Based on handicap index, the guys in the 8:15 a.m. foursome off No. 10 Saturday belong to the great middle ground at the Capitol City Amateur at Capitol City Golf Club.
Based on average age, they might be in the extreme upper tier.
They hacked it around a little bit, like just about everybody else on the Amateur’s first day, and they had their good golf moments, too. It’s their tournament, as much as the guys who go low and play in the final groups on Sunday.
“Mr. Four-Putt gets a one-putt once in a while,” said Larry Downey, 75, just after dropping a par putt on No. 3, which followed a birdie chance on the second green that wound up a seven on his scorecard.
Downey, a retired military man and 12 handicap, played with Tim Gaffney, 68, a retired teacher, coach and state worker who sports a 15 handicap; Ray Hansen, a 64-year-old 12 handicap and retiree from the Thurston County sheriff’s office; and Jim Uehara, 60, retired from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife who carries a 12 index.
“These greens will never run as fast the rest of the year as they are today and tomorrow,” said Hansen over a post-round beverage. He had fresh memories of a four-putt on the par-3 No. 6, the more disappointing because his tee shot to about 10 1/2 feet from the pin had a shot at closest-to-the pin honors … but Shad Cooley was already on the board with nine feet, seven inches.
Among the players who have a realistic chance of taking home the champion’s hardware, the man atop the leaderboard is one of the hottest amateur golfers in western Washington.
Vinnie Murphy, 21, a Puyallup High graduate and current player at Grand Canyon College in Arizona, shot 68 in the afternoon session for a one-shot lead over Jon McCaslin and Patrick Nugent.
Murphy won last weekend’s Bremerton City Amateur at Gold Mountain and earlier this spring won the Fort Lewis Amateur at Eagles Pride. His practice round Thursday was the first time he’d seen Capitol City.
“It felt like it suited my game,” said Murphy, who hit driver on every driving hole. “I went out there today and played well.”
Four-time Capitol City winner McCaslin, 32, had two blemishes on his card — bogeys on 14 and 17 — to go with five birdies.
Nugent, 23, a former Olympia High player, will play in the final group with Murphy, McCaslin and defending Capitol City champion Casey Adams.
Adams, 26, shot an opening round 72, alone in fourth place. He said his front nine — with bogeys on 2 and 3 and birdies on 4 and 7, with good looks at birdie putts on 8 and 9 that didn’t drop — was typical of his day.
“It was a grind is what it was,” said Adams. “I’m in good position. I didn’t really have anything going today, so I’ll go lights out tomorrow.”
As for our 8:15 guys (average age 66.75), their next-to-last hole, No. 8, was a good capsule.
“Coach, that’s one hell of a really good shot,” Downey yelled to Gaffney, whose bump-up with his putter from a hard-pan lie 20 yards right of the green rolled to six feet. He made the putt.
In fact, all four players chipped it close from various untenable lies and nobody came away from No. 8 with nothing worse than a bogey.