For four years an integral piece in the rich history of the Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament was absent.
Everett Golf and Country Club, which served as the anchor for most of the Snohomish County Amateur’s 89-year history, pulled out of the tournament following the 2014 edition over legal concerns. Therefore, the past four years the tournament was deprived the course that traditionally served as the closer for the tournament’s top flight.
But Everett Golf and Country Club is returning to the mix this year, much to the delight of both the club and the tournament’s participants.
Everett Golf and Country Club is reprising its role as the site of the final round for the 89th edition of the Michelob Ultra Snohomish County Amateur, which takes place May 25-27. And while the course won’t go back to serving as the closing round on an annual basis, it’s back as a part of the County Am’s regular course rotation.
“I think it’s great,” five-time champion Alex Stamey said about Everett G&CC’s return. “Obviously with Everett it had so much tradition with hosting the final round for so many years. It was very unfortunate what happened, but I think that’s all passed now, and it should be good for the future of the tournament.”
For as long as anyone could remember Everett G&CC played host to one of the three rounds of the County Am, usually serving as the final round for championship contenders in the days when the different flights played different courses each day.
However, that changed after Spokane Country Club lost a lawsuit in 2013 in which it was determined that the club’s participation in tournaments similar to the County Am made it a public entity rather than a private one and thus subject to anti-discrimination laws. In the aftermath Spokane Country Club went out of business, and other private golf courses took notice. In December of 2014 Everett G&CC announced it was pulling out of the County Am out of concerns it could suffer the same fate as Spokane Country Club.
But after four years those legal concerns have subsided.
“The Spokane ruling sent shock waves through the country club environment,” said Don Levin, who was Everett G&CC’s board president in 2018 when the decision was made to get back into the County Am, “so we took steps to make sure we were safe and not doing anything that could be interpreted in the same way that got Spokane into trouble. In the years since everybody’s been fairly safe — Spokane had a unique situation. We talked through the concerns we had and made sure that if we did this we did it the right way and covered our bases, and we got to the point where we felt comfortable being back on a semi-regular basis.”
Levin said there are some ways Everett G&CC’s participation in the County Am will be different than it was in the past. First, the course will not be in the tournament every year. It’s yet to be determined how often Everett G&CC will participate, but Levin said it was likely to be either every other year or every third year. Also, in the past the club sold food and alcohol to spectators, which it won’t do any longer.
But while Everett G&CC’s participation in the County Am is slightly changed, the club’s members are happy to be a part of the tournament again.
“The club has been such a big part of that tournament for so many years, and there’s a lot of players who participate in the tournament who are members at the country club,” Levin said. “So I think it’s exciting to come back, and it will be good for golf in the area.”
It’s hoped Everett G&CC’s return will be good for the tournament, too. Participation in the County Am has dropped significantly in recent years. According to tournament director Jason Himple the tournament had 156 participants in 2014, but that dropped to as low as 65 last year.
One of the reasons cited for the declining participation was Everett G&CC no longer being a part of the tournament. Because Everett G&CC is a private course, the County Am was the only opportunity for many of the tournament’s participants to play the course. In the years since Everett G&CC pulled out the County Am has been played on five different courses — Snohomish, Legion Memorial and Walter Hall in Everett, Harbour Pointe in Mukilteo and Battle Creek in Tulalip — all of which are public.
“I’ve had emails and one-on-one conversations with people who are excited to see Everett back in the rotation,” Himple said. “Right now the participation levels are not coming in fast yet, but people have said they’re playing.
“Having one of the best courses in the county being part of the rotation is helpful,” Himple added. “It helps attract more players who get to play a course some people rarely play.”
The first round of this year’s tournament is being played at Walter Hall, while the second round is at Harbour Pointe.