Joe Highsmith of Lakewood, Wash. shot rounds of 71-66 to earn medalist honors and the No. 1 seed heading into the match-play competition of the 62nd Pacific Northwest Junior Amateur; while Ellie Slama of Salem, Ore. shot rounds of 69-68 in earning medalist honors and the No. 1 seed heading into match-play of the 61st Pacific Northwest Junior Girls’ Amateur.
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The two championships are being held concurrently at The Home Course in DuPont, Wash., and are conducted by the Pacific Northwest Golf Association (PNGA).
Both championships consist of 36 holes of stroke play qualifying, which were held August 15 and 16, to determine seeding for the match play portion of the championships. All matches will be contested over 18 holes in a single-elimination format, with the exception of the Junior Boys’ final match on Friday, August 19, which will be played over 36 holes.
Both championships are considered as counting events for the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Highsmith blistered the front nine of today’s round, shooting a 5-under par 31 to build a 4-stroke lead with nine holes to play. He then held on as his playing partner, Spencer Tibbits of Vancouver, Wash., went on a birdie binge of his own, with four consecutive birdies on holes 14 through 17 to pull even with Highsmith. But Highsmith was able to save par from a fairway bunker on 17, then sunk a 12-foot birdie putt on 18 to earn the No. 1 seed by one stroke over Tibbits.
“I had a good run on the front nine,” Highsmith said, “making eagle on No. 8, and then a long stretch of pars on the back side. Spencer, with his four birdies in a row, made a good run at me. It was nice to make a putt (on 18) to get it done. I enjoy playing match play, so hopefully I can keep it going this week.”
Last week, Highsmith held the lead at the Washington State Men’s Amateur in the final round before missing the playoff by a single stroke. Earlier this summer, Highsmith finished second in the WJGA State Championship, was the qualifying medalist for the U.S. Junior Amateur, and won the AJGA Ryan Moore Junior Championship.
Tibbits, the No. 2 seed, has won both the 2016 Oregon Junior Amateur and Oregon Junior Stroke Play Championship, and also won the 3A high school championship in Washington. Tibbits also won the 2016 Pacific Northwest PGA Junior Championship, and also qualified for the 2016 U.S. Junior.
In the Junior Girls’, Slama poured in 10 birdies and an eagle over the two qualifying rounds, cruising to the No. 1 seed. When asked how her game seems suited for this golf course, Slama replied, “I hit a higher ball than most of the other players, so am able to get the ball closer to some of the hole locations when the greens are firm, so it works to my advantage.”
Slama is familiar with The Home Course, having won the 2016 Pacific Northwest Junior PGA Championship held at the course in June, shooting a two-day total of 5-under par and finishing 13 strokes ahead of the nearest competitor, Brittany Kwon of Bremerton, Wash. Kwon has now also finished second to Slama in today’s stroke-play qualifying, earning the No. 2 seed.
Slama likes both the stroke play and match play portions of a championship of this kind. “I like both formats,” she said. “Both are very fun. I don’t change my strategy too much either way.”
Slama was named the 2015 PNGA Junior Girls’ Player of the Year. She will be a senior at South Salem High School, and last spring won the 2016 6A high
school state championship. She has already committed to attend Oregon State University after high school.
The rich history of the PNGA Junior Boys’ Amateur Championship includes past champions such as World Golf Hall of Fame member Fred Couples, Web.com Tour players Alex Prugh and Andrew Yun, and John Bodenhamer, the former CEO and executive director of the PNGA who now is a senior director at the USGA.
The storied history of the PNGA Junior Girls’ Amateur includes past champions Jo Ann Washam, Peggy Conley, Joan Edwards-Powell, Mary Budke, and JoAnne Gunderson Carner, all of whom would later be inducted into the Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Fame after storied amateur and professional careers. Other past champions include current LPGA Tour players Paige Mackenzie and Jimin Kang.
To be eligible for the Pacific Northwest Junior Boys’ and Girls’ Amateurs, contestants must not have reached their 18th birthday by the final day of the competition.
These championships are two of 15 regional championships conducted annually by the PNGA.
Opened in 2007, The Home Course is cooperatively owned and operated by the PNGA and Washington State Golf Association, and has been the site of numerous local, regional and national championships, including being the companion course to Chambers Bay for the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the venue for the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. It will also be the companion course to Chambers Bay for the 2019 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball.