Host of changes for this year’s County Amateur

The 88th edition of the golf tourney has a new lineup of courses and will also crown a new champion.

Related: Snohomish County Amateur tee times

The Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament will crown a new champion this year.

The 88th installment of the Snohomish County Amateur takes place this weekend amidst a host of changes, and one of those changes will be a new winner as three-time defending champion Kevin Beavers is not participating in this year’s tournament.

Last year Beavers held off a hard-charging Jacob Rohde to become just the second player ever to win the tournament three consecutive times. However, the Boeing engineer from Seattle will not attempt to be the first ever four-peat champion for reasons unknown to tournament director Jason Himple.

Beavers’ absence opens the competition up to a field that continues to dwindle in size. As of Wednesday afternoon there were just 64 players entered in the tournament, down from 81 last year and 102 the year before. The main driver of the declining participation is Everett Golf and Country Club’s decision to pull out of the event in 2014 in the wake of the equity lawsuit that bankrupted the Spokane Country Club. The County Am provided the opportunity for non-members to play Everett Golf and Country Club, and that incentive is now gone.

“There’s definitely concern,” Himple said about the low turnout. “This tournament should be full every year, so there are a lot of concerns about getting this back to the point where there’s a waiting list to get in.”

The size of the field is just one of the changes to this year’s tournament.

On the plus side, the tournament has a sponsor this year in the form of Michelob Ultra. Himple estimated it’s been at least 20 years since the tournament last had a sponsor.

The tournament also has a new lineup of courses, with the first round taking place Saturday at Battle Creek Golf Course in Tulalip, the second round Sunday at Harbour Pointe Golf Club in Mukilteo, and Monday’s final round at Walter Hall Golf Course in Everett. Battle Creek and Walter Hall replace Legion Memorial Golf Course and Snohomish Golf Course, which were part of the tournament last year.

“Snohomish and Battle Creek are basically sister golf courses, since they have the same owners, and the owners decided they wanted to rotate to Battle Creek this year instead of Snohomish,” Himple explained about the course changes. “Meanwhile, Legion Memorial has some construction going on now, so the city of Everett wanted to show off Walter Hall to the field.”

Himple said it’s been more than 10 years since either Battle Creek or Walter Hall were part of the County Am.

On the minus side, the smaller field is accompanied by a lack of star power. Not only is Beavers not playing this year, there are just two former champions in the field in Jeff Strickland and Mike Seek, neither of whom has won since 1997. Among last year’s top-10 finishers in Flight 1, just two are registered to compete this year. The absentee list include five-time champion Alex Stamey, who tied for ninth last year, 2009 champion Stephen Lee, who finished eighth, and Kamiak High School star Alvin Kwak, who tied for fourth in addition to winning the junior division for the third straight year.

The two returning top-10 finishers, Rohde and Chris Hatch, will be the favorites when action begins Saturday at Battle Creek. Rohde, who plays out of Walter Hall, nearly overcame a five-stroke deficit on the back nine of last year’s final round before falling two strokes short of Beavers. Hatch, the former Western Washington University standout who represents Harbour Pointe, finished tied for fourth last year, seven strokes behind Beavers. Rohde and Hatch have the best handicaps among registered players, with Hatch at +2.9 and Rohde at +2.3.

One other player in the field has a plus handicap, that being David Hansen out of Jorgensen’s, who comes in at +0.9. Jordan Brajcich out of SuperRange, Cody Sigvartson out of Walter Hall and Mark Strickland out of Harbour Pointe are all listed at 0.0.

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