Anguiano’s short game prevails at Sahalee Players Championship

If there was ever a golfer born to play well at Sahalee Country Club, it is California native Mark Anguiano.

The graduate of Cal State Fullerton, who spent much of last season with the best scoring average in NCAA Division I men’s golf, is not only a straight hitter off the tee, he is not long enough to reach any lurking trouble.

But it’s when he puts a wedge or putter in his hand, he creates instant magic.

In what was easily his best week of golf, the 21-year-old from Whittier, California, grinded out a 1-under-par 71 to win the 21st Sahalee Players Championship by four strokes over a pair of other Californians — Corey Pereira (70) and Kurt Kitayama (74).

Anguiano finished at 8-under 280, and was the only golfer in the 67-man field to post all four rounds under par at Sahalee Country Club.

“I love this golf course obviously,” Anguiano said. “It fits my game perfectly.”

He is also the first golfer since Oklahoma’s Trent Whitekiller in 2008 to win this prestigious amateur tournament in his debut appearance.

“Everything seemed to go his way,” Kitayama said. “But he played outstanding. He went out and got it.”

The overnight leader by one stroke, Anguiano stretched the margin to five shots with birdies at the second, third and fourth holes.

He made double bogey at No. 5, but regained the five-stroke advantage when he rolled in a 14-foot putt at the ninth hole for birdie to get to 9-under for the tournament.

On the back nine holes, Anguiano ran into difficulty. He hit his tee shot at the 14th hole in a fairway bunker, leading to a bogey. And at the next hole, his approach carried left and off the green, leading to another bogey.

But the 16th hole will be recalled as Anguiano’s best escape job.

Again, he found a fairway bunker off the tee. He could barely advance it on his second shot, and hit a wedge approach from 130 yards that stayed on the back ledge.

Facing a delicate 25-footer down the hill for par, he walked it to the hole and watched it drop in.

“I thought I left it short by 5 feet,” Anguiano said. “And it kept going.”

Pereira, a freshman at the University of Washington, still had a chance to cut the deficit to two shots, but his 8-footer for birdie had too much steam.

On the 17th hole, a long par 3 over a pond, Anguiano’s tee shot carried to the back of the green. But he made a 55-footer for birdie to all but wrap up the championship.

“I struggle (putting) on different grasses, but the poa here is the exact same as what I played on at home … at Friendly Hills Country Club,” Anguiano said. “I had a great feel. I didn’t think much about my speed a lot this week. I looked at the hole and hit the ball.”

Usually, Anguiano is able to celebrate all his good golf outings with his parents, Leo and Sandra. But this is a busy week at the family business — Whittier Farms, a meat and product market — so they had to stay home.

“Hopefully we got some good photos for them to look at,” Anguiano said with a chuckle.

“I’ve hit it better before, but for four straight (rounds), I’ve never been more consistent — especially my short game. That is the best I’ve had, putting and chipping.”

Huff, Warner lead at Ryan Moore event

Idaho golfer Graysen Huff shot the day’s best round — a 2-under-par 70 — to grab a one-stroke lead at the Ryan Moore Junior Championship at RMG Club at Oakbrook.

Huff (1-under 139) leads Ephrata’s Aaron Whalen (73) by one stroke heading into the final round.

Kennewick’s Catherine Warner maintained her overnight lead, even after firing an 8-over 78. She leads Lynnwood’s Sarah Rhee (76) by one shot.

The leaders tee off at 11:40 a.m. Thursday for the final round.