Puyallup’s Ben Nelson seems to have discovered an unusual but efficient way to win some of the best amateur golf tournaments in Western Washington.
Stay close to the leaders – and stay out of the last group.
The 21-year-old Nelson went about his business Sunday at the 82nd Tacoma City Amateur, playing with no fanfare in the group ahead of overnight leader Casey Adams of Lacey.
Nelson shot a 1-under-par 70 at Fircrest Golf Club to tie Adams, then won on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff.
“I let all that wild stuff go down behind me,” Nelson said.
By the time the spotlight shifted to Nelson, he was matched with the 22-year-old Adams (4-over 75) after both finished the three-round championship in even-par 215.
Nelson won on the second extra hole by making a par while Adams made a double bogey.
The 2008 Puyallup High graduate, who just finished his career at Western New Mexico University, adds this title to his 2011 Seattle Amateur triumph – becoming the second golfer to hold both city amateur crowns at the same time. The other was Buzz Thomas (1985 Seattle Amateur winner, 1986 Tacoma City Amateur winner).
Just missing the playoff Sunday were a pair of high-profile NCAA Division I-bound standouts in Enumclaw’s Tyler Salsbury (University of Washington) and Lakewood’s James Feutz (UNLV). Feutz shot 72; Salsbury 74.
Both played in the final group with Adams, and both missed the playoff by one shot after missing short birdie putts on the back nine.
Feutz briefly tied Adams for the lead after his eagle on the par-5 10th hole. But he made back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 11 and 12, then missed a 4-foot birdie putt at the short par-3 13th.
Salsbury had more makeable birdie putts, but could not find the right touch.
The one that hurt was a 41/2-footer at No. 12 that stubbornly stayed on the high side of the hole.
“We both hit a lot of putts that hit (the) edge, or lipped out,” Feutz said. “Casey did, too. He played better than 75 today.”
It looked to be Adams’ day when he made a spectacular up-and-down save at No. 12, rolling in a curling 20-foot putt for par.
On the next hole, his wedge tee shot danced around the hole before stopping at tap-in distance for birdie to move to 2-under.
Up ahead, Nelson was holding steady, starting with 10 consecutive pars before birdies at No. 13 (1-footer) and No. 15 (25-footer).
Nelson came to the finishing hole needing a birdie to tie, but his attempt from 10 feet stayed right.
“I thought I lost it,” Nelson said.
On the same 18th hole, Adams’ approach shot went to the one area it shouldn’t have – long and left.
He was left with a dicey downhill chip, and his 8-foot try at a par-saving putt also stayed right.
The first real trying moment for Nelson came on the first playoff hole – the downhill ninth.
Both golfers had 30-footers for birdie. After Adams nestled his putt close, Nelson ran his putt a good 7 feet by the hole.
“I was feeling the nerves,” Nelson said. “My hands were shaking a little bit.”
But he knocked in the par putt to extend the playoff.
Nelson seemed to be in the worst position again on the next hole – the uphill par-5 first hole – after his drive hit a tree and he barely got his recovery shot back in the fairway.
But Adams – who lost in a playoff at the Capital City Amateur earlier this month – virtually handed the title to Nelson with his second shot, which came from the right rough, some 230 yards away.
Hitting off a sidehill lie, Adams shanked his shot into deep woods on the right. The result was a one-stroke lost-ball penalty – leading to a double bogey.
“I was in shock,” Nelson said. “It took me a minute to realize what happened.”
“I could probably fill a large bucket with all the golf balls I have shanked – but I usually do it on the driving range,” Adams said. “It is very easy to do if you don’t stay still on a shot.”firstname.lastname@example.org