Cornett has 3-stroke lead in Snohomish County Amateur

EVERETT — A first-hole bogey was not how Kyle Cornett wanted to start the Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament on Saturday.

But the early miscue became just a footnote for Cornett as he followed with five birdies over the next nine holes, on his way to a 4-under-par 68 at Legion Memorial Golf Course in the opening round of the 84th annual County Am.

Cornett, a 2013 graduate of Mill Creek’s Jackson High School and a freshman member of the Seattle University golf team, birdied the third, fifth, eighth, ninth and 10th holes, and played bogey-free golf the rest of the way to take a three-stroke lead into today’s second round at Mill Creek Country Club.

Despite the early bogey, “I knew there were still 53 holes left,” Cornett said. “It was disappointing, but it wasn’t too big of a deal.

“I played really well,” he added. “I’d say I was just consistent throughout the bag. I didn’t make a whole lot of mistakes.”

In particular, Cornett had his putter working well, rolling in one-putt birdies of 12, 12, 5 and 15 feet, plus a two-putt birdie from 45 feet on the par-5 eighth hole.

That was the good news. Unfortunately, his putter “burned a lot of lips coming in. I think I had four lip-outs (over the final eight holes), so they weren’t all going in,” Cornett said.

And on No. 18, he had a chance for another birdie and a 67, but instead missed a 2-foot tap-in. “It happens,” he said with a smile.

Cornett, the state Class 4A medalist as a high school junior in 2012, says he will be comfortable moving to the next two courses on the County Am’s three-day rotation — Mill Creek CC today and Everett Golf and Country Club on Monday. Cornett played his high school golf at Mill Creek CC and has a membership at Everett G&CC.

Going forward, he said, “I’m just going to play my game. … There’s been some great winners of this tournament, so it’d be really nice to add my name to that. But I don’t want to think too far ahead.”

The trio of Luke Kuna, Mark Strickland and Steve Edelman is tied for second at 1-under 71, while Brian Moon, Jim Strickland and defending champion Alex Stamey are tied for fifth at even-par 72.

Stamey’s victory a year ago gave him five County Am titles, tying him with Bob Whisman for the most in tournament history. He is certainly within striking distance of a sixth championship should Cornett falter, and Mill Creek CC and Everett G&CC both set up well for Stamey’s shorter, more precise game.

On Saturday, the 50-year-old Stamey was 3 over through 14 holes, but then closed with birdies on the 15th, 16th and 18th holes. Given where he was before his late flurry of birdies — indeed, he was seven strokes behind Cornett at the time — “I couldn’t be happier (with the round),” Stamey said.

“My goal on this golf course is to go out and shoot even par,” he explained. “Out here I’m giving up three or four shots to some of these young kids who can just pound it (down the fairway). I know that if I can stay in the hunt on the first day and then get back to Mill Creek and Everett where we have to be more accurate … I’m more than happy.”

Saturday’s round was played under drippy skies early, but later the rain stopped and the day warmed up.

The second division (for players with handicaps of 5.0-9.9) and third division (handicaps of 10.0 and higher) played their opening rounds at Mill Creek CC.

In the second division, Mark Hyung Park has the low-net lead after a 61, five shots better than Dawa Sanpo and Steve Hobson, both with 66s. The third division co-leaders are Sean McBurney and Richard Haataja, both with low-net 67s, one stroke better than Greg Guest.

The second and third divisions will move to Everett G&CC for today’s second round.

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