Bonney Lake’s Sean Packer appreciates golf history and the old relics that are identified with big tournaments.
One in particular he likes having in his hands, too — the Frank Unger Memorial Trophy.
It will now reside in Packer’s house a third time. The Auburn Riverside High School and Western Washington University graduate closed with an even-par 71 to win the 84th Tacoma City Amateur on Sunday at Fircrest Golf Club.
Packer’s 3-under 211 total edged Bremerton’s Ryan Kelly (70) by two strokes in what turned out to be a two-man race. Enumclaw’s Tyler Salsbury (74) and Puyallup’s Vinnie Murphy (73) tied for third at 217.
Defending champion Jon McCaslin, a Lacey golfer who shared the 36-hole lead with Packer, shot a final-round 82 to tie for 10th at 222.
No sooner than five minutes after Packer tapped in his final putt for par, he sported a wide grin while hoisting the championship trophy. Packer, who took the title in 2004 and 2010, also became just the fifth golfer to win three or more Tacoma City Amateur championships, joining CD Hunter Jr. (10 titles from 1931-45), Jack Walters (six from 1942-60), Jamie Follen (three in a row, 1990-92) and Greg Ott (three from 1996-2003).
“I do like this trophy. I think it is its own thing,” Packer said. “I have a nice spot for it near the (television) in the family room.”
Packer shook off a slow start to make three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the front nine.
He birdied the fifth hole, hitting a 9-iron approach shot close to the toughest hole on the course. Two holes later, his second shot carried off the back of the green at the par 5, but he hit his next chip inches from the hole for a tap-in birdie at No. 7.
At the following hole, a par 3, he got a great read from McCaslin and drilled the downhill 15-foot putt for another birdie.
After that, the 29-year-old just kept playing steady golf, making nine consecutive pars after the turn.
“Growing up, when I started playing this tournament in 2001 (my dad, Paul, and I) talked golf strategy a lot,” Packer said. “He would always say, ‘Par in the (Tacoma) City Am is good.’ And I had that going through my head a couple times on the back nine when I had midrange putts for birdie not getting close to the hole.”
It almost wasn’t enough, thanks in part to Kelly’s surge up the leaderboard.
The brother and caddie of PGA Tour player Troy Kelly eagled the par-5 10th hole. At No. 13, he hit his tee shot 3 feet left of the hole and nudged in the putt to grab the outright lead at 4-under.
But from the middle of the fairway at No. 14, Kelly, a former Oregon State golfer, hit his wedge approach well over the green. His third pitch shot went through the green and trickled into a sand bunker, leading to a double bogey.
He also bogeyed the 15th hole to fall off the pace.
“I played well. I hit everything good. And then I made double bogey right from the middle of the fairway. That is just not playing (golf) enough,” Kelly said. “There were some nerves there. That’s why I don’t do this. That is why I caddie.”
Sunday’s surprising development was the off performance of McCaslin. It started with his opening drive, which got caught up in the right rough, leading to an early double bogey.
After that, he struggled on short putts. By the back nine, everything was out of sorts.
“I had nothing going. I could not putt at all, or chip,” McCaslin said. “I’ll flush it and move on, and get ready for the next event (the Lewis County Amateur).”
Packer enjoys competing in the Tacoma City Amateur. Nothing could stifle the excitement he showed at the awards ceremony.
“This is really special,” Packer said. “This is really big. Ten years ago when I won this thing, it was just me at 19 years old. And today I had my mom, girlfriend and a number of my friends here, too.”Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@ thenewstribune.com