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Highsmith holds off teammate for wire-to-wire Sahalee victory
Joe Highsmith (PNGA photo)
Joe Highsmith (PNGA photo)

Joe Highsmith of Lakewood, Wash. shot rounds of 70-68-69-74 to win the 25th Sahalee Players Championship, held this week at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash. His 7-under-par total of 281 was two shots better than second-place finisher Sahith Theegala of Chino Hills, Calif.

Highsmith and Theegala were the only two players in the field of 64 elite international amateurs to finish the championship under par, and early in today’s final round made it a two-man race for the title. Paired together in the final group, Highsmith started the day with a two-shot lead over Theegala, but after the sixth hole Theegala had pulled even.

The swing hole of the championship was the 544-yard par-5 11th hole. Highsmith put his second shot to 18 feet, and Theegala, after a 340-yard drive, put his second shot in the right greenside bunker. Highsmith would two-putt for birdie, while Theegala blasted out of the bunker but then three-putted for bogey, making for a two-shot swing.

Highsmith just finished his freshman year at Pepperdine University, where he earned the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year honors and was named to the All-WCC First Team. He won the 2017 Washington State Amateur, the youngest player to do so, and is a two-time WSGA Junior Boys’ Player of the Year and also was named the 2017 PNGA Junior Boys’ Player of the Year.

Highsmith and Theegala are teammates on the Pepperdine University men’s golf team. Theegala won the 2017 Sahalee Players Championship and had to take a 10-month break from golf due to a wrist injury that required surgery.

“Yeah, some bogeys are definitely better than others,” Highsmith said afterward. “The 12th hole was big. Saving bogey on that hole gave me somewhat of a buffer to make a strong finish.” On that par-4 12th hole, the left-handed Highsmith had pushed his second shot into the brush, and after an all-gallery search for the ball, it was found embedded in the soft soil. He was granted a free drop, but then proceeded to chip his third shot into the greenside bunker. He blasted out, and sunk the 12-footer to save a bogey.

“I had a hot putter going all week,” he said. “Typically my game is the opposite. I’ll hit the ball really well, but then do nothing on the greens. But this week was really average ball-striking, and fortunately had the putter going well. I made a bunch of five-to-10 foot par saves, which was the difference.”

Highsmith now adds his name to a long list of winners of this prestigious championship, including Ryan Moore, Kyle Stanley, Casey Martin, Jason Gore, Daniel Summerhays, among many others.

Since its founding in 1992, Sahalee Country Club has worked closely with the Pacific Northwest Golf Association (PNGA) to establish the SPC as a premier national event, according to Troy Andrew, CEO and executive director of the PNGA. The PNGA continues to administer the championship, led by PNGA Asst. Director of Rules and Competition Nate Schroeder.

“The vision was to keep our top-ranked amateurs in the Pacific Northwest from having to always go back East to get national attention for Walker Cup or international team consideration,” Andrew says. “It worked. The Sahalee Players Championship is now recognized as one of the premier amateur championships in the world because of the strong field it continues to attract.”

Results: Sahalee Players Championship
1WAJoe HighsmithLakewood, WA100070-68-69-74=281
2CASahith TheegalaChino Hills, CA70072-68-69-74=283
3CanadaChris CrisologoCanada50070-71-76-72=289
T4AZMason AndersenChandler, AZ50075-73-69-73=290
T4WASpencer TibbitsVancouver, WA50074-73-70-73=290

View full results for Sahalee Players Championship

ABOUT THE Sahalee Players Championship

Inaugurated in 1992, the Sahalee Players Championship (SPC) at its inception strove to annually showcase the best amateur golfers in the Pacific Northwest. As the stature of the club continued to grow as a result of hosting the 1998 PGA Championship and 2002 World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational, the SPC's founders decided to make the SPC a truly international amateur event. As such, invitations to the Sahalee Players Championship are extended only to the finest amateur players worldwide. Those asked to compete will face the same challenge as the professionals at the PGA Championship and WGC-NEC Invitational — 72 holes at stroke play over Sahalee's demanding South and North nines.

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