It’s happening 70-some miles south and west of the professional golf major this week at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish.
But for its defending champion, Casey Adams, and a large chunk of the South Sound golf community, the Capitol City Amateur has found its own major place on the calendar of golf tournaments in Washington.
A few “firsts” and “biggests” are in play for the 2016 edition Saturday and Sunday at Lacey’s Capitol City Golf Club:
The Cap City Am is the biggest event in number of players of any am in the state.
This year’s tournament is the biggest ever, with 200 players expected to tee it up beginning early Saturday morning.
It’s the first time the tournament will use a double-tee format, according to tournament director and Capitol City general manager Steve McNelly. Foursomes on Saturday will tee off on the first and 10th holes in morning and afternoon waves, which has allowed McNelly to open more than 35 spots to players on the waiting list.
And it’s the first time in seven years the defending champion is not named McCaslin or Earl.
Adams, 26, a former River Ridge High School player, won at Cap City last year with a clinching putt on the 18th hole to close out four-time champion Jon McCaslin and two-time winner Ryan Earl.
Adams lost at Cap City in a playoff in 2012 to Earl, who also won in 2014. Last year, Adams survived a tense back-nine battle with McCaslin, the tournament’s winner in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013. Earl, playing two groups ahead of the Adams-McCaslin group, finished a shot out of another playoff.
“Closing out tournaments is that hump that everybody has to get over,” Adams said, “to hold off the competition and get the win.”
Adams has home-course feelings about why the Capitol City Amateur rests among the top not-for-pay tournaments in the state — he knows the course intimately and works in the pro shop there. McNelly and course superintendent Don Firestone always have the course in great shape, Adams said — “The usual, firm and fast.”
The Capitol City greens, which annually earn raves from players of all stripes, will roll this year at around 12.5 on the Stimpmeter — in other words, quick.
But it’s more than the golf course, McNelly said, that feeds the field and the waiting list.
“To be honest with you, it’s because we care for the golfers,” he said. “We really want people to feel like they’re playing a tour-style event.”
From the starters and marshals to the walking leaderboards on Sunday to the large volunteer group who score the tournament, McNelly tries to run his amateur like a high-end event, he said.
The Cap City field is not just large, it’s high-quality — beginning with the long-hitting McCaslin and Adams. But McNelly noted that only 30 percent of the field is single-digit handicap players, and McNelly said the large field will let him go deeper with both low-gross and low-net payouts.
Adams said his game is in good form after a tournament spring with nothing but top-five finishes, including second place at the Puget Sound Amateur in May at Spanaway Lake and Chambers Bay and another second last weekend at the Bremerton City Amateur at Gold Mountain, which he won last year, a week before his breakthrough victory at Capitol City.
Adams said, “My game is right where I want it to be.”