Joe Highsmith of Lakewood, Wash. shot rounds of 70-68-69-74 to win the 25th Sahalee Players Championship, held this week at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash. His 7-under-par total of 281 was two shots better than second-place finisher Sahith Theegala of Chino Hills, Calif.
Highsmith and Theegala were the only two players in the field of 64 elite international amateurs to finish the championship under par, and early in today’s final round made it a two-man race for the title. Paired together in the final group, Highsmith started the day with a two-shot lead over Theegala, but after the sixth hole Theegala had pulled even.
The swing hole of the championship was the 544-yard par-5 11th hole. Highsmith put his second shot to 18 feet, and Theegala, after a 340-yard drive, put his second shot in the right greenside bunker. Highsmith would two-putt for birdie, while Theegala blasted out of the bunker but then three-putted for bogey, making for a two-shot swing.
Highsmith just finished his freshman year at Pepperdine University, where he earned the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year honors and was named to the All-WCC First Team. He won the 2017 Washington State Amateur, the youngest player to do so, and is a two-time WSGA Junior Boys’ Player of the Year and also was named the 2017 PNGA Junior Boys’ Player of the Year.
Highsmith and Theegala are teammates on the Pepperdine University men’s golf team. Theegala won the 2017 Sahalee Players Championship.
“Yeah, some bogeys are definitely better than others,” Highsmith said afterward. “The 12th hole was big. Saving bogey on that hole gave me somewhat of a buffer to make a strong finish.” On that par-4 12th hole, the left-handed Highsmith had pushed his second shot into the brush, and after an all-gallery search for the ball, it was found embedded in the soft soil. He was granted a free drop, but then proceeded to chip his third shot into the greenside bunker. He blasted out, and sunk the 12-footer to save a bogey.
“I had a hot putter going all week,” he said. “Typically my game is the opposite. I’ll hit the ball really well, but then do nothing on the greens. But this week was really average ball-striking, and fortunately had the putter going well. I made a bunch of five-to-10 foot par saves, which was the difference.”
Highsmith now adds his name to a long list of winners of this prestigious championship, including Ryan Moore, Kyle Stanley, Casey Martin, Jason Gore, Daniel Summerhays, among many others.
Since its founding in 1992, Sahalee Country Club has worked closely with the Pacific Northwest Golf Association (PNGA) to establish the SPC as a premier national event, according to Troy Andrew, CEO and executive director of the PNGA. The PNGA continues to administer the championship, led by PNGA Asst. Director of Rules and Competition Nate Schroeder.
“The vision was to keep our top-ranked amateurs in the Pacific Northwest from having to always go back East to get national attention for Walker Cup or international team consideration,” Andrew says. “It worked. The Sahalee Players Championship is now recognized as one of the premier amateur championships in the world because of the strong field it continues to attract.”
Beginning in 2000, the SPC and PNGA have hosted major amateur championships in back to back weeks at the beginning of July. Since its inception in 1899, the Pacific Northwest Men’s Amateur Championship has developed a long and illustrious history as one of the top amateur competitions in the country. Played in the same format as the U.S. Amateur, the 118th PNGA Men’s Amateur will be held at Tacoma Country and Golf Club in Lakewood, Wash. on July 8-13, 2019. The assisting stroke-play course for the championship will be Chambers Bay, site of the 2010 U.S. Amateur and 2015 U.S. Open. Past champions include Zac Blair (2011), Nick Flanagan (2003), Ben Crane (1997), Jeff Quinney (2000) and Tiger woods (1994). Visit thepnga.org or click here for more information.
Next week, Highsmith will compete in the Pacific Northwest Men’s Amateur, with Tacoma Country & Golf Club being his home course.
The Sahalee Players Championship was created by a dedicated group of members striving to bring major championships and the top professional and amateur players in the game to the club. That vision has been more than realized. Sahalee has hosted three professional majors: the 1998 PGA Championship, 2010 U.S. Senior Open, and the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship; as well as the 2002 WGC-NEC Invitational. The Sahalee Players Championship has been conducted at Sahalee since 1992, and other elite amateur championships held at Sahalee include the 1974 PNGA Men’s Amateur and 1978 Pacific Coast Amateur.
— Washington State Golf Association (WSGA) (@theWSGA) July 3, 2019