19-year-old college student leads County Am by 2 shots

MILL CREEK — Though first-round leader Kyle Cornett played well, his margin still shrank on Sunday, and the result is a Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament that will come down to a dramatic final 18 holes this afternoon at Everett Golf and Country Club.

Cornett, who fired a 4-under-par 68 in Saturday’s opening round at Legion Memorial Golf Course, came back on Sunday with an even-par 72 at Mill Creek Country Club, putting him at 4-under 140. But a first-round lead that had been three shots was trimmed to two as Austin Beatty had the low round of the day, a 3-under 69 that leaves him at 2-under 142, one shot better than Mark Strickland at 1-under 143.

If nothing else, today’s final threesome at Everett G&CC will be one of the youngest groups of leaders in County Am history. Cornett is 19 and a freshman on the Seattle University golf team, Strickland is 21 and a junior on the Western Washington golf team, and Beatty is 29.

They will tee off at 1:36 p.m. today, and be preceded off the tee at 1:27 p.m. by Jim Strickland (145), Luke Bakke (146) and Joe Worley (146). Five-time County Am champion Alex Stamey (147), one-time champ Jeff Strickland (147) and Luke Kuna (148) will tee off at 1:18 p.m.

And as always, the towering fir trees lining the fairways at Everett G&CC will be unyielding and unforgiving presence.

“The trees are ominous, and you want to do whatever you can to stay out of them,” said Cornett, an Everett G&CC member. “Keeping it straight, hitting the fairways and the greens, and keeping out of trouble will be key for me.”

Cornett started well on Sunday, getting a birdie on the par-3 second hole and an eagle on the par-5 third hole to drop to 7-under for the tournament. But he took bogeys on the fifth and eighth holes to make the turn at 5-under, rallied with birdies on Nos. 11 and 12, but then suffered a double-bogey on No. 13, courtesy of visits to two fairway bunkers. He wrapped two more bogeys around a birdie on the final three holes for a 72.

The round “felt like a roller coaster,” Cornett admitted. “It was a little frustrating, being 3-under (for the day through three holes) and then finishing at even. … It felt like I might have let a couple of shots go, but I hung in there.”

Beatty, meanwhile, fashioned a round of three bogeys, four birdies and an eagle for a 69 on a day that began under overcast skies and later included light rain.

The round’s highlight belonged to 20-year-old Tom Morris, who scored a hole-in-one on the 203-yard par-3 16th hole. Morris used a hybrid club for the rare County Am ace.

Stamey, who is trying to become the first six-time tournament champion (Bob Whisman also has five County Am victories), suffered through a “very disappointing” round of 3-over 75. Stamey had three bogeys in the first seven holes and three more in the last five holes to leave his chances of a 2014 title — he is seven strokes behind Cornett, and trails five other golfers, too — hanging by a slender thread.

As for Cornett, he has a two-shot margin, and also the comfort of playing the final round on his home course. “It’ll be nice to be on home turf,” he said, “though I’m not sure it will be too much (of an advantage) … But it’ll be familiar. I know the slopes on the greens pretty well.”

The second division (for players with handicaps of 5.0-9.9) and third division (handicaps of 10.0 and higher) played their second rounds at Everett G&CC, and will move to Legion Memorial for today’s final rounds.

Nick Rothrock and Steve Hobson are the second division co-leaders with low-net 138s, one stroke better than Jeff Olsen and Mark Hyung Park. In the third division, Sean McBurney is the low-net leader with a 135, two strokes better than Greg Guest.

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