Lacey – As soon as Jon McCaslin’s golf ball did a hop, skip and jump into the 13th hole, it became time for his top competition to search for a cold beverage.
For McCaslin, it was more of a champagne moment.
McCaslin’s hole out from the fairway for an eagle 2 on the most difficult hole on the course was the signature moment in Sunday’s final round of the annual Capitol City Amateur.
The shot helped vault the North Thurston High graduate to a stress-free, eight-stroke victory in his third consecutive championship at Capitol City Golf Club.
He closed with a 4-under-par 68 – the day’s low round – and his 10-under 134 total eclipsed the tournament record he set last year by two strokes.
Graham’s Steve Rude, an aircraft mechanic and Air Force reservist, shot a 72 to finish second alone at 2-under 142. The next closest pursuer was Ilwaco’s Jack Whealdon, who played earlier in the day and moved far up the leaderboard after his 69.
Afterward, the 27-year-old McCaslin, who works for his father’s plumbing business, relished his three-peat moment – especially coming under fast-and-firm course conditions that were easily the most difficult he had faced in his three triumphs.
“You know, I got lucky,” he said. “I just putted well all week.”
Yet, as the final foursome of McCaslin, Rude, Arizona resident Kevin Cannon and Tacoma’s Ryan Earl made the turn to the back nine, each felt he had a chance to win the tournament – even if McCaslin held a four-stroke lead.
McCaslin admitted that not only were the greens faster Sunday than in the first round, but the landing areas around the greens were hard, making it difficult to judge where to land approach shots.
The defending champion shot an even-par 36 over his first nine holes, but quickly added a birdie on the short par-5 10th, then rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the next hole, a par 3, that gave him a bigger cushion.
Then came the 13th-hole coup de grce.
McCaslin, known as one of the longest hitters in the South Sound, he curled a 350-yard drive around the slight dog-leg left – then had to wait 10 minutes while one of his playing partners searched for a lost ball.
He bounced around in the fairway near his ball and chatted with his caddie.
“You just try and stay loose, keep a little bit of a golf swing going – then take your time and get refocused,” McCaslin said.
With 90 yards to a front pin location, his approach shot with a 54-degree wedge landed just short, took one huge hop, hit the flagstick and disappeared for an eagle.
Rude, 38, who had a makeable birdie putt he thought would cut into the deficit, instead settled for par, walked off the green and immediately asked where he could get a beer.
“I hadn’t given up yet,” Rude said, “but when he holed out, that was kind of my look-for-a-beer moment.
“At that point, I was looking for second place. It is tough to play a guy on his home course when he hits it a million miles. He hits it long, but he hits it with control, and that is the key.”
As long as McCaslin stays in amateur golf, he is committed to this tournament at his home club.
He knows how to play the course. And he has the support of its members.
Someday, he said would like to try his hand at tour golf as a professional. When that goal might become a reality, he doesn’t know.
“I would love to take it to the next level, but it comes down to that thing, you’ve got to have some finances behind you,” McCaslin said. “It is frustrating not to have that. But you never know. I want to (tour). I am going to, it is just a matter of time – hopefully sooner than later.”
McCaslin said he will play in next week’s Tacoma City Amateur, then the Lewis County Amateur later in the summer. There were two holes-in-one and 10 eagles recorded in the 36-hole tournament. Chris Couto, who works in the Capitol City pro shop, was the net-score winner at 131.