Chambers Bay a Solid Test in “Open Before the Open”

Contestants and caddies of The Chambers Bay Hickory Open complete with Scottish bagpipes.
(Photo by Jen Trovesi Photography)

Amateur Austin Beatty of Mill Creek, Calif., managed to avoid the trials of round-shattering rough to win the inaugural Chambers Bay Hickory Open. Held on May 24, just weeks before the 115th U.S. Open, the event gave 48 hickory players from around the country an opportunity to test, with hickories, what the world’s best modern players will find in June. What they will find is rough and plenty of it.

Avoiding the rough was the first challenge prior to navigating the undulating greens of Chambers Bay on the Puget Sound near University Place, Wash.

While much of the real estate around the golf course is sand, waste areas, and greenside bunkers, thick layers of rough will cost golfers more shots than they desire should they stray from the straight and narrow. Miss a fairway by less than a yard and it was bogey time or worse for the hickory field, that is, if the player was able to find his, or her, ball. Many used a replica golf ball, patterned after the type used pre-1935.

Beatty, a former Division 1 golfer with the Univ. of Nevada, won the overall with an impressive round of 74 that included three birdies. He knew what to do about the rough.

“I took one look at that rough and decided it was best to keep my ball out of there and was able to do that today,” he said. “What a fun tournament.”

Beatty honed his golf game at Mill Creek Country Club, Mill Creek, Wash., where he lives on the 13th hole. Mill Creek is defined by narrow holes. It’s a shot maker’s course that requires precision off the tee. The club boasts 10 members, including Beatty, who are scratch golfers.

In the professional division, Colin Gants, head PGA pro of West Seattle Golf Club, shot an impressive 75 to beat Josh Immordino’s 78 and Gabriel Tonan, another shot back at 79. Immordino is PGA professional at Riverbend Golf Course in Kent, Wash.; Tonan is the PGA pro at Port Townsend, in Port Townsend, Wash. All tremendous hickory scores on a U.S. Open course.

Though many in the field were from Washington, players flew in from 15 different states. Kevin Cawley of Omaha, Neb. flew into Seattle-Tacoma Airport, drove his rental car to Chambers Bay and took 83 strokes to navigate the difficult U.S. Open course enroute to winning the Senior Division.

In the Open Division, Durel Billy (the tournament’s director) of Puyallup, Wash., was able to set aside six months of intense planning for a few hours and shoot a score of 83 for a one-shot victory over this writer. (I was moving along nicely at even par until my undoing on the 5th hole where I went from sand, to rough, to sand again on the way to a nasty quadruple bogey 8.)

The Junior Division’s Grayson Giboney (also from Mill Creek Country Club) shot 85 for a two-stroke victory. Grayson, the reigning State of Washington Hickory Champion, said: “My goal was a round in the 70s, but I got into the rough too many times off the tee. I was able to make a nice par on 17 and birdie 18 to barely beat my good friends Drew (Drew Halili of Port Orchard, Wash.) and Tyler (Tyler Aamold of Startup, Wash.).”

As for the ladies, Jeankie Actzon of Puyallup, took the title with her round of 104. Actzon had never played hickory golf anywhere before, let alone at Chambers Bay. She simply wanted to be a part of the event.

“She smiled and laughed her way around the golf course today,” said tournament director Billy.

Billy, by the way, was all smiles himself. “It was an exciting day of smiles and laughter. We had the current SoHG (Society of Hickory Golfers) president Dave Brown, of Omaha, as well as a past president, Ken Holtz, of Sun City (Arizona). We had numerous out-of-town hickory golfers who can’t wait to come back. It was a huge success.

“Now they can watch the U.S. Open with more enthusiasm having played the course in a tournament setting on the last day before the course closed for the 2015 U.S. Open.”

The world now turns its attention to the big event, the 115th U.S. Open. It will be fun to see how they do. We hickory golfers certainly did our best and had a great time in the bargain.

The Chambers Bay Hickory Open was hosted by the APNational Golf Club and organized by its director, Durel Billy. For information on the club’s hickory outings, click here.

Players in the Professional Division walk toward the second green. (Photo by Jen Trovesi Photography)

Junior golfer Drew Halili hits his approach shot as Tyler Aamold, and Grayson
Giboney look on. (Photo by Jen Trovesi Photography)

Overall Scores:
1. Austin Beatty 74
2. Colin Gants 75
3. Josh Immordino 78
4. Gabriel Tonan 79
T5. Kevin Cawley 83
Durel Billy 83
Galen Peterson 83
8. Brian Giboney 84
T9. Matt Enloe 85
Dave Brown 85
Ed Ronco 85
Grayson Giboney 85
13. Ken Holtz 86
T14. John Breslow 87
Drew Halili 87
16. Devin Harmala 88
17. Tony Meleg 89
18. Mike Durham 91
19. Hal Holt 92
20. Dennis Scott 93
21. Tyler Aamold 94
22. Chris Goodman 95
23. John Barrett 96
24. Barry Field 97
25. Asher Fried 99
26. Dale Hallock 100
T27. Jerry Olson 101
Rob Birman 101
Bob Marlatt 101
30. Jeankie Actzon 104
T31. Ralph Potter 105
Mason Scheid 105
T33. Ted Marlatt 116
Mike Wisniewski 116
35. Ron Mahugh 119
T36. Charles Monroe NC (stands for No Card)
Deal Hudson
Earl Gilbert
Henry Phiefer
Jay Harris
Jeff Bagley
Jim Canapo
Jim Hren
Paul Hebron
Paul Johnson
Pete Peterson
Tim Jenkins
Tom Clancy

Overall Winner:
Austin Beatty, Mill Creek, Wash.

Open Division Champion:
Durel Billy, Puyallup, Wash.

Senior Division Champion:
Kevin Cawley, Omaha, Neb.

Novice Division champion:
Matt Enloe, Gig Harbor, Wash. (Matt is the Director of The First Tee of South Puget Sound)

Junior Division Champion:
Grayson Giboney, Mill Creek, Wash.

Ladies Division Champion:
Jeankie Actzon, Puyallup, Wash.

Professional Division:
Colin Gants, Seattle, Wash. (Head Pro of West Seattle Golf Course)

Closest to the Hole Winners:
#3 Colin Gants, Seattle, Wash.
#9 Ken Holtz, Sun City, Ariz.
#15 Ken Holtz, Sun City, Ariz.
#17 Rob Birman, Port Townsend, Wash.