Truth be told, Puyallup’s Chase Carlson has never even won a casual weekend golf game against other members at Tacoma Country and Golf Club.
Turns out he just needed a bigger stage to strut his budding talent.
The 19-year-old survived a six-hole sudden-death playoff against top Washington State University golfer Derek Bayley to capture the 90th Washington State Men’s Amateur title Thursday on his home course in Lakewood.
With both golfers in close, Bayley’s 5-foot birdie attempt spun off the left edge of the hole. After that, Carlson calmly tapped in his 2-footer to corral the biggest victory of his career.
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Both golfers finished the three-round championship at 6-under 210.
“I feel for (Bayley) — I have been in that same situation,” Carlson said. “He is a great player, and has had a great summer. I certainly beat a good player.”
The wild day of action took a crazy turn on the par-5 16th hole — arguably the easiest hole on the course.
Trailing by six shots to start his round, and playing in the third-to-last group, Bayley — the reigning Idaho State Amateur and Rosauers Open champion — was the one going low under difficult conditions Thursday.
He stood on the 16th tee with a two-shot lead at 7 under.
“I felt fine all the way through — the pressure never really bothered me,” said Bayley, who had the day’s best round at 68. “On (No.) 16, I hit a bad tee shot that ended up in the worst spot.”
It came to rest on a tree root, forcing him to play sideways to the fairway. He ended up making a costly bogey.
Twenty minutes later, Carlson and overnight leader Joe Highsmith faced eagle putts off the fringe at the 16th hole.
Needing to make something happen, Carlson rode his 25-footer down the spine in the green, and it dropped in the back of the cup for an eagle, tying him for the lead.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew it had a chance,” Carlson said.
Highsmith two-putted for birdie to tie Carlson and Bayley for the lead.
With Bayley in the clubhouse at 6 under, all Carlson and Highsmith had to do was birdie the finishing par 5 to win.
The 16-year-old Highsmith was in the front right bunker in two shots, but his third shot barely cleared the lip, and it sunk in high grass just short of the green.
“It was a tough shot, especially knowing what I needed to do,” Highsmith said. “I didn’t hit it hard enough.”
Needing to make a 10-footer for par to join the other two golfers in a playoff, Highsmith’s putt slid by, ending his title hopes.
It was an especially difficult day for the standout from Bellarmine Prep, who entered the final round with a four-stroke lead in his bid to become the tournament’s youngest winner ever.
He fell back with three front-nine bogeys and never got in any rhythm to make birdies. He shot a final-round 75.
“Obviously, it was a disappointing finish,” Highsmith said. “I was just off all day. I was just not hitting it very well.”
The six-hole playoff, believed to be the longest in tournament history, was a grind of patience and precision on the course’s fast greens.
In fact, the playoff hit a lull as both golfers kept missing birdie putts and instead settled for pars on the first four extra holes.
It helped that Carlson had an energetic and focused caddie in John Dimmer, a former club champion who volunteered this week.
“Honestly, if I didn’t have him, I know I would not have played this well,” Carlson said. “It is good to have another set of eyes, and an opinion to clarify what you are thinking. He kept me relaxed and calm.”
And he needed to on Carlson’s delicate pitch shot from behind the green on the final playoff hole – which he executed to perfection. It set up the victory after Bayley missed his putt.
Carlson leaves for Colorado Christian on Friday with a big trophy in tow. On Monday, he has tryouts for the men’s golf squad.
“It’s going to take some time to sink in,” Carlson said.