Ex-champs chasing County Am history
Alex Stamey and Todd Tibke each seeking a record-tying fifth championship
Stamey, who lives in Mill Creek, and Tibke, who is from Snohomish, have four County Am titles apiece. A victory by either one this weekend would tie Bob Whisman's total of five wins, the most in tourney history.
It could happen, but only if Stamey and Tibke can wade through a field thick with contenders. Of the 80 golfers in the first division (for handicaps of 4.9 and better) 21 have plus handicaps and dozens more are within a stroke or two of par for an average round.
Which means the favorite will be anyone's guess when the 82nd annual County Am tees off Saturday morning. The three-day, 54-hole tournament will be contested at Everett's Legion Memorial Golf Course, Mill Creek Country Club, and Everett Golf and Country Club.
"The field is even stronger than it was last year, and we were saying last year that it was the strongest field ever," said tournament director Jason Himple, an assistant pro at Everett G&CC. "When you look at the field, you can't tell who's the favorite."
Adding to the mystery is the absence of defending champion Reid Martin of Mukilteo, who breezed to a seven-stroke victory a year ago. Martin, a member of the University of Central Florida golf team, is staying in Florida to take a summer class needed for graduation.
"Taking the defending champion out, it's a wide-open tournament," Himple said. "So it'll be exciting to see who comes out on top."
Stamey has four County Am titles in the past 11 years and won most recently in 2008. He very much wants a win this weekend after falling short the past three years.
"When I first entered this thing, I didn't know who Bob Whisman was," said the 48-year-old Stamey, referring to the Everett man who was a top amateur player before becoming the longtime head pro at the city's two public courses. "But as I got more into the tournament, I started to understand the history behind it.
"And nowadays, that's why I play (the County Am)," added Stamey, who represents Everett G&CC and has a 1.0 handicap. "I like the competition, of course, but my sole purpose is to try to tie that record. That's something I'd cherish dearly, and hopefully I can find some magic in the bottle."
Tibke, meanwhile, won his first County Am while in his early 20s back in 1987. He won the next year, too, then turned pro for six years before regaining his amateur status and finishing first in 1999 and 2001. Today 46, he is equally eager to claim No. 5, although an ailing back has him questionable to play.
"There are bigger and better golf tournaments in the world," said Tibke, who represents Snohomish Golf Course and has a +1.2 handicap. "But this is the big tournament here in the area. ... When I started playing golf, this was the one everybody talked about. It's home and you always want to win at home."
Away from golf, Tibke stays busy with work and hobbies like coaching. "Being able to juggle all those things and still win a golf tournament, and then to have it be No. 5, that'd be real special for me," he said.
Along with Stamey and Tibke, the field includes three other past champions -- Lance Kilbride (2010), Stephen Lee (2009) and Jeff Strickland (1996).
Adding to the intrigue this year, Stamey and Tibke will be in the same foursome for the first two rounds, teeing off at 8:10 a.m. Saturday. Kilbride and Lee will be together in a foursome that tees off at 8:20 a.m.
The low handicappers in the field are Brandon Agnew of Mukilteo's Harbour Pointe Golf Club and Sean Fitzpatrick of Mill Creek CC, both at +2.3. They are followed by Robert Kaindl of Everett's Legion Memorial (+1.7), Andrew Gihm of Harbour Pointe (+1.7), John Pechan of Harbour Pointe (+1.5), Dylan Goodwin of Harbour Pointe (+1.3) and Chris Babcock of Everett G&CC (+1.3).
Goodwin was the runner-up to Martin a year ago. Babcock was the 2011 low junior.
But the County Am is special not just for the area's golfing elite. Seventy-two players will be competing for low-net prizes in the second and third divisions, including Carl Tingelstad of Lynnwood, who represents Marysville's Cedarcrest Golf Course and is 82 -- the same age as the County Am.
The first division plays its opening round Saturday at Legion Memorial, moves to Mill Creek CC for Sunday's second round, and then plays the traditional final round Monday at Everett G&CC.
The second division (handicaps of 5.0-9.0) and third division (9.4 and up) play the first round at Mill Creek CC, the second round at Everett G&CC and the final round at Legion Memorial. Play begins at 6:30 a.m. the first two days.
All rounds of the County Am are open to the public. There is no admission charge.
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