UNLV golfer Ben Sawaia used a four-birdie run over a five-hole stretch in the final round to win the 2023 Nevada State Men’s Amateur Championship. Sawaia held off Hunter Swanson to win by a stroke in the three-day event that was held June 22-24, 2023, at The Club at ArrowCreek in Reno. –by Bill Bowman, www.LasVegasGolfInsider.com
Michael Sarro, a University of Nevada golfer, was third.
For Sawaia, it’s a victory that has been in his sights for a long time.
“I’ve been trying to win this tournament for a few years and to finally get there…I’m just thrilled,” he said. “Just the history of this event means a lot to me and to know my name is going to be on that cup is just pure joy. It’s tough to put into words how I feel.”
It wasn’t an easy victory.
Sawaia opened and closed the tournament with six-under-par 66s. But he said his second round, an even-par 72, was his biggest test.
That round saw him go four-over through three holes midway through the round. A birdie on his final hole of the day got him back to even-par for the round and set up the final 18 holes.
“That three-hole stretch was probably about the only time I really let it slip away,” he said. “I had a bad club selection that led to the double bogey. I managed to grind it out after that stretch and keep myself in the game. To close it out with a birdie on 18 and get back to even-par really kept me in position to have a chance to win today.”
In the end, it was a two-horse race as Sawaia and Hunter Swanson put on a show over the final 18 holes. Sawaia wound up with his 66 while Swanson had a 68 that included birdies on two of his final three holes.
“It was quite the battle,” Sawaia said. “We went back and forth all day. Hats off to Hunter…he’s a class act all the way.”
Sawaia credits his practice sessions as key to the win.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of good work practicing and I’ve put myself in contention to win before,” he said. “I just haven’t been able to close it out in a few events. Today I did and it’s a great validation that all of the hard work pays off.”
He added the victory will also help his confidence going into his senior year.
“It just shows that my game is getting better and better,” he said. “I know there’s still work to do but a win like this certainly makes me want to keep working to improve.”
Ben Sawaia, 66-72-66—204
Hunter Swanson, 69-68-68—205
Michael Sarro, 71-72-66—209