Puyallup’s Chase Carlson knows he can sometimes get lost in a Ping cap-wearing crowd — even at his home golf course.
And he’s OK with that. It gives him all the time in the world to go work on his game without fanfare.
That paid off Tuesday in the first round of the 90th Washington State Men’s Amateur Championship at Tacoma Country and Golf Club in Lakewood.
The 19-year-old got hot in the middle of his opening round by making six consecutive birdies to easily shoot the day’s best round — a 6-under-par 66.
Carlson leads by three strokes over a quartet of golfers — Clarkston’s Michael Baldeck, Kennewick’s Nick Mandell, Richland’s Drew McCullough and Bainbridge Island’s Sam Warkentin, who shot 69.
A group of five golfers, including reigning tournament runner-up Joe Harvie of Orting, lurks four shots behind at 70.
“There was definitely a good score out there,” Mandell said. “The course is awesome. It is in great shape. And it is so scorable because the greens are so good.”
Carlson gets to enjoy the luxury of these fast-but-true greens every day as one of its many talented members.
But he hadn’t shot his personal-best score of 67 here until a couple of weeks ago.
It was better Tuesday — much better.
His run started at the long, dogleg-right eighth hole, arguably the most difficult par 4 in Pierce County.
From the right fairway, Carlson barely had a view of the green. But he took a gamble, hitting a low punch shot through the trees.
“I got lucky on the rollout,” he said.
He made the 15-foot putt for birdie, and he was off and running.
“Honestly after that, it was kind of a blur,” Carlson said. “It was only the second or third time I have ever been in the moment before, so I was just hitting shots. It was cool.”
Carlson, a sophomore at Colorado Christian who won a Class 4A state team title at Puyallup High School, made a two-putt birdie at No. 16 to get to 7 under. But his drive at the finishing par 5 hit a tree, leading to an untimely bogey.
This is Carlson’s debut at this tournament, which he had to play a qualifier just to make the field.
“I had a decent junior career, but I’ve never really been somebody who tears it up in tournaments,” said Carlson.
“I like playing from behind. (Having the lead) will be different. I am not going to change my game plan.”
Warkentin, an incoming freshman at the University of Washington, got to 4 under when he hit a 5-iron approach from 210 yards out at the par-5 16th hole that rolled over the right lip, nestling to tap-in distance for eagle.
But the recent Bainbridge High School graduate got in trouble at No. 17, and missed a 10-foot putt to save par.
“I was playing solid all day, and that was my first bogey,” Warkentin said. “I couldn’t be much happier about the round.”
Perhaps the unknown co-leader is the stocky Baldeck, who rolled in a 10-footer for birdie on the finishing hole to set the early scoring pace.
A standout junior golfer, sometimes Baldeck was known as much for his temper than his birdie-making ability.
A career-threatening elbow injury in high school changed his outlook on the sport.
“It is a gift to be out here playing,” he said.
Last year at Rope Rider Golf Park at Suncadia, Harvie held an eight-shot lead early in the final round of the Washington State Men’s Amateur, and he ended up losing to Mercer Island’s Charlie Kern.
On Tuesday, he opened with 70.
“Yeah, (last year’s loss) left a few scars, but it was a good learning experience,” said Harvie, a junior at Seattle University. “Sometimes you have to take your lumps to get that win. It gave me a little motivation to work harder coming into this one.”
Bob Burton, the 1975 state men’s amateur winner, got into the field this week at the reigning Washington State Senior Men’s Amateur champion. He is 62 years old, and he shot 80 to open his tournament. He is one of three past event winners in the field, along with Gig Harbor’s Karl Smith and Enumclaw’s Tyler Salsbury. … In a role reversal, PGA Tour caddie Ryan Kelly is in the field this week, and he shot 70 with his tour-playing brother, Troy, on the bag. … Defending Tacoma City Amateur champion Casey Adams opened with a 74.