Puyallup’s Ben Nelson doesn’t need to play in the last group to win some of the best amateur golf tournaments in Western Washington.
He showed that again Sunday – in the final round at the 82nd Tacoma City Amateur.
Playing in front of leader Casey Adams, and main chasers Tyler Salsbury and James Feutz, it was the 21-year-old Nelson who emerged with one of the day’s best rounds – a 1-under-par 70 – at Fircrest Golf Club.
And when Adams (75), of Lacey, failed to get up and down for par from behind the 18th green in regulation, the two went off in a sudden-death playoff tied at even-par 215.
On the second extra hole, Nelson made par on the uphill opening par-5 hole at Fircrest Golf Club – while Adams made a double bogey – and won his first Tacoma City Amateur title.
The 2008 Puyallup High graduate, who just finished up at Western New Mexico University, also won the Seattle Amateur in the summer of 2011. The only other golfer to hold both those titles at the same time was Buzz Thomas (won 1985 Seattle Amateur title in July, 1986 Tacoma City Amateur crown in June).
Nelson began the day five strokes behind Adams, and started his round with 10 consecutive pars. He nearly aced the 105-yard, par-3 13th en route to a tap-in birdie, and two holes later, he rolled in a 25-foot putt for his final birdie.
Needing to make a 10-foot putt for birdie on the final hole to tie Adams at 1-under, he missed on the right side of the cup.
“I thought I lost,” Nelson said.
Coming out of a sidehill lie on the right-side rough on that same hole, Adams’ approach shot flew left and behind the green. His third shot went 8 feet past the hole, and his putt to win the tournament also stayed right of the cup.
Nelson faced the first real trying moment in the playoff when he ran his 28-foot birdie bid way past the hole. But he sank the 7-foot comebacker to match Adams’ par.
Nelson’s drive on the second playoff hole hit a tree, but stayed in the fairway. He laid up, then watched Adams do the unthinkable – shank his long-iron second shot from 235 yards deep into the woods on the right, virtually handing the championship to his opponent.
“Had a little too much body movement on that (shot),” Adams said.
Salsbury (74), of Enumclaw, and Feutz (72), of Lakewood, finished tied for third at 1-over 216, one shot out of the playoff. Tacoma’s Dana Christianson’s 69 was the best score in the final round.