Sand, Huo, Brandes and Klein Claim Titles in 8th Annual WSGA Champion of Champions

The 8th Washington State Golf Association Champion of Champions concluded play today at The Home Course in DuPont, Wash. This year’s field consisted of 144 champions from around the state of Washington and Northern Idaho, competing in four divisions. It was the largest and strongest field in the history of the championship.

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John Sand of Hoquiam pulled away in the final holes in today’s round to win the Men’s division. Sand, 18, played steady down the stretch under difficult windy condition, while his pursuers fell away. Four players tied for second, three shots behind Sand, who was the only player in the 140-player field to finish under par.

“It was really tough out there,” he said. Very windy. You had to be really creative in hitting shots into the greens. I was lucky that I was able to keep the big numbers off the card.”

Sand will be busy this summer, playing in qualifiers for the U.S. Junior and U.S. Amateur, and finishing his last year being eligible to play in junior events.

Sand is finishing his final year playing for Hoquiam High School, and will be attending the University of Denver in the fall, where he’ll play on the men’s golf team. He earned his way into this championship by being the men’s club champion at Grays Harbor Country Club.

Tom Brandes of Bellevue successfully defended his title in the Senior Men’s, shooting rounds of 68-73. He started the day with a four-shot lead over Keith Crimp of Ellensburg. Paired together in today’s final round, Crimp, who has twice won this title (2013, 2014), made a run at Brandes with three birdies on the front side, but Brandes answered shot-for-shot with three birdies of his own to make the turn at 3-under. Brandes stumbled on the back nine, shooting 4-over during a 4-hole stretch, but had built enough of a lead to hang on to win by two over second-place finisher Crimp.

“I was cruising along just fine this morning (on the front nine),” Brandes said. “But then the wind picked up and we all started struggling. On short putts we were all trembling because of the wind blowing the balls all around.” On the par-3 14th, Brandes was in-between clubs, and put his tee shot into the water for a double-bogey.

After taking advantage last year of exemptions into several prestigious international championships earned from his past stellar play, Brandes plans to focus this year on more regional events.

Brandes also won this title in 2012. He is a six-time recipient of the WSGA Senior Men’s Player of the Year award, and in 2015 was inducted into the Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Fame.

Jamie Huo, a senior on the Seattle University women’s golf team, followed up her first-round one-under par 71 with a solid 73 in today’s final round, holding off defending champion Sarah Lawrence of Duvall for a three-shot victory. Huo had started the day with slim one-stroke lead over Lawrence, but played steadily under difficult windy conditions to pull away.

“Yes, it was really tough out there,” she said. “Everyone was just grinding it out. Sarah stayed close the whole time. I think the turning point was on the 14th when I made a 10-footer to save par, and I gained momentum from that.”

A former standout at Kentwood High School, Huo earned her way into this championship by winning the women’s club championship at Fairwood Golf & Country Club in Renton.

In the Senior Women’s division, Gretchen Klein of Hoquiam, Wash. shot rounds of 78-78 to take the title by a single shot over Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Famer Alison Murdoch of Victoria, B.C. Playing in the final group together, Klein had started today’s final round two strokes ahead of Murdoch, and after 13 holes had a three-shot lead. She then bogeyed 14 and 16 to let Murdoch pull close, but closed it out with pars on 17 and 18.

“The weather was definitely a factor,” Klein said. “Rain, wind, sun, I was getting exhausted just putting my raingear on and off, messing with my umbrella. I hit the ball pretty well, just good enough to endure, I guess.” Klein had qualified for this championship by being the two-time defending women’s club champion of Grays Harbor Country Club. “Actually, I’ve kind of lost count of how many times I’ve been club champion,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve been a member there since the early 1990s and I’ve won it more than a few times.”

The championship marks the beginning of the WSGA championship season and is hosted annually by The Home Course, which is cooperatively owned and operated by the Washington State Golf Association and Pacific Northwest Golf Association, and has been the site of numerous local, regional and national championships, including being the companion course to Chambers Bay for the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the venue for the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. The Home Course will also be the companion course to Chambers Bay for the 2019 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball.

The Champion of Champions is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the WSGA.

Founded in 1922, the WSGA is a 501c4 non-profit, amateur golf association governed by men and women volunteers. Serving over 68,000 individual members at more than 550 member golf clubs and 270 golf courses throughout the state of Washington and Northern Idaho, the WSGA works to continually expand the game of golf to people of all backgrounds.

The WSGA also serves as a statewide representative of the United States Golf Association (USGA) and works closely with a number of allied associations within the golf industry for the betterment of the game.