Despite a little liquid sunshine raining down on the field of golfers Friday and Saturday, the 2018 Wyoming State Match Play tournament came off without a hitch, making the event a win for the Powell Golf Club.
“The competitors absolutely loved the golf course,” said PGC pro Mike Propp. “It was so well received. They loved the layout, and I really think it helped Powell as far as showcasing it to people who hadn’t been here; they sure know now that there’s a heck of a golf course here.”
University of Wyoming golfer and Phoenix, Arizona, native Dan Starzinski won the championship flight, defeating Matt Pope 4 and 2 to claim the title. The civil engineering major said the course played to his strengths.
“It [the tournament] went really well,” Starzinski said. “I played how I wanted to. Match play is a different thing, you pretty much just have to beat the guy in front of you. But I felt like I had a good grip on every match.”
Starzinski played the front nine either 1 up or all square for most of his matches; it was on the back nine where his game separated him from the pack.
“That course is really like two different nines,” he explained. “One side is really open, and the other side is really tree-lined. I always took advantage of the tree-lined [back] side.”
The difference in strategy between stroke play and match play, at least for Starzinski, is that you can afford to play more aggressively in match play.
“If my opponent hits it really close, I’m obviously going to go after the pin, rather than just playing it safe,” he said. “Or if he hits an errant shot, then I’ll play it a little safer. It’s fun in the sense that it changes the dynamic of the round, how you go about playing. You can play really aggressive and just go at every pin, and that’s not something we get to do very often in stroke play, so it’s really fun.”
Starzinski came into the tournament as the No. 2 seed, opening with a win against the No. 31 seed Jim Broderick, 6 and 4. His next three opponents were familiar faces, all looking to knock him into the consolation round.
“I ended up playing three of my teammates from UW,” Starzinski said. “In the second round, I played one of our incoming freshmen [Liam Clancy of Billings], and he was really solid. The round after that, I played another incoming freshman [Kirby Coe-Kirkham of Sheridan].”
In the semis, Starzinski squared off against fellow upperclassman and good friend John Murdock, winner of the 2017 Wyoming State Match Play title, beating him 2 and 1.
“It was kind of unfortunate that we were all in the same bracket and couldn’t square off in the finals,” Starzinski said. “But it was fun to earn my win by going through all of our team.”
Does playing against a teammate add a different level of intensity, or are things kept pretty loose?
“You know, right away, I’d say it’s a little tense,” Starzinski said, laughing. “Obviously, no one wants to lose. But at the end of the day, we all sat down and had lunch together.”
Ironically, Pope, Starzinski’s opponent in the finals, is the father of Quintin Pope, another teammate of Starzinski’s at UW, who just graduated this spring.
“It was fun, because he’s [Pope] a really great guy,” Starzinski said. “We had a fun match.”
The championship flight wasn’t the only one that featured exceptional play on the course. The tournament consisted of three other flights, featuring some of the best amateur golfers in the state. Golfers from the Powell area represented well, with local golfer Andrew Whitlock winning the third flight, defeating Gordon Shinn, 4 and 3.
“Andrew [Whitlock] winning the third flight was great for our Powell golfers,” Propp said. “In the second flight, Brock Frates took second and Dick Fisher took third, and he’s also a Powell guy. We had a great showing.”
Local doctor Mike Bohlman played well all weekend in the championship flight, according to Propp.
“He [Bohlman] won his match Friday morning, and barely lost his match Friday afternoon [to defending champion John Murdock],” Propp said. “He shot an amazing round, but you know, these college kids. So Mike [Bohlman] had to go to stroke play, and he took first net, so he was another local that took first in stroke play. He played really well.”
Propp said the Powell Golf Club received kudos not just from the golfers, but from the Wyoming State Golf Association, as well.
“They [WSGA] had nothing but compliments from the players as far as the golf course goes, the job that our superintendent and his crew did on the course. As far as the layout, they loved it,” he said. “We actually did the lunches for two days in-house, and the WSGA said our lunches were the best they’d had at any state event.”
Propp described the feedback as a “thumbs up all around.”
“The state said they will definitely be looking to see what event they can host here next,” he said. “From A to Z, it went really well.”