Joe Highsmith Shoots 65 to Grab Lead at 90th Washington State Men's Amateur

Joe Highsmith of Lakewood, Wash. shot a 7-under par 65 today to vault into the lead of the 90th Washington State Men’s Amateur, being held at Tacoma Country & Golf Club. His rounds of 71-65 give him a four stroke lead going into tomorrow’s final round.

Joe Highsmith consults with his caddie during round 2 of the 2016 Washington State Men's Amateur, being held at Tacoma Country & Golf Club.
Joe Highsmith consults with his caddie during round 2 of the 2016 Washington State Men’s Amateur, being held at Tacoma Country & Golf Club.

The three-day championship is being conducted by the Washington State Golf Association (WSGA). To follow along with live scoring, visit this page. Follow the championship on Twitter at the handles @WSGA1922 and @WSGAChampions for live updates and news and use the hashtag #WSGAMensAm.

Complete hole-by-hole scoring can be found here. After today’s second round the field has been cut to the low 60 players and ties. Tee times for the final round will begin at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, August 11, with the leaders teeing off at 11:00 a.m.

Highsmith began today’s round tied for 11th, five strokes behind first-round leader Chase Carlson of Puyallup, Wash. After a pedestrian front nine that included two birdies and a bogey, Highsmith had four birdies and an eagle on the back, which included a birdie on the par-5 18th hole. Tacoma C&GC is Highsmith’s home course, and today’s 65 is his personal best round on the course, and is the low round of the championship so far.

“I hit the ball a lot better today,” Highsmith said. “I kind of scrambled around yesterday, but today I felt really good. I hit my wedges really close and made a few short birdie putts. It was nice to go on a little run on the back nine. I’m used to the fast greens, so I’m comfortable putting on them, where some of the other players might not be.” The greens at Tacoma C&GC were rolling at 13 on the Stimpmeter.

Highsmith, 16, has played well all summer. He was the qualifying medalist for the 2016 U.S. Junior Amateur, eventually making it to the Round of 32 in that championship. Last month he won the AJGA Ryan Moore Junior Championship, and last week finished second in the WJGA State Championship. Highsmith will be a junior at Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, and has already committed to attend Southern Methodist University after graduation.

After an opening round of 66 which gave him an early three stroke lead, Carlson stumbled in today’s second round, shooting a 2-over par 74. “I didn’t play well today at all,” he said. “It was a stressful round of golf, and I never felt comfortable. I sank several putts of 10 feet or longer just to save par on holes. My round could easily have been a 77 or 78. I’m not going to lie, but I didn’t sleep that great last night (on his first round lead). My goal tomorrow is just to get off to a steady, strong start.”

Carlson, 19, was a standout at Puyallup Senior High School and will be a sophomore at Colorado Christian University, where he redshirted last year and is looking forward to competing with the team this coming year.

Carlson is tied for second with Nick Mandell of Kennewick, Wash., who shot a 1-under par 71 today. Mandell, who will be a senior at Washington State University, had his total to 6-under, but a three-putt double-bogey on 12 followed by a bogey on 13 cost him his momentum.

“I expect (Highsmith) to play well tomorrow, so that will spur me to play well,” Mandell said. “I don’t see Joe backing up. This is his home course, and with how tough these greens are, it helps to really know your way around. This is the type of course where you can be hitting the ball well, but not be able to score, because the greens are so quick and subtle.”

Tied for fourth, four strokes behind Highsmith, are Drew McCullough of Richland, Wash., who will be a junior at the University of Wyoming; and 42-year-old Ryan Kelly of Gig Harbor, Wash., the older brother of PGA TOUR player Troy Kelly, who is caddying for Ryan this week. For the past three years Ryan has been caddying for Troy on tour.

Past champions of the Washington State Men’s Amateur include Fred Couples, Alex Prugh, Brock Mackenzie, Chris Williams, Kermit Zarley, John Bodenhamer, and Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Famers Al Mengert, Bud Ward, Jack Westland and Harry Givan, among many others.

Founded in 1894, Tacoma Country & Golf Club is the oldest golf club in the U.S. west of the Mississippi, and one of the original founding clubs of the Pacific Northwest Golf Association (PNGA).

Originally designed in its current location by the great Canadian architect Stanley Thompson, the club has been the site of numerous national championships, including the 1961 U.S. Women’s Amateur, 1984 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, 1994 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and the 2007 U.S. Junior Girls’. It has hosted the Washington Open three times (1932, 1997, 1998), and the Northwest Open seven times (1910, 1915, 1925, 1931, 1966, 1979, 1985). It was the site of the first PNGA Championship (1899).