A short-game giant

TACOMA city am: Lacey’s Casey Adams isn’t tall or too long off the tee, but he’s huge around greens

todd.milles@thenewstribune.comJune 24, 2012 

Lacey’s Casey Adams is short in stature but very large when it comes to golf tournament results.

And the 22-year-old is closing in on arguably his biggest amateur title, taking a two-stroke lead into today’s final round of the 82nd Tacoma City Amateur at Fircrest Golf Club.

The 2008 River Ridge High School graduate shot under-par rounds at Whispering Firs (3-under 69) and the Woodlands Course at Hawks Prairie (71) last weekend to grab his first career lead in this tournament.

Despite being 5-foot-4 and of moderate length off the tee, Adams is a whiz with a 60-degree wedge. Rivals rave not only about the various chip shots he plays with high precision, but also, when the moment calls for it, he has a knack for timely hole-outs.

In the Washington State Men’s Amateur played at Eagles Pride Golf Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord – his home course – Adams holed out from the fairway in the first round from 130 yards for eagle on a par 4. And the next day, he did the same thing – this time from 75 yards for eagle on a par 5.

“It is just probably my hands,” Adams said. “I have … a lot of feel and touch. It is fun to chip in (on an opponent).”

He has done that plenty of times, including to Gary Larson, his former high school coach. Larson also works in the pro shop at Hawks Prairie.

During a casual match at the Woodlands a few years back, Larson was in position to upend Adams for the first time. Late in the round, and with the match tied, Adams left his tee shot to a par-3 hole in a nasty position off the green – in the rough, coming over a massive sand bunker and to a downhill hole location.

Larson told Adams he wanted to “press” – or go double-or-nothing for lunch. Flashing a sly smile, Adams chipped in for birdie, and ended up with a winning result.

“I owed him two lunches,” Larson said, chuckling.

“I kind of have one chip shot, and he would work with me (on different shots) by the time he was a senior. He has three or four different versions – the one-hop stop, the check and release and the lob. In his head, he knows what shot to hit, and he steps up and hits it.”

Adams was slated to attend Saint Martin’s University out of high school, but academic struggles caused him to change directions.

He went to South Puget Sound Community College for a year but did not play golf. And when his cousin, Anthony Thomas, decided to move to California, he decided to go with him.

Adams took on three jobs – at Costco, Pizza Hut and Applebee’s – then practiced golf in his spare time.

At the driving range one day, he was hitting golf balls when the coach of the local community college in Hayward, Calif. – Chabot College’s Zack Papachristos – was watching.

“He saw me hit one golf ball, and asked, ‘Are you playing anywhere right now?’ ” Adams said. “When I said, ‘No,’ he said I was going to play for them.”

Adams won once in his first season in 2011. Last spring, he really emerged, capturing six tournament titles. Now, it’s on to play at NCAA Division II California State University in East Bay next season.

This summer, he is back home, and putting together another hot streak. He lost in a playoff to Olympia’s Ryan Earl at the Capitol City Amateur two weeks ago, then tied for fifth place at the Washington State Amateur.

Today, he can close out a victory.

“You’ve got to keep putting yourself in position,” Adams said. “That is what I am doing here – putting myself in position for the win. I’ve just got to go out there (today) and get it.”

CITY AM NOTEBOOK

No one in today’s final group – Adams, Enumclaw’s Tyler Salsbury and Lakewood’s James Feutz – has ever won this event. Adams is the only player in the field to shoot a round in the 60s – a 69 in the first round at Whispering Firs Golf Course. … Defending champion Jarred Bossio, a Capital High graduate who just finished at the University of Idaho, did not defend this year, opting instead to play at the Southwestern Amateur, where he tied for 19th at Dove Mountain outside Tucson, Ariz. … Bonney Lake’s Sean Packer, the 2004 and 2010 Tacoma City Am winner, is tied for seventh, but he is questionable to play today because of a back injury. … Back-nine updates today will be provided on Twitter at @ManyHatsMilles.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com 253-597-8442 blog.thenewstribune.com/golf @ManyHatsMilles

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