OGDEN, Utah -
Close to 300 competitors teed it up when the 119th Utah State Amateur Championship got under way earlier this week. Now, the field has been cut to two and one of those golfers is an Aggie.
Utah State's Braydon Swapp won a pair of matches Friday at the Ogden Golf & Country Club to advance to Saturday's 36-hole championship match. He is the first Aggie to advance to the final since 2008, when Devin Daniels lost to Dan Horner.
"It means a lot," Swapp said. "It's a great tournament with so many good players. To get this far shows a lot of grit. I had confidence during stroke play and I knew I was going to qualify for match play, but in match play, anything can happen. I have played a lot of match play in my life and I just came out and executed this week. I've played some good players, but I have come out on top so far and it's been fun."
Swapp, the No. 1 seed, reached the championship match by defeating 25th-seeded Tanner Taft, 2 and 1, in the quarterfinals on Friday morning. Later in the afternoon, he bested 20th-seeded Kyler Dearden, 2 and 1.
In the championship match, Swapp will face third-seeded Kelton Hirsch, who eliminated defending champion Patrick Fishburn in the semifinals.
"I want to have fun tomorrow," Swapp said. "I want to keep the round bogey-free."
Swapp and Hirsch will tee off at 7:30 a.m. Following the first 18 holes, the golfers will break for lunch before heading back out for the final 18.
In the semifinals against Dearden, Swapp was 4-up after 10 holes and held the same advantage heading to No. 14. However, Dearden battled back and was 2-down with two holes to play.
Swapp closed out the match, though, when the competitors halved the 17th hole.
In his first match on Friday, Swapp never trailed against Taft, but had to sweat it out in the end. The native of Farr West, Utah, won three consecutive holes and was 4-up heading to the 15th.
However, Taft, who knocked out Utah State's Chase Lansford on Thursday in the Round of 32, battled back by winning the 15th and 16th holes.
"I hit the shots I wanted to," Swapp said. "On the 15th, (my birdie) putt was really fast and I left myself a solid (par) putt coming back, but didn't make it. The iron shots on 16 have been tough all week. I haven't hit that green once all week, so that's something I've got to work and mentally prepare for."
Swapp closed out the match on the par-4 17th. His approach shot on the 400-yard hole landed in a green-side bunker, but he blasted out to within just a couple of feet and made his par - after Taft missed his par putt coming back.
"I was very confident in that bunker on 17 and I knew I had that shot in the bag," Swapp said. "It was nice to see some execution finally. It's hard when you're up by that much to really stay stepping on it and sometimes you let yourself get too relaxed, and I think that's what happened."
The two players opened their match by halving the first hole, but Swapp went 1-up on hole No. 2 after making par. Taft squared the match with a birdie on No. 6, but Swapp quickly regained the lead on the following hole when he drained an uphill birdie putt on the 166-yard par-3.
Swapp bogeyed the 11th hole, which opened the door for Taft, who made par. At that point, Taft was only 1-down, but Swapp got hot over the next three holes and won them all to open his biggest advantage of the match at 4-up.
"That was huge," Swapp said. "Not letting them get momentum and keeping the momentum on your side is big in match play, because that's all someone needs, is to feel good and then they can get hot. We're all really good players at this point, so it's just important that you buckle down after you lose a hole and get the momentum back."
Fans can follow Utah State's golf program on Facebook at facebook.com/USUMensGolf and on Twitter at @USUMensGolf.
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