my putt dropped for a birdie to bring me down to under one,” Galea’i said. “I knew then that I had a chance, because anything can happen in match play.”

Galea’i said the victory “kinda changed my life” and gave him “a huge boost of confidence” ahead of his second season at BYU.

“I remember coming to State Am, I kept winning games, and I was like, ‘Man, maybe I have a chance to win this. She told me to keep doing what I was doing and finish strong, and I did. It was very cool.”

The whole Galea’i story is cool, especially because no one else in his family plays competitive golf. Raymond and Mili Galea’i have eight children — six daughters and two sons — and Lila (who can play the ukulele behind her back, according to her profile on BYUcougars.com) is the only one who takes golf seriously.

Raymond played football at Dixie State, his brother Jray played football at BYU, and his sister Eternity played basketball at BYU.

“We are a sporty family,” Lila said. “We all play sports, from football to basketball to volleyball, but I’m the only one who plays golf, really.”

After his family moved from Kahuku, Hawaii to Utah County in 2009, Raymond Galea’i got a part-time job closing the East Bay Golf Course (now the Timpanogos golf course) in Provo and little Lila was hitting balls around the practice greens. and practice with her father’s old clubs as she waited out her shift.

“The pro at the time, Kean Ridd, noticed me and gave me my first set of clubs, and I went from there,” she said. “I owe him and East Bay a lot for getting me started.”

Lila quickly became a young phenom and in 2017 won the 13-14 division of Utah’s Junior Amateur Championship game, beating Berlin Long. She is proud to be able to show the world that people of Pacific Islander descent can thrive in golf and lists fellow Polynesian Tony Finau as one of her heroes.

“I mean, golf, it gave me the opportunity to meet so many new people. And all the people I’ve met in my life, I know I wouldn’t have been able to meet them if I didn’t. haven’t played golf,” she said. “Honestly, I just see it as a blessing. To be able to be here is just a blessing.

Galea’i humbly says she had a “decent” second season at BYU. She started the 2021-22 season by finishing first at the Dick McGuire Invitational and finished the year with an 11th-place finish at the West Coast Conference Championships. She finished tied for 21st at the NCAA Franklin (Tennessee) Regional.

Since the end of the college season, she has played in the Southwestern Amateur in Arizona and tried to qualify for the US Women’s Amateur in Colorado, missing the cut by a few strokes. She won the Sizzler Am at Talking Stick Golf Club in Arizona the week after playing in the Southwestern Amateur, beating runner-up Jieming Yang by 13 strokes.

“I played pretty well,” she said. “I’ve made some changes to my swing, with the help of coach (Carrie) Roberts from BYU, and others. Nothing major, just working on small things. I’m ready (to defend his title 2021). »

Beyond college, Galea’i hopes to play golf professionally and see where it takes her. Her strengths are her length – she estimates she hits the ball 300 yards off the tee – and her ability to play under pressure, she said.

His favorite courses are Timpanogos (of course) and Thanksgiving Point.

His dream quartet?

“I have to go with Tiger Woods, of course,” she said. “And then Michael Jordan, even though he’s not a golfer. I always wanted to play golf with him. Then I would say Tony Finau and Viktor Hovland.

BYU golf coach Carrie Roberts takes a selfie with Lila Galea’i after Galea’i won the Utah Women’s State Amateur Golf Tournament against Berlin Long at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington on Thursday July 1, 2021. Galea’i will return to this Women’s Am of the Year at Ogden Golf & Country Club to defend her title.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

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