Alvin Kwak is back in the field of 105 golfers after winning the last Snohomish County Amateur in 2019. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Alvin Kwak is back in the field of 105 golfers after winning the last Snohomish County Amateur in 2019. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

After year off, Snohomish County Am returns this weekend

The 90th edition will finally take place after last year’s tournament was canceled due to the pandemic.

After a one-year hiatus, the Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament is back.

The 90th Annual Michelob Ultra Snohomish County Amateur returns this weekend, with rounds Saturday at Walter E. Hall Golf Course, Sunday at Legion Memorial Golf Course and Monday at Everett Golf and Country Club.

Last year’s tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, with an attempt to move the tournament from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend proving unsuccessful. Therefore, for the first time since the the tournament’s inception in 1931 there was no County Am. Even during World War II, when many of these types of events were shut down, the County Am persevered.

Therefore, everyone is thrilled the tournament is back on track.

“It feels great to be back,” tournament director Jason Himple said. “It’s wonderful to have the County Am, something that’s more traditional and something people can count on. It’s always expected that the County Am is every Memorial Day weekend, and last year unfortunately was not a normal year for any of us. With this, things are starting to feel more normal.”

Well, not completely normal. While spectators are encouraged to attend, they will have to abide by the State of Washington’s Phase 3 coronavirus guidelines. Facial coverings are not required outdoors, but will be required to enter the clubhouse or other indoor areas. And all individuals are expected to maintain 6-foot physical distancing.

But from a competitive standpoint, this year’s tournament will function no differently from previous years. A total of 105 players are scheduled to take part, a number that compares favorably to the 2019 edition, which had a field of 111 golfers as participation surged because of the return of Everett Golf and Country Club as the site of the closing round. The trio of courses from the canceled 2020 tournament were retained for this year.

It’s a strong field that includes seven previous champions and 20 players with plus handicaps. Among the entrants are reigning champion Alvin Kwak (representing Everett Golf and Country Club); 2018 champion Jacob Rohde (Legion Memorial), who was beaten by Kwak in a playoff in 2019 and has finished in the top two in each of the past four tournaments; and four-time champion Todd Tibke (Snohomish), who’s seeking to join Bob Whisman and Alex Stamey as the only five-time champions in tournament history.

The field also includes a female player. Michelle Duan (Everett Golf and Country Club), who played collegiately at the University of Nevada and Cal State Northridge, is the first female participant since Himple became tournament director in 2010. Himple did not know whether there’d ever been a female participant in tournament history.

“I’m very excited for Michelle to be participating,” Himple said of Duan, who will play from the same tees and has a low enough handicap that she’s grouped with Flight 1. “To be honest with you, I think she’ll hold her own very well. I consider her to be one of the candidates to come home with something.”

In addition to the power trio of Kwak, Rohde and Tibke, who will play the first two rounds as a group, the favorites include the likes of Ethan Casto (Snohomish), who was the Great Northwest Athletic Conference men’s golf Player of the Year while at Western Washington University in 2019-20; and Jordan Brajcich (Mill Creek Country Club), who’s coming off a sixth-place finish earlier this month at the Atlantic 10 Championship as a member of the University of Rhode Island men’s team.

Kwak enters with the low handicap at plus-3.6. Casto is the only other player who comes in with a handicap in the plus-3 range at plus-3.0.

Himple is expecting scores to be low this year. Golf participation is up because of the pandemic, as golf is one of the few activities that has been deemed safe because it’s naturally distanced. Therefore, he’s expecting the players to be well-practiced.

For the first time in tournament history scoring will be done electronically. Players will enter their score after every hole, meaning a live leaderboard will be available by downloading the free Golf Genius app and using the code 2021SCA.

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