For more than two decades, no player has made a greater impact on the Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament than Alex Stamey.
Stamey has been a fixture at the County Am since arriving in the area in 1996, and he’s as decorated a player as the tournament has produced in its 89-year history, being one of just two individuals to win the tournament five times.
But when the 89th Michelob Ultra Snohomish County Amateur begins Saturday, Stamey likely will be singing his swan song.
Stamey is planning on moving during the next year, meaning this year’s edition is probably his last. That would mark the end of a remarkable run for one of the tournament’s greatest players.
”This has been more than I ever thought it would be, that’s for darn sure,” said the 55-year-old salesman who resides in Mill Creek. “When I first entered, I didn’t think I was ever going to win this, so to win five times was beyond my imagination.”
Stamey’s victories came in 2000, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2013. He’s tied with Bob Whisman for the most County Am wins. And Stamey has been a regular presence at the County Am since the late 90s, participating on an annual basis with the exception of a couple years when physical issues got in the way — he sat out last year’s tournament due to knee surgery.
But Stamey and his wife purchased property in Arizona, and they plan on moving within the next year, though no definitive moving date has been set. Therefore, Stamey’s historic run at the County Am is drawing to a close.
“I can definitely see in the future where maybe a trophy is named after him,” tournament director Jason Himple said. “Right now the overall champion receives the Bob Whisman Trophy. Down the line I could see the name of the trophy being revised to include Alex, or maybe another award being named for him. He’s definitely earned that honor.”
It’s been quite the ride for Stamey, whose background isn’t even in golf. Stamey was a tennis player at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and he dabbled in professional tennis after graduation. However, he quickly learned pro tennis was beyond him, so he began working on his golf game. That work has served him well at the County Am.
“He’s very smart, he doesn’t get rattled and doesn’t try to do anything crazy, he’s just solid,” said four-time champion Todd Tibke, who’s battled head-to-head against Stamey in the past. “He doesn’t have any highs or lows, he just does his job. He only hits shots that he knows he can hit, and he has a very good short game.”
Steve Lee, another former champion, concurred: “He just hangs around and lets everybody else beat themselves. His game is very unspectacular, he just plods along and keeps the ball in play, makes a few putts here and there, and the only thing that is spectacular about his game are the results.
“He’s unafraid of defying conventional logic,” Lee added. “If you look in his golf bag, it’s a hodgepodge of odds and ends that most people wouldn’t want to be using, but he’s made it work well for him. He was an early adopter of hybrid clubs, and he’s the only amateur golfer that I know who is effective with a 64-degree wedge.”
Stamey has some fond memories of his championships. He remembers overcoming a seven-shot deficit to overtake Tibke in the final round of the 2000 tournament to claim his first title. He recalls nearly blowing a five-shot lead himself before holding on for his second win in 2004.
But the one he treasures most is his record-tying fifth in 2013.
“I think my favorite was tying Bob Whisman’s record, the last one,” Stamey said. “Obviously everyone knows about Bob and the record, and how Todd was going for it. So to actually tie the record was really nice.
“It was a close one,” Stamey added. “The champion from last year, Jacob Rohde, was in the final group with me. I remember going into 14 at the par-5 at Everett Golf and Country Club, and on my third shot I hit a very poor wedge that only went about two feet. But on the next shot I chipped in for birdie, and Jacob didn’t birdie the hole, so that was a huge swing and I was able to hold on.”
If this is indeed his final County Am, Stamey departs with a box full of trophies and all kinds of positive associations.
“I’ll definitely miss it,” Stamey said. “It’s been so much fun every year to play in it. Winning a few is nice, but I always enjoy competing and playing with people I know. Arizona possibly will be a new avenue for tournament golf, but I’m not sure there will be anything like the County Am, especially with the tournament’s history.”
But Stamey isn’t done just yet. He has, in all probability, one last chance at passing Whisman and becoming the winningest player in County Am history. So does Stamey believe he can go out with a bang and become the first player to ever win the tournament six times?
“I do,” Stamey replied. “I’m playing pretty good golf right now and I’m looking forward to the challenge. The young kids hit it much farther than I can, but hopefully being able to draw upon the experience of playing tournament golf over the years will give me some kind of edge. I’m hitting the ball really well right now, and you never know in golf. I’m looking forward to it.”
The County Am gets Stamey at least one more time, but when he’s gone the tournament will surely miss his presence.
“He’s always been a graceful winner, a graceful loser and a good friend,” Lee said. “His departure, we’ll miss him, but we’ll all appreciate finishing one spot higher in the tournament.”
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