SAMMAMISH — As much as his golf-related travels have taken him up and down the West Coast, Andrew Yun still considers Washington his host state – and Tacoma his home.
That is what made his victory Wednesday at the 20th Sahalee Players Championship so satisfying.
Locked in a duel with Utah native and fellow Walker Cup training squad member Zachary Blair, Yun was best at surviving the fast conditions at Sahalee Country Club. He was the lone golfer to finish 72 holes under par.
Yun’s closing 2-over-par 74 was good enough for a one-stroke victory. He finished with a four-round total of 1-under 287 – just ahead of Blair (75) and Bryson Dechambeau (71), who were at even-par 288.
“Front nine was a little more traditional – I hit a lot of fairways and greens,” said Yun, a Tacoma native who spent his freshman
year at Bellarmine Prep before moving to Chandler, Ariz. “The back nine was a lot more up and down. I like to keep things interesting. And it was a stumble into the finish line – a slow crawl.”
Yun, a recent Stanford University graduate, birdied the long, uphill 12th hole but hit his tee shot in the front greenside bunker at No. 13, leading to a bogey.
He made amends at the 14th by landing a wedge approach left of the pin and sinking a 6-foot putt for birdie to go to 3 under for the tournament – good for a two-shot lead over Blair.
But Yun’s drive at No. 15 sailed into the left trees, leading to another bogey.
Standing on the 17th tee – a par 3 all the way back at 213 yards, all carry over water – his lead was one. And he decided to do the unthinkable – attack a front-pin location, guarded by the pond.
His 5-iron tee shot landed in the front fringe, missing a watery grave by a few feet, took one hop forward and stopped some 10 feet below the hole.
“I knew it was the right club, and I was comfortable with it, so why not?” Yun said. “I hit it perfectly, even though it ended up landing a little bit shorter than I liked.”
Though he missed the birdie putt, No. 17 ended up being the swing hole. Blair was in the final group and watched the action unfold on the green, then hit his iron shot in the front bunker, leading to bogey.
Still, Yun left the door wide open when he three-putted up a steep slope at the finishing hole, a par 5, for bogey.
As soon as Yun’s 12-footer for par missed left, Mason Casper – grandson of former PGA Tour standout Billy Casper – sprinted from the green to where Blair, his good friend, stood in the 18th fairway to tell him a birdie would get him in a playoff.
Blair’s 3-wood approach found a greenside bunker left, and his third shot gave him an uphill 18-footer to tie Yun. But the former Brigham Young star’s birdie bid stayed right of the hole, and Yun was champion.
“To have a chance to get into the playoff … I hit a good 3-wood, hit a good bunker shot and a putt – and it just didn’t go in,” said Blair, the 2011 Sahalee Players runner-up to former University of Washington golfer Chris Williams.
“Hats off to (Yun), he played well, and that is obviously going to help him with Walker Cup.”
Yun became the third golfer from Pierce County to win this prestigious amateur title, joining Puyallup’s Ryan Moore (2004) and Gig Harbor’s Kyle Stanley (2006).
Yun said he will maintain his amateur status this summer for the chance to play for the U.S. Walker Cup squad.
“I played in two Palmer Cups. To represent you country … is an unbelievable feeling, and the Walker Cup is the biggest one of them all,” Yun said. “This is one step forward, but I really can’t control much other than my play.”
Olympia’s Cameron Peck, the reigning Washington State Amateur champion, started the final round on the fringe of contention. But he saw any chance for getting back into the tournament end when he plopped his tee shot into the pond at the par-3 ninth.
He shot an 80 and finished in a tie for 23rd at 8-over 296.
“I just wanted to come out here and post a solid score – maybe 1- or 2-under par and see where it stacked up,” Peck said. “It just didn’t happen, and that is how golf is.”
NEW LEADER AT OAKBROOK
California’s Jefferson Kao shot an even-par 70 at the RMG Club at Oakbrook to take the second-round lead at the American Junior Golf Association’s Ryan Moore Junior Championship. His two-round total of 4-under 136 leads Clarkston’s Joseph Baldeck III and Lakewood players RJ Manke, the first-round leader, and Gregory Gildea by two shots.
In the girls division, Sammamish’s Ashley Fitzgibbons continues to lead after a second-consecutive 1-under 69.
Final-round tee times are from 6:30-11:40 a.m. Thursday.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/golf @ManyHatsMilles