EVERETT — Kevin Beavers’ title defense at the Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament didn’t get off to the start he was hoping for.
But he more than made up for it as the round progressed.
The two-time defending champion grabbed the first-round lead by shooting a 2-under par 70 Saturday at Legion Memorial Golf Course on the first day of the Snohomish County Amateur.
Beavers was sitting at 4-over after four holes, but seven birdies over the final 14 holes gave him a two-shot lead over a crowd of players tied for second at even-par 72.
“The first four holes were very ugly,” said Beavers, a 33-year-old Boeing engineer from Seattle. “But I ended up bringing it back.”
The second round is Sunday at Harbour Pointe Golf Club in Mukilteo. The final round is Monday at Snohomish Golf Course.
Beavers has known nothing but success at the County Am. He won the tournament each of the past two years, the only times he’s entered. But he found himself dealing with adversity early on as he struggled with mechanical issues in his swing. Yet he got himself back on track by making three birdies before making the turn.
“It was sort of just kicking myself in the backside,” Beavers said about the source of his turnaround. “It was just never giving up. If I go out and shoot 85, so be it, but I’m going to try to at least shoot a good number. I’m working on some things in my swing, and when you’re coming out here and people expect you to play well because you‘ve done well in this event in the past, I was a little nervous on the first few holes. Then I just kind of put all that aside and was able to kind of calm myself back down.”
Putting played a large role in the turnaround.
“I putted really well today, I made a lot of putts,” Beavers said. “But I also hit a lot of good shots. I was 4-over after four and the three birdies I had on the front side were all kick-ins, they were all within four feet, so that helps. I made a few coming in on 15, 17 and 18 that were about 10-15 feet each. I didn’t make any bombs, but I made the ones that if you set up to it and like the look, you can make them.”
The opening-round 70 puts Beavers in position to become just the second player to ever win three straight County Ams. The only other to accomplish the feat was Bob Burton from 1973-75.
There was a logjam for second place, with six players shooting even-par 72. That included all three members of the Western Washington University men’s team — Chris Hatch, Cody Roth and Ethan Casto — who were last-minute additions to the tournament. Western qualified for the NCAA Division II men’s golf championships in Kissimmee, Florida, and ideally the trio would have been playing Friday. However, the Vikings didn’t qualify for the final eight in the team competition, meaning their tournament ended Thursday, thus freeing them up for playing at the County Am.
“I called them from Dallas (during an airport stopover) and was like, ‘Hey, do you have room, think we can squeeze in there?’” Hatch said. “They were like, ‘Yeah, if you can get three guys to make it a threesome,’ and it worked out perfectly.”
The group at even par also included 16-year-old Alvin Kwak, a sophomore at Kamiak High School who’s coming off finishing tied for 10th at the 4A state boys golf tournament earlier this week; Jacob Rohde, who finished tied for second at the County Am last year; and Ty Cannon.
“I played really well today,” said Kwak, last year’s junior champion. “I was struggling out there, but I was able to keep calm, which is something I developed today. So it’s a new skill.”
Said Rohde: “I had a lot of really good chances that I just didn’t capitalize on. The greens weren’t as good as I was expecting them to be, so it was really kind of rough to be aggressive with your putts because you didn’t know which way it was going to go. I think I could have been four or five shots better if I just could have trusted where the ball was going to go on the green.”
Alex Stamey, seeking to become the first six-time winner of the County Am, sits three strokes off the pace after shooting a 73. He and David Hansen were tied for eighth.