Local golf phenom has year to remember

Kemmerer junior golfer Tazlynn Wagner uses a little body English on a putt during this year’s Drive, Chip and Putt competition. (COURTESY PHOTO/Drive, Chip and Putt)

Wagner shines on youth golf circuit in Wyoming, Utah

As a 12-year-old in 2022, Kemmerer golf phenom Taz-lynn Wagner turned heads in her home state and on the Utah Junior Golf Tour, playing up an age group and finishing at or near the top of the leaderboard in every tournament she entered, and winning the second flight at the Wyoming State Amateur Championship.

In 2023, the now 13-year-old turned a corner, winning four tournaments on the Utah PGA Junior Series — including the Tooele County Junior Major, The Barn Junior in Ogden, The Logan River Junior, in Logan and the PGA Major Championship, in Springville — as well as the first flight at the Wyoming State Amateur Championship. Wagner finished runner-up in the Glenmoor Junior Major, the Valley View Davis Junior Major and the Utah County Rumble Major, and ended the season ranked third in her age division by the Utah Junior Golf Association.

Wagner is also a 14-time champion on the U.S. Kids Golf Salt Lake City Local Tour, her most recent win coming on Nov. 4 at the Tour Championship, held at Thanksgiving Point Golf Course. The youngster carded a 75-75-150 — including chipping in for birdie on the final hole, down by a stroke — to claim her 14th title. Wagner called that shot one of the highlights of her season.

“Holing out from 65 yards for an eagle at the Homestead Golf Course was another one,” Wagner said, listing a few more highlights from the season. “Playing in the Epson Pro/Junior Amateur at Soldier Hollow Golf Course, on the same team as tour player Karen Fredgaard [the pair finished runners-up]. And placing third at the Drive, Chip and Putt regional qualifier.”

In this year’s Drive, Chip and Putt competition, Wagner was the overall champion at the local qualifier at Eagle Mountain Golf Course in Brigham City, Utah, and the sub-qualifier at Glenmoor Golf Course, in South Jordan, earning a spot at the regional qualifier at Chambers Bay, Wash. Wagner finished third at Chambers Bay, just missing a berth in the National Finals, held each year at Augusta National, home of the Masters Golf Tournament.

Finally, at July’s IMG Academy Junior World Championships at Torrey Pines, Wagner finished tied for 77th in the 13-14 age division.

Thought you had a busy summer?

While golf may take up a good deal of Wagner’s time during the summer months, she stays active in sports year-round, competing in volleyball and basketball, and is a member of the Honor Society. The eighth-grader is musically inclined, as well, playing the piano and flute as part of the honor band.

“She’s pretty talented,” said Tazlynn’s dad, Jason.

Tazlynn began golfing competitively at the age of five, inspired by the Netflix documentary, “The Short Game,” about 7-and-8-year-old golfers competing in the 2012 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship.

“She set her goals to make it to the Pinehurst World Championships from that day,” Jason said. “She started with U.S. Kids tournaments, and has moved into several other leagues, such as Utah PGA Series, UJGA, UGA, WSGA, AJGA as well as Drive, Chip and Putt competitions — plus any other amateur golf tournaments that we can fit in.”

Tazlynn typically begins competing in the spring, and plays through the fall, with the Salt Lake Junior Tour wrapping up in early November. Her practice routine during that time rivals any high school or collegiate golfer.

“During the season, I do workouts five days a week, whether on the road, or at home,” she said. “Road workouts are limited to minor conditioning and stretching.”

Tazlynn works on the mental aspect of the game with students and coaches on a weekly basis, and spends time every day working on her short game — chipping and putting.

“I also put in several hours on the range and on the simulator to help with my full swing,” she explained. “Depending on the tournament, if it’s a course we have played before, I usually just work on fundamentals. If it’s a new course or a qualifying tournament, I usually try and get a practice round in, so I can get a feel for the greens and work on my short game and course strategy.”

Looking back on 2023, Tazlynn remarked on the improvement in her game, especially in the mental aspect, as well as course management.

“My overall scores have gotten better,” she said. “I’ve been hitting in the mid to low 70s each round. I’m playing in bigger tournaments with longer yardages, which is preparing me for my future in high school and college.”

Asked what, as a parent, has been the most gratifying aspect of watching his daughter continue to work hard and achieve success, Jason said it’s watching Tazlynn mature into a young adult, on and off the course.

“Watching her grow from a child to a young adult has been the best,” he said. “Seeing the etiquette that she shows both on and off the course has evolved in all the things that she does. Seeing her growth on the course has a trickle down effect off the course. She has matured beyond her age off the course. She can interact with anyone on any level, without any hesitation. She is absolutely the best travel partner a parent could ask for. She’s very well prepared for the world and its surroundings, that’s for sure.”

As for her future, Jason said Tazlynn definitely has her sights set on a career in golf; in what capacity has yet to be determined, though it will be a fun ride getting to that point.

“She’s got her sights set on a collegiate golf career, as well as a bid for the LPGA Tour,” he said. “Either way, she will be a professional golfer, whether it be playing, teaching or the business side of golf. Seems like golf is her passion, amongst a few other things.”

While she’s currently keeping busy on the hardwood for the time being, golf season will be here before she knows it; Tazlynn said she’s keeping her goals realistic.

“My expectations are just to keep practicing hard and having fun,” she said. “My goals are to go to Augusta for Drive, Chip and Putt, and also to place in the top 20 at Worlds.

My interaction amongst my competitors and peers of the game has really improved; I love meeting new people and seeing new things.”