Sean Packer took a couple quick glances at “The Relic” – the trophy given to the annual amateur champion of the Tacoma Golf Association – and noticed immediate changes.
When it was handed to him following his even-par 71 round at Olympia Country and Golf Club – and four-stroke victory at 5-under 209 over Olympia’s John Eisentrout – he spun it around in his hands, and went over the improvements.
The name plates of the champions were all one size.
The bronzed golf-ball implants were polished, and all one color.
“Looks good,” he said, beaming.
A seven-shot lead. That is what Packer, an Auburn Riverside High product who was the 2008 NCAA Division II runner-up at Western Washington University, enjoyed heading into the final round Sunday.
Or saddled by.
“The entire day, you’re under a microscope. Every shot you hit, every decision that you make is completely magnified,” the 25-year-old Packer said. “You’re in the final group, you’re ahead by seven (strokes) – essentially everything you do is going to be watched and examined very carefully.”
All day, Packer made two bad swings – a driver that hooked and went out-of-bounds on the par-4 fourth, and a 3-wood that stayed too far right on the doglegging par-4 16th that left him behind a tree. Both shots led to double bogeys.
Where Packer said he won – or kept the tournament in check – was keeping up with his longer-hitting playing partners, Olympia’s Jarred Bossio and Lacey’s Jon McCaslin, on the par-5 holes of the front nine.
On the sixth, he got up-and-down from just in front of the green and rolled in a 3-foot birdie putt. The next hole, he managed a longer chip, but also saved birdie.
“To match them with the birdies on the par-5 holes on the front nine was clutch,” Packer said. “Jon plays a very different style of golf than I do, and I’m extremely jealous.”
Then came the 10th hole. Seemed easy because it’s only 315 yards. But it’s uphill with a weird angle from the tee box because the hole shifts left coming up the embankment.
Packer’s drive went into the first cut of rough. His approach went long. His chip rolled, rolled and rolled – stopping 10 feet past the hole.
At that time, Eisentrout had trimmed Packer’s lead to three shots with a front-nine 31. It could have gone one fewer.
But Packer’s steady putting stroke prevailed. He knocked it in, and the tournament the rest of the way was his to enjoy.
“When I’ve struggled … the hardest thing I’ve had (to deal with) is to overclub – making mistakes long and over greens,” Packer said. “And it worked out perfectly (at the 10th). I got it up-and-down, and it was a reminder that I needed to say, ‘Hey, remember, the way to make double bogeys and you can kind of lose this thing is hit it over some greens.’”
McCaslin, the defending champion who just won his second consecutive Capitol City Amateur title a couple weeks back, was 3-under at one point on the front nine, but let Packer get away when it took two shots to get out of a greenside bunker on the 11th hole, and he finished with a double bogey.
“I got it down to four (shots), and he made a couple of long putts for birdie, and played really well from there,” McCaslin said. “There was no catching him today.
“I came into here realistically playing for second place. If he made some mistakes – which he had to do for us to catch him – then so be it. Then we’ll worry about that when it got there.”
“I didn’t play very well. It happens.”
Bossio shares the course record at 62, tied with Woodinville’s Jarin Todd. The Idaho golfer will try and qualify for the Sahalee Players Championship on Tuesday at The Home Course. He’s now finished in the top three at the City Am for four consecutive years. … Enumclaw’s Tyler Salsbury, a junior-to-be and University of Washington commit, was fourth after his closing 71. He benefited from the TGA’s new ruling – allowing 16-year-old golfers back into the championship. … Eisentrout, the City Am runner-up, plays Olympia C&GC as his home course as a member of the Saint Martin’s College men’s golf team. … Sixty entrants were in this year’s championship, which is lower than usual. … Next season’s City Am rotation is set: The Home Course, Eagles Pride at Fort Lewis and Tacoma Country and Golf Club. … The rest of the TGA’s schedule of premier events – the Senior City Amateur at Tacoma C&GC and Brookdale (July 3-4); the Junior City Amateur at Allenmore (Aug. 9-11); TGA Father/Son or Daughter at Oakbrook (Sept. 19) and the “Champion of Champions” tournament at Fircrest Golf Club (Oct. 3).