EVERETT — There was plenty of hooting and hollering from the gallery that was following the final threesome during Monday’s final round of the 90th Annual Michelob Ultra Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament at Everett Golf and Country Club. The crowd reveled in the proceedings as members of two of the county’s most accomplished golfing families went mano y mano for the tournament lead.
Meanwhile, Jacob Rohde quietly went about his business in the group ahead, and with no one watching he sneaked away with the trophy.
Rohde shot a 3-under par 69 as he came from behind to claim the tournament championship by one stroke ahead of Greg Whisman and Alvin Kwak. It was the 43-year-old equipment financier from Everett’s second County Am title, as he also won in 2018.
”This one feels different,” said Rohde, who was representing Legion Memorial Golf Course. “Usually I’m in the last group and this time I was behind. Coming in four shots back, I figured if I could get back to even I might have a chance. I played real solid on the front nine, made some good putts. I feel good, I played two real solid rounds the last two rounds.”
The County Am was back after being canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Monday’s third-and-final round shaped up to be a race to see which family could become the second in tournament history with father-son champions. Mark Strickland, a 2010 graduate of Kamiak High School whose father Jeff won the tournament in 1996, came into the final round as the leader at 2-under following a blistering 5-under 67 in Saturday’s first round at Walter E. Hall Golf Course and a 3-over 74 in Sundays second round at Legion Memorial. Whisman, a 60-year-old former PGA Tour player whose late father Bob won the County Am a record five times from 1952-64, was two shots back at even-par. A win by either — and the two were tied for the lead at 1-under when they stepped into the tee box at No. 16 — would have seen them join Bob and Stephen Lee as the tournament’s only father-son champs.
But while Strickland, playing out of Everett Golf and Country Club, and Whisman, playing out of Columbia Super Range, were treading water for much of the round — Strickland showed off his damage-control abilities by constantly scrambling to save pars, while Whisman saw several mid-range birdie putts miss just wide — Rohde crept closer and closer. Rohde, who began the day four strokes behind Strickland, was 3-under on the front nine, and at the turn he actually held the lead outright at 1-under.
A bogey at the par-5 14th saw Rohde drop a shot back. But he recovered to birdie the par-4 16th to get back into a three-way tie for the lead with Whisman and Strickland.
”That’s such a hard hole because you don’t know if you should go for it or lay up,” Rohde said about 16. “I’ve been hitting my wedge pretty good, so I thought I’d lay up. I hit a limb and it dropped straight down, but had 125 (yards) in, which is a comfortable gap wedge. I figured if I hit it 120ish and let it skip forward that I might have a chance. The greens out here were so good today that if you hit it on line it was going to go in, and it was one of those putts where as soon as I hit it I knew I made it.
“Putting (was the key part of my game Monday),” Rohde added. “If I needed to make it I could make it. I made a couple longer par putts on 7 and 8, which were big ones for me to keep me going. I could rely on my putting today.”
Strickland got himself out of trouble several times Monday, but it finally caught up to him on the closing holes as errant tee shots on 16 and 18 led to bogeys that took him out of contention.
Whisman came into 18 at 1-under, and he just needed to get up and down from the front fringe to par the hole and force a playoff with Rohde. However, Whisman overcooked his 35-foot downhill putt, rolling 8 feet past. Then his par putt came a half-rotation short, and Rohde was the champ.
“I didn’t feel comfortable putting all day,” said Whisman, who regained his amateur status four years ago and was playing in his first County Am since he was a senior at Mariner High School in 1979. “I just never really got the speed down coming off the public courses, and I was just a little tentative. Coming down that hill, it’s just getting yourself to remember that if you just get he ball started down the hill, it’ll roll out to it, and I hit the putt for the hole. So I missed my mark as far as getting to a spot, zoomed it down there and left myself a tough putt. But I thought I was going to make that coming back, I just hit it a little soft.
”It would have meant a lot to win,” added Whisman, who got a little choked up when talking about the possibility of joining his father, who passed away in 2015, as a County Am champ. “It would have been really cool, and he would have been very proud. To get a win with that name, I’ve thought about it, and before the tournament I was thinking, ‘How cool would it be to get another Whisman on the trophy?’ So that’s what drove me to keep going.”
Kwak, the defending champion who was playing out of Everett Golf and Country Club, was an afterthought coming into the final round, sitting seven strokes back at plus-5. However, the Columbia University men’s team player got blistering hot, birdeying six of nine holes between Nos. 8 and 16 to pull into a tie for the lead at 1-under. However, Kwak bogeyed 18, which left him one shot short of forcing a playoff. Kwak had the day’s low round at 5-under 67.