By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
EVERETT — It was an afternoon of raindrops, terrific golf and a little bit of history as the 83rd annual Snohomish County Amateur came to a thrilling and dramatic close on Monday afternoon.
Alex Stamey, a 49-year-old Mill Creek man, pulled ahead of playing partners Brycen Finnie of Mukilteo and Jake Rohde of Everett on the back nine at Everett Golf and Country Club and held on for a one-stroke victory that was his fifth County Am title, following wins in 2000, 2004, 2007 and 2008.
With No. 5, Stamey ties Bob Whisman of Everett, who won in 1952, 1954, 1955, 1961 and 1964, for the most County Am victories in history.
“When you first enter this tournament, you hear about Bob, you hear about his record of five, and you don’t even think it’s possible,” said Stamey, who represents Everett G&CC. “You’re thinking, ‘Gosh, what a record.’ So to be here now is beyond what I thought I could do, very honestly. And it’s very special to tie him.”
Whisman was on hand to watch Monday’s round, “and we had a nice little conversation,” Stamey added. “I told, ‘It’s great to be named in the same breath as you now.”
“It’s a great win for him and no loss for me,” Whisman said graciously. “Stamey’s a good player and he’s hard to beat. It’s just a matter of time — one year or two years — and he’ll get another one.”
Winning for the fifth time in his 15th tournament appearance, Stamey put together a round of three birdies and one bogey for a 2-under-par 70 and a three-day total of 2-under 214. He finished one stroke ahead of Rohde from Everett’s Legion Memorial Golf Course, who closed with an even-par 72 for a 1-under total of 215.
In the County Am’s long and distinguished history, this was truly a memorable final round. Despite weather that was mostly drippy throughout, the three players in the final group went head to head for the full 18 holes, and for the first 12 holes each had the outright lead for at least one hole. Each was also part of a two-man tie at some point, and there two holes where all three players shared the lead.
Stamey used consecutive birdies on Nos. 11 and 12 to go on top to stay, and then added another birdie on No. 14 with a dandy chip shot from the fringe that trickled across the green and rolled into the cup.
Still, Finnie and Rohde never let up the pressure. Finnie, in danger of falling off the pace early on the back nine, chipped in for eagle on the 534-yard par-5 13th hole to get back to even par. And just when it seemed Rohde might slip out of contention later in the match, he responded with back-to-back birdies on the 17th and 18th holes.
The second of those birdies, the result of a 60-foot downhill putt on 18 that rolled squarely into the cup, meant that Stamey, putting last, would have to two-putt from 25 feet to keep the match from going to a playoff.
“When he makes that bomb, my putt became doubly hard,” Stamey said. Turning to daughter Alexis, his caddy, “I said, ‘Boy, I’ve got to go to work now.’ But I hit a pretty good putt and left it about a foot short, so it was an easy tap-in. If it was a 3- or 4-footer, who knows what happens at that point.”
Stamey, said Rohde, “played great. I think he was playing a little easy on the front nine, and then all of a sudden he kind of lit it up on the back nine. He made some good swings and made some good birdies.”
The way Stamey played, Finnie added, “was phenomenal. He was straight down the fairway all the time, and then sticking it close (to the pin). He was pretty much like a rock.”
It didn’t hurt, of course, that Stamey was playing on his home course in front of mostly partisan spectators. The gallery following the final group was courteous to all three golfers, but the club members in the crowd — and they were definitely the majority — were clearly cheering for one of their own.
“The home course and the crowd were certainly factors,” Stamey said. “(Finnie and Rohde) certainly had a little bit of a tougher day with the crowd being in my favor. Jake even said, ‘Oh, I didn’t know I was playing with Tiger Woods today.’ But I’m glad it was good theater for everybody.”
The question, of course, is whether Stamey can return next year at age 50 to make a run at another County Am title.
“Maybe I’ve got another one in me,” he said with a smile. “I turn 50 this summer and who knows. I can still play for another five or six or seven years … so maybe I can be the all-time guy. I’d love to do it and I’m certainly going to try.”
Stamey was not the only star on Monday. Chris Babcock of Everett G&CC began the day eight strokes off the pace, but jumped back into contention with a remarkable round of 8-under 64 to finish tied for third with Finnie, who represents Harbour Pointe Golf Course, at even-par 216. Babcock actually was 9 under when he teed off on No. 18, and was on the par-4 green with his second shot, some 18 feet from the pin.
Unfortunately, a birdie attempt that would have taken Babcock to 10 under slid past the cup, and he then missed about a 3-footer coming back for a disappointing bogey to close his round.
The second and third divisions played their final rounds at Everett’s Walter Hall Golf Course. In the second division, for players with handicaps from 5.0 to 10.2, C.J. Santeford of Arlington’s Gleneagle Golf Course, was the low net winner with a 9-under 207, six strokes better than Ken Wilson of Walter Hall and Steve Laue of Legion Memorial.
In the third division, for players with handicaps from 10.3 to 19.5, Ryan Roehl from Mukilteo’s Jorgensen Golf finished with a low-net total of 16-under 200, 11 strokes ahead of Walter Hall’s Greg Guest.