EVERETT — Because he teed off early in Saturday’s opening round of the Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament, Brycen Finnie of Mukilteo figured his 2-under-par 70 would eventually fade on the leaderboard.
But on a day of surprises at Walter E. Hall Golf Course, Finnie’s steady but hardly spectacular round was good enough to hold the top spot after Day 1 of the 83rd annual County Am.
The 24-year-old Finnie, a 2007 graduate of Mukilteo’s Kamiak High School who represents Harbour Pointe Golf Course, put together a round of three birdies, three bogeys and a terrific eagle on the 491-yard No. 15 hole for a one-stroke lead heading into today’s second round at Mill Creek Country Club. It was the first time since 2009 that the County Am’s first-round leader did not post a score in the 60s.
Second place is held by Anthony Allen of Arlington’s Gleneagle Golf Course and Paul Bonorden of Everett’s Legion Memorial Golf Course, both at 1-under 71.
Three players are tied at even-par 72, including 1996 champion Jeff Strickland of Snohomish Golf Course. Nine players are tied for seventh at 1-over 73 including four-time champion Alex Stamey of Everett Golf and Country Club (2000, 2004, 2007 and 2008) and 2009 winner Stephen Lee, also of Everett G&CC.
Finnie, who played two years of golf at Bellevue Community College, was in the fourth of 26 groups off the tee on Saturday. Under early overcast skies that gave way to later sunshine, he bogeyed the first hole, but then was at 1 under par as he stepped to the 15th tee.
With the wind at his back, he sent a long drive down the fairway and then punched a 7-iron to the green, leaving him 20 feet below the hole. The putt broke just slightly to the left and Finnie stroked it perfectly for an eagle that dropped him to 3-under par, though he would later give a stroke back with a bogey on No. 17.
Aside from the eagle, Finnie said his round was not particularly very special. “It was pretty much hit the ball and chase the ball,” he said. “I wasn’t hitting it well and I wasn’t hitting it too poorly. I just made some putts when I needed to make some putts, and that’s pretty much what it came down to.”
He knew he was in first place when he signed his scorecard, but with dozens of other players still on the golf course “I didn’t think a 70 would hold up.”
Several players cited troublesome greens as a reason for the modest scoring. They were “faster than they usually are here and there were some tough pins, too, no doubt about that,” Bonorden said. “On some of the holes you’d usually think are easy, the pins were tucked over a mound or on a slope. That made it tough.”
“The pins were tough,” agreed Stamey, who will tie Bob Whisman for the most titles in County Am history if he wins his fifth this year. “They were right on edges, so there were a lot of hills. Or they were right below an edge maybe. Basically you just didn’t have a lot of straight putts.”
With 14 golfers within three shots of Finnie, and with rounds remaining at challenging Mill Creek CC and equally tough Everett G&CC, this year’s tournament remains very much up for grabs. With no one shooting in the mid- to high 60s, “that brought everybody back into it that was 2 or 3 over,” Bonorden said.
“I’m sure there were plenty of guys on 18 that were 2 or 3 over and were thinking, ‘Man, I’m 6 or 7 (strokes) back.’ But now they’re back in it, so that’s going to make it fun.”
Finnie, meanwhile, admitted he expects to be “a little nervous” heading into today’s second round. “I’ve never been in this position before (as the first-round leader),” he explained, “so I’m anxious to see how I handle it. Hopefully everything turns out well.”
The second division, for golfers with handicaps of 5.0 to 10.2, played its first round Saturday at Mill Creek CC. Ken Wilson of Walter Hall was the low-net leader with a 3-under 69, two strokes better than John Grandemange of Harbour Pointe.
The third division, for golfers with handicaps of 10.3 to 19.5, also played its opening round at Mill Creek CC. Playing on his home course, Tony Blanco was the low-net leader with a 4-under 68, two strokes better than Ryan Roehl of Mukilteo’s Jorgensen Golf.
The second and third divisions will play their second rounds today at Everett G&CC.