FARMINGTON — Speaking on Wednesday afternoon after a practice round at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington, Cole Ponich said he was looking forward to the opportunity of competing this week in the Korn Ferry Tour's Utah Championship against some of the best golfers to have recently come out of the college ranks.
Of course, that was without stating the obvious.
"It's pretty cool to have my first professional event be at my home course. It kind of helps settle the nerves a little bit," said Ponich, who grew up living just near the golf course.
The number of golfers who have made their professional debuts on their home course, in their home town and basically in their backyard is unknown, but it's probably not a lot of them.
Ponich, a Davis High alumnus who just finished his freshman year at BYU, has hit most every shot one can hit on this course hundreds of times. His low round at Oakridge is 62.
But once the lush country club gears up for its annual pro tournament, it pulls some tricks out of its sleeve that everyday members don't often see.
"The biggest difference-maker of the tournament here that I've noticed is the rough length. It gets a lot thicker and you gotta play to the smart side when you're in the rough, and then they've done a really good job with the greens, firming them up," Ponich said Wednesday.
Speaking after his Thursday round, Ponich felt he could've done better than where he finished at 2-under, good enough to claim the low amateur score and maybe in position to make the cut.
"I'm a little disappointed with my putting, knowing the greens so well here. I hit it well enough to actually shoot a pretty good score, just didn't really make anything on the front nine. Hopefully we'll get it a little heated up tomorrow," he said Thursday.
Ponich hit 7 of 14 fairways off the tee, but hit 12 of 18 greens in regulation to give himself plenty of chances to shoot a low round.
"Some really good pins out there, that was the difference-maker," he said. "A lot of people were asking me if I was feeling good about my putting going into the day and I was telling them that I haven't really seen the pins and where they're going to be all day, so I don't necessarily know all the breaks as much as the normal pin locations here."
To even get here, Ponich had to qualify on Monday at Talons Cove in Saratoga Springs, a course where he recorded a second-place finish and a two-day score of 137 in the 2018 6A high school state golf tournament.
Ponich fired a 9-under 63 on Monday, including a run of five straight birdies, and comfortably qualified for his first professional tournament.
"That five-hole stretch, it was like later in the round where my caddie showed me my scorecard and I was like, 'I didn't even realize I made five birdies in a row' because it was like an unconscious moment with the putter," Ponich said.
As an added bonus, he's playing his first two Utah Championship rounds with Daniel Summerhays and Preston Summerhays, the latter of which he's played frequently with and against in recent tournaments.
Utah resident, BYU alum and former Masters champion Mike Weir shot 3-under. He was even-par before making an eagle on the 16th hole, followed by a birdie on No. 17.
Fremont High and BYU alum Patrick Fishburn shot 3-under with three birdies between holes 2-8, including back-to-back birdies on Nos. 7 and 8.
Daniel Summerhays shot 2-under, which included consecutive birdies on holes 2 and 3.
"I wanted to make at least five birdies and I got that, I just had a few bogeys in there," he said.
Daniel Summerhays was happy with his round overall, despite this being his first pro tournament in six months.
"I definitely felt the nerves and the competitive juices again," he said.
For a while, the leader was Englishman Harry Hall at 8-under. Then came Stephen Jaeger, a 31-year-old German who needed just 12 holes to match Hall's 8-under mark.
Jaeger made an eagle on the Par 5 second hole, followed by a birdie on the third, but couldn't make any more headway and finished at 8-under, tied for the lead.
Live TV coverage is on Golf Channel from 4-6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Fans are not allowed at the tournament due to COVID-19 mitigation protocols.