UNIVERSITY PLACE — Four years at Texas A&M taught Lacey’s Cameron Peck more about how to manage his game under tough conditions and less about how to pull off the perfect flop shot with a sand wedge.
Yet, when the wind kicked up and the clouds rolled in over Chambers Bay Golf Course on Thursday afternoon, newfound perspective suddenly was challenged by old grip-it-and-rip-it habits.
In the end, Peck shot a disappointing 6-over-par 78 in the final round of the 87th Washington State
Men’s Amateur to win his first tournament title in five years.
Peck, a Timberline High School graduate, was the only man to shoot par or better for the three-day tournament. He finished at even-par 216 – five strokes ahead of Kennewick’s Nicholaus Mandell (73) and Fircrest’s Ryan Earl (74).
James Feutz (75), the Bellarmine Prep graduate who just finished up his first season at UNLV, had his best showing in a while, placing fourth at 8-over 224.
Holding an eight-shot advantage heading into the final round certainly wasn’t a hindrance for Peck. But he started with three consecutive bogeys before doing what he had done all tournament after bad stretches.
He eagled a hole.
“I don’t make a whole lot of eagles,” Peck said.
He did at No. 4, hitting his second shot at the par 5 close, and sinking an 8-foot putt.
But after that, he struggled like most of the field. The only golfer to shoot a round at par or better Thursday was Enumclaw’s Tyler Salsbury, who had a 72. Salsbury just completed his first season at the University of Washington.
“I really wasn’t that nervous, just because I kept reminding myself, ‘You are OK. You are still ahead,’ ” Peck said. “I was just frustrated that I kept making bogeys and bogeys and bogeys. And I was trying to play smart, so I started thinking, ‘Should I just hit it at the flagsticks?’ And I had to fight that.”
By the time he reached the 12th hole, his lead was five shots. So he pulled out a 3-wood to play the drivable par 4, and ripped one right up the alley.
His golf ball nestled a few feet away from the cup on the green. He sank the 5-foot putt for another eagle – his fifth of the tournament, and his second in back-to-back rounds on that hole – and the tournament was well in hand once again.
“Looking back on the eagles I made, that is really what separated me from the pack,” Peck said. “I don’t know what was up (on No. 12), I walked up there. I was trying to hit it somewhere up by the hole, and I just hit perfect tee shots the last couple days.”
Earl, 35, a former University of Portland golfer who turned professional out of college, regained his amateur status four years ago and now works at Heritage Bank in Gig Harbor, was the one remaining who could put pressure on Peck down the stretch.
And Earl – the 2012 Capital City Amateur winner – birdied the 14th and 15th holes to creep even closer.
On No. 16, Peck hit perhaps his worst shot of the day – a 3-wood that sprayed right and landed in a waste area. His second shot darted left into high grass above the green, giving him virtually no room to get close to a back pin location.
“It got,” Earl said, “a little interesting there.”
The old Peck might have, indeed, tried a flop shot to stop his golf ball on the back ledge. But the new, seasoned Peck found a way to chip out and use the slope to carry his ball to the front of the green.
He two-putted from 60 feet for bogey – avoiding a big number – and put away the title right there.
“This means a lot to me,” said Peck, whose last victory came at the 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur. “It feels good to win again. And it feels good to be back here kind of in my hometown.”Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/golf @ManyHatsMilles