John Bracken of Seattle, Wash. won the 51st Pacific Northwest Senior Men’s Amateur, while Ron Garland of Bozeman, Mont. captured the title in the 6th Pacific Northwest Super Senior Amateur. Both championships were held concurrently at Wine Valley Golf Club in Walla Walla, Wash., and were conducted by the Pacific Northwest Golf Association (PNGA).
Bracken had entered the championship not having played competitively for quite a while, but steady rounds of 70-72-70 were enough for a 2-shot victory over runner-up Paul Houvener of Mill Creek, Wash., who had vaulted into the lead after a 6-under par 66 in the first round.
“I haven’t really played in a lot of championships lately,” Bracken said, “but I thought I’d come out and take a shot, and if I could stay steady at one or two under par I might have a chance. There’s some tough spots on this golf course, the greens are tough, so I just thought by being patient I’d be okay. I was driving the ball pretty good, putted decently and hit a lot of good iron shots. I never really go into trouble, and never felt the urgency to try to press it.”
When asked what it meant to come out and win the championship against such a strong field that included Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Famers such as Tom Brandes and Chris Maletis, Bracken replied, “Well, it means a lot. I’ve won a PNGA championship before (the 2001 Pacific Northwest Master-40), so even though I haven’t played in many championships lately I do know what it’s like to be in the hunt. I’ve played a lot of golf with Brandes over the years, and he’s obviously a great player but I’m used to playing with him, so that helped me.” Brandes, who won this championship in 2012 and ’13, finished tied for third, three shots behind Bracken.
Garland fired a 3-under par 69 in the Super Senior Amateur’s first round, setting the early pace, but after a 4-over par 76 in the second round he found himself starting today’s third and final round in a tie with Gay Davis of Portland. The two were playing in today’s final group together, and Garland double-bogeyed the par-4 first hole. “I had 148 yards for my second shot, and my shot spun back off the green,” Garland explained. “The greens here are very severe, and if you miss the green it leads to a difficult pitch shot. So I putted my third shot and it went 30 feet past the hole, and then I 3-putted from there. The next thing I know I’m two shots behind.”
Garland played the rest of the final round 2-under par to finish even-par overall, four shots clear of Davis, who shot 4-over 76 in today’s round.
Wine Valley Golf Club was designed by Dan Hixson. It has hosted numerous regional championships, including the 2012 PNGA Men’s Amateur, the 2013 PNGA Women’s Amateur, and the 2014 Washington State Amateur. Last month it hosted a 2015 U.S. Open local qualifier and is the regular venue for the Northwest Open Invitational. Visit www.winevalleygolfclub.com for more information on the course.