By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
A year ago Alex Stamey got a share of history. Now he wants to make it all his own.
Stamey, who lives in Mill Creek, won his fifth Snohomish County Amateur golf championship in 2013 to tie Bob Whisman for the most titles in tournament history. With the 84th annual County Am on tap this weekend, Stamey is looking to add an unprecedented sixth tournament title.
“Now that I’ve got to this point, I certainly want to do it,” said the 50-year-old Stamey, who won earlier County Ams in 2000, 2004, 2007 and 2008. “I feel like my game is coming around, especially recently, and I’m definitely excited to go out there and see if I can get into contention to do it again.
“To tie Bob last year was a very special accomplishment,” he went on. “I hadn’t contended in probably the last two or three years, so I wasn’t really sure my game was up to it. But somehow last year I found a little magic.”
And now, he said, “I certainly want to get the all-time record.”
Since Whisman’s record had stood for 49 years, a sixth victory for Stamey this weekend could set a standard that will be longstanding indeed.
But to win this year’s County Am, Stamey will have to outlast a field that is thick with outstanding golfers. Sixteen players in a field of close to 150 have handicaps of 0.0 or better, and that does not even include Stamey, who has a 0.9 handicap.
In addition to Stamey, who represents Everett Golf and Country Club, 22 other golfers have handicaps between 0.1 and 1.9, including several who are just finishing their spring seasons with school golf teams.
“There are always lots of great players that play college golf, so I never really think of myself as a favorite,” Stamey said. “All these college kids out there hit the ball better than I do, and I know that.”
Still, it takes a steady hand to play well for 54 holes over three days, and in recent years no one has done that better than Stamey.
“If you a defending champion, you’re the person everyone’s chasing,” said tournament director Jason Himple, an assistant pro at Everett G&CC. “(Stamey) is definitely the favorite. He’s already done it five times, so why not No. 6?”
But should Stamey falter, the list of possible contenders is long and impressive. Rudy Caparas, a top player at Lynnwood High School who represents Everett’s Legion Memorial Golf Course, is the low handicapper in the field at +2.9. He is followed closely by Brandon Agnew of Snohomish Golf Course at +2.7, Garrett Foss of Jorgensen Golf at +2.3, Kyle Cornett of Everett G&CC at +1.6, Mark Strickland of Mukilteo’s Harbour Pointe Golf Course at +1.5, and Jeff Grossman of Mill Creek Country Club at +1.5.
Other plus handicaps belong to Chris Hatch of Harbour Point (+1.2), Robert Kaindl of Harbour Pointe (+1.2), Jacob Rohde of Legion Memorial (+1.0), Connor Miele of Mill Creek CC (+0.9), Jeff Strickland of Snohomish (+0.8), Stephen Lee of Everett G&CC (+0.5), Jim Strickland of Snohomish (+0.3) and Paul Bonorden of Mill Creek (+0.1).
“We’re seeing a trend year after year that handicaps just keep getting lower and lower,” Himple said. “The players just keep getting better and better. … There’s a lot of young talent in the first division — there are 25 players that are 21 and younger — and most of those players have been playing tournaments all spring long.
“But we’ve also got some seasoned veterans that know how to play in this tournament,” he added.
In addition to Stamey, past champions in the field include Lance Kilbride of Jorgensen Golf (2010), Lee (2009), Mike Seek of Everett G&CC (1990, 1997) and Jeff Strickland (1996).
One familiar face who will miss this year’s tournament because of health issues is Todd Tibke, who won County Am titles in 1987, 1988, 1999 and 2001.
An intriguing addition to this year’s field is Jim Strickland, who is Jeff’s brother and Mark’s uncle. A onetime pro that who has lived in Arizona for most of the last 30 years, including an All-American career at Arizona State University, Jim Strickland is making his first County Am appearance in decades.
As always, the tournament will be contested in three divisions. The first division (handicaps from +2.9 to 4.9) will play its first round at Legion Memorial on Saturday, move to Mill Creek CC on Sunday, and close with a final round at Everett G&CC. The second division (5.0-9.9) and third division (10.0-20.0) will open at Mill Creek CC, move to Everett G&CC for the second round, and wrap up at Legion Memorial.
Starting times begin at 6:30 a.m. the first two days, and the tournament is free to the public.