McCaslin, Packer are 2 of area’s best golfers

todd.milles@thenewstribune.comJune 22, 2014 

Where there’s a leaderboard at a high-profile men’s amateur golf tournament in the South Sound, chances are two names are somewhere on it: Lacey’s Jon McCaslin and Bonney Lake’s Sean Packer.

Their lists of accomplishments are eerily similar, especially at the Tacoma City Amateur.

Both have won the city championship twice in their careers, and share the lead at 3-under-par 140 heading into the final round of the 84th Tacoma City Amateur on Sunday afternoon at Fircrest Golf Club.

Yet that is about where the similarities end. McCaslin, a North Thurston High School graduate, epitomizes pure power, consistently bombing drives between 300 and 350 yards. Packer, an Auburn Riverside High School product, relies on precision and thinking his way around the course.

“I think we are a lot different,” Packer said. “I am a wanna-be athlete who does well in golf because the ball does not move. He is a real athlete, and you can see it — and you can certainly hear it when he makes impact with the golf ball.”

With their recent run of success — at every level, including

qualifying for United States Golf Association national tournaments — the one question that persists is why don’t they take their games to the professional level?

Their answer: “Nah, I’m fine.”

“Right now I don’t ... because I have a family now,” McCaslin said. “It takes priority over golf.”

McCaslin, 30, is getting married to longtime fiancee Courtney Stoner on July 12. He also works for Tri City Meats in Olympia, which is co-owned by Scott Stoner, his future father-in-law.

“My family relies on me financially, so I have to make money,” McCaslin said. “That is what I’ve got to do, so I choose to play in the local weekend deals (in golf). And I am fine with that.

“I would not mind stepping up in the USGA stuff and playing in more national events.”

McCaslin said he is not ruling out a serious run at professional golf down the line. “I am 30. I have a lot of golf left in me. I am not in a big hurry. You only get one shot at it.”

Packer, 29, was an All-American out of Western Washington University who finished second in the NCAA Division II national championships in 2008.

He gave turning professional a fleeting thought, especially after he moved down to La Quinta, California, and hung out at The Club at PGA West and played against mini-tour players.

Eventually he decided just to keep his amateur status instead.

“I really believe to try and play professionally, you’ve got to have enough money to give a college-level try at it — for at least four years,” Packer said. “And if you are not going to make it at the highest level, it just seemed like you got into it because you liked golf, even when there wasn’t enough money to be made.

Packer, too, has settled into a pretty good life now living in West Seattle — and holding a good-paying job in South King County.

In the past two years, Packer has played in three USGA championships — the past two U.S. Amateur Public Links tournaments and the 2012 U.S. State Team Championship.

“That was something I wasn’t able to accomplish during my college career,” Packer said. “Now I feel like I can free roll, and am dedicated to playing these types of tournaments for the next 20 years.”

84TH TACOMA CITY AMATEUR

When: Sunday, final round

Where: Fircrest Golf Club

2013 winner: Jon McCaslin, Lacey (7-under-par 208)

The skinny: It seems appropriate that McCaslin and Bonney Lake’s Sean Packer share the tournament lead after two rounds – they finished first and second a year ago at Eagles Pride Golf Course, where McCaslin posted a seven-shot victory. Both are at 3-under 140 after earlier rounds at Allenmore and Lipoma Firs. If one of them wins Sunday, he will become the first three-time Tacoma City Amateur champion since Greg Ott (1996, 2001, 2003). McCaslin won his titles in 2009 and last year; Packer in 2004 and 2010. ... Looking for a low-round candidate? How about Enumclaw’s Tyler Salsbury, who plays for the University of Washington. He is one of the golfers tied for third at 143 – and just reset his course record at Enumclaw Golf Course on Thursday by shooting a 57. ... Bremerton’s Ryan Kelly, the brother and caddie of PGA Tour golfer Troy Kelly, is also at 143. And he has had success on this course recently, winning the Fircrest Amateur last summer. ... Gig Harbor’s Britten Barker, who is also at 143 and will play in the final group, played at the University of Portland. ... Puyallup’s Vinnie Murphy (144) was in the final group with McCaslin last year, but shot 75 to finish fifth.

Tee times Sunday: Groups start going off the first tee at 10 a.m., with McCaslin, Packer and Barker going off in the final group at 11:50 a.m.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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