Pacing around the tee box on the scenic Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, sturdily built Jon McCaslin contemplates how he will hit his first shot on the 16th hole.
The hole parallels the railroad tracks, close on the right. A train, carrying tractors, noisily rolls by, adding to the degree of difficulty.
Focused on how to angle the shot, McCaslin smiles. He steps up to the tee and smashes the ball, sending it sailing about 325 yards, a drive that would be the envy of any golfer on the PGA Tour.
“Have you ever seen anybody hit the ball as far as Jon? I haven’t either,” said Harold Jones, a longtime friend who met McCaslin at Capitol City Golf Club.
McCaslin is one of the area’s longest hitters and best amateur golfers. He has already won the Capital City Amateur this year, giving him four titles in five years.
He enters Sunday’s final round of the Tacoma City Amateur with a two-stroke lead.
Should he finish off the victory at Eagles Pride Golf Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, McCaslin would be a two-time winner of that event. Added to his Capital City Am titles, McCaslin has consistently conquered most of his local challengers.
The next step — going pro — is enticing, and one that he is considering. Turning pro is a hard step in a golfer’s life, because of competition on the course, the finances off the course and the lifestyle itself. McCaslin, who has a fiancée and a 1-year-old child, said he has to find a reliable sponsor.
“If I can be good enough to go to the next level, I need to work on my short game. It’s what separates the pros from the amateurs. Once you get to the next level, everyone can drive the ball far, but it all comes down to the greens,” McCaslin said.
He has added a veteran professional golfer — Scott Geroux — to his team in the past year. Geroux, McCaslin’s caddie who went to Timberline High School, is known as one of the area’s golfing legends, having won the 1980 Washington state junior amateur. Geroux was the 1982 Big Sky Conference champion at Weber State and turned pro in 1984, playing in two U.S. Opens.
“I think he (McCaslin) has what it takes to become a pro. His short game is really good, but it needs to be great in order to compete at that next level. I have played with Tiger Woods, Freddy Couples and some of the other best golfers in the world, and I think Jon has what it takes. Jon can hit 340 yards consistently, and that will help him out a lot. With a little bit of support from his family and friends, he could go a long way,” Geroux said.
McCaslin’s game wasn’t always golf. In high school, he was a baseball star. A hard-throwing pitcher, he went 11-0 with a 0.99 ERA as a senior in 2002, leading North Thurston to a 24-0 mark and its only state title in baseball.
He played a year of prep golf but wasn’t that serious about it. He played baseball at Lower Columbia College, earning all-NWAACC first-team honors as a freshman. After another year at LCC, he transferred to Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho.
In March 2007, McCaslin’s baseball career was derailed by a torn elbow ligament, so he turned to golf. He walked on to play golf for the Warriors at the Lewiston, Idaho, school.
After his graduation, members of the Capitol City Golf Club got familiar with the ever-present McCaslin. With a lot of time and work, his game improved and he became convinced he could play competitively.
“I enjoy how challenging the game of golf is. I have to stay mentally strong after a bad shot and not get carried away,” McCaslin said.