The forecast is for sunny weather this weekend across the Pacific Northwest.
Given the rainy conditions that have plagued outdoor sports throughout the spring, that has Jason Himple, an assistant pro at Everett Golf & Country Club and the tournament director of the Snohomish County Amateur Golf Tournament, thinking one thing:
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” Himple said. “Usually on Memorial Day weekend it’s raining.”
The 87th edition of the Snohomish County Amateur takes place this weekend, with the opening round Saturday at Legion Memorial Golf Course in Everett, the second round Sunday at Harbour Pointe Golf Club in Mukilteo, and the final round Monday at Snohomish Golf Course.
And the predicted sunny weather is a welcome respite from a wet spring that’s played havoc on courses and prevented golfers from getting in as much playing time as they would like.
As a result, there’s a smaller field in the tournament than in years past. A total of 78 players were registered to take part as of Thursday, which is down from 102 last year and as many as 150 in 2014.
The conditions also will have an effect on play in this year’s tournament. Himple said the greens at the three courses are in good shape, but that the fairways remain wet. As a result, all three courses will be playing with winter rules, meaning players can mark, clean and place their balls in the fairways. Himple said he believes this is the first time in tournament history that all three courses have used winter rules.
“The golf courses are taking much longer to dry out,” said Himple, who also mentioned that not having a private course as part of the competition this year may have played a role in the low turnout. “Even the temperatures have been colder, so it’s taken longer for the grass and greens to come back to playing conditions. We exceeded our annual rainfall in four months, which is unheard of. Most of the courses are extremely wet, so people haven’t been getting out and playing.”
But despite the challenging playing conditions and smaller turnout, Himple believes the competition should be as strong as ever, with half the field playing in Flight 1 for players with handicaps of 4.9 or lower.
“I think the caliber of the field is still good,” Himple said. “There’s five past champions playing, which is good. So despite the fewer players, in my opinion the caliber is still up to par.”
At the top of the favorites list is two-time defending champion Kevin Beavers. Beavers claimed last year’s title, played on the same three courses and in the same order, by shooting an even-par 216, finishing two shots ahead of Brandon Agnew and Jacob Rohde. Beavers, a 33-year-old who plays out of Harbour Pointe, has won the only two times he’s entered the tournament.
Beavers is one of five former champions taking part. Alex Stamey out of Everett G&CC is seeking to become the first six-time champion — he’s currently tied with Bob Whisman with a record five titles. Stamey’s titles came in 2000, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2013.
The other former champions in the field are four-time champion Todd Tibke out of Snohomish (1987, 1988, 1999, 2001), Stephen Lee out of SuperRange in Everett (2009) and Lance Kilbride out of Harbour Pointe (2010).
There’s also a mystery entrant in this year’s field. Kale Reynolds, who’s playing in his first Snohomish County Amateur, registered with a handicap of +4.0, which Himple said is the lowest he’s ever seen for the tournament and borders on PGA Tour level. Reynolds is from Kansas, but he’s spending the summer in the area. He lists SuperRange as his home course.
The other competitors with handicaps of +1.0 or lower are Alvin Kwak out of Everett G&CC (+2.2), Sean FitzPatrick out of Pro Golf Discount in Lynnwood (+2.2), Beavers (+1.1), Rohde from Legion Memorial (+1.0), and Mark Strickland out of Harbour Pointe (+1.0). Kwak, a 16-year-old sophomore at Kamiak High School, was last year’s junior champion, and he finished tied for 10th at the 4A state tournament held earlier this week.
This year is also a milestone for one competitor. Duane Diede from Everett G&CC is making his 45th consecutive start, having played in every Snohomish County Amateur since 1973.