EVERETT — A wild and crazy final round of the 91st annual Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament turned into a sensational display between the previous two champions, as Jacob Rohde and Alvin Kwak matched one another birdie for birdie on the closing holes.
In the end Rohde had one more trick up his sleeve, and as a result he etched himself into County Am history.
Rohde shot a blistering 6-under par 66 during Monday’s final round at Everett Golf & Country Club, including four straight birdies on holes No. 14-17, to finish with a three-round total of 9-under to become just the ninth player in the history of the County Am to win the tournament three times.
”It feels awesome,” Rohde said. “To be honest, I didn’t think I had a chance today. I didn’t play very stellar (Sunday at Legion Memorial Golf Course, when he shot an even-par 71), mainly because I had a little too much fun at a concert the night before. But today I figured if I could shoot 67 I’d have a chance, and it just started rolling on the back nine, I just couldn’t miss. Every putt I hit felt great.”
Rohde, a 44-year-old equipment financier in Everett who was representing Legion Memorial, finished one shot ahead of Kwak, who was representing Everett Golf & Country Club. Kwak, a 21-year-old Kamiak High School graduate who now plays at Columbia University, shot a 69 Monday.
Kwak, playing in the final group while Rohde played in the second-to-last group, also birdied four straight on the back nine, and he had a long birdie putt on 18 to send the tournament to a playoff. Kwak gave it a run, but the putt slid just by the left edge.
”My putter was never hot all day,” Kwak said. “So I just started hitting it really tight to the hole and that was it, getting some shots close — and a lucky bounce on 16 helped.
“I had no idea how Jacob was doing,” Kwak added. “People would try to tell me and I didn’t want to know.”
This year’s tournament evolved into a free-for-all, as at the start of the back nine there were five players all within one shot of the lead. At one point early in the back nine, Rohde, Kwak, Jordan Brajcich, Johnny Carey and Justin Towle all held at least a share of the lead, as the top of the leaderboard shifted on every hole.
But eventually Rohde, the defending champion, took control.
Rohde moved into the lead on the par-5 14th when he reached the green in two and two-putted for birdie to move to 6-under. He followed by hitting his tee shot stiff and sinking a 4-foot birdie putt on the par-3 15th, then made an unbelievable 25-foot birdie putt over a ridge on the par-4 16th, and finally drained an 18-foot birdie putt on the 17th. On 16 he raised his finger in emphatic celebration just before the putt went in, and on 17 he was already walking to get his ball out of the cup with the ball still three feet from the hole.
”The birdie on 16 for sure (was the key moment),” Rohde said. “I didn’t hit a great wedge shot in there, kind of came short of a really big ridge, and it’s a new section of green so I’ve never even putted it before. It was a hit and hope. I knew I had to at least get it over the ridge, and if I could two-putt I could go to the next hole and try to make birdie instead. About four feet out I was like, ‘Oh, that’s going to go in,’ and I couldn’t believe it.”
Rohde didn’t know that Kwak was matching him until he walked down the 18th fairway. Rohde had a 25-foot birdie putt that could have put the tournament away, but ran the putt four feet past, and he just snuck his par putt in the side pocket to leave Kwak needing a birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Kwak, the 2019 champion (there was no tournament in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic), was the only member of the leading group able to keep pace with Rohde. But whereas Rohde did his damage with his putter, Kwak did his with his approach shots, as he gave himself tap-in birdies on both 13 and 15, then drove just over the green on the par-4 16th and got up and down for his fourth straight birdie. Kwak had a similar putt to Rohde on 17 to try and make it five straight, but was unable to sink it to move into a tie for the lead.
”This was the first tournament I played for someone else,” Kwak said. “I’ve had the same golf coach (Kevin Mackay) since I started in 2009 and he’s been going through some hard health issues. I really wanted to show one last win for him, and I honestly didn’t expect this type of performance this week because I’ve been struggling. But I felt he gave me some power, I started hitting the ball well and draining putts.”
Carey, representing Mill Creek Country Club, and Towle, representing Walter Hall Golf Course, tied for third at 5-under.