Much to Shane Prante’s relief, there were no last-minute surprises in this year’s Grays Harbor Pro-Am.
One year after learning that an apparent tournament record was insufficient for victory, the 31-year-old University Place pro with Elma ties captured the 56th annual Pro-Am golf tournament on Sunday at Grays Harbor Country Club.
Prante, whose parents (Tim and Jean Hyde Prante) are Elma High School graduates, carded a three-under-par 67 on Sunday for a 36-hole total of 133.
He finished four strokes ahead of defending champion John Cassidy of the Alderbrook Golf &Yacht Club on Hood Canal and Tacoma pro Mitch Runge, a Raymond High School graduate. Runge fired a 68 and Cassidy a 67 in their final rounds.
First-round co-leader Jon McCaslin of Olympia’s Capitol City Golf Course soared to a final-round 76, but still took low amateur honors at 142. Phillip Blackburn of Ocean Shores won the net amateur prize with a 134.
Cassidy’s group, which also included amateurs Jeff Wright, Eric Snell and Matt Tanselli, captured the team title with a 240 total. Reigning Washington State Senior Open champion Tom Sovay won the Seniors Division at 143.
The slender, long-hitting Prante can be excused for believing this title was a year overdue.
Beginning the final round one stroke off the pace in 2013, he fired a concluding 62 to shatter the previous tournament scoring record with a 129. Shortly after he finished, however, he was informed the first-round leader Cassidy had matched his 62 to win by one stroke.
There was no such late drama this year, although the title chase was closer than it appeared.
An afternoon starter, Prante led the fast-charging Runge — playing four holes ahead of him in the shotgun start format — by only one stroke with two holes remaining.
But Runge, whose final-round scrambling had included an all-world par on his 16th hole after he nearly put his second shot out of bounds, bogeyed his final two holes. Prante’s 25-foot birdie putt on the difficult third hole (his 17th of the day) sealed the victory.
“I kind of hit it greasy and made some putts today,” said Runge, who has enjoyed an excellent season on the Northwest tournament circuit. “I’d definitely like to hit it better next time. I kind of put my foot on the pedal on the last two holes and made a couple of mistakes. It’s going to be a long drive home.”
The 27-year-old Raymond alum was attempting to become the third member of his family to capture the Pro-Am. His father Louie and uncle Kris are past champs.
Two holes in particular were critical to Prante’s triumph.
After consecutive bogeys on his fourth and fifth holes, Prante fell one stroke behind the three-under-par total Cassidy had posted in the morning.
He then pounded an enormous drive on the par-5 first (his sixth hole), hooked a 9-iron approach shot around some trees and rolled in an eight-foot eagle putt.
“I hit a great drive and a 9-iron from 185 yards out,” he said. “I knew the putt was going to be big for the remainder of the day.”
After birdieing two of the next six holes, Prante hooked his drive near the out-of-bounds stakes on the par-4 eighth hole — a development that caused him to hit a second, or provisional, tee shot.
He found the first drive in play, however, and spun his second shot off the green into a collar of thick fringe grass. Unable to get a wedge on the ball, he used the toe of his putter to hit his third shot to within six feet of the cup, then holed the par putt.
“I would have taken a lot of money for a four when my first tee shot was in the air,” he smilingly told his teammates.
Prante, who collected the $1,250 top prize, will begin a new job this week as the assistant pro of the Fort Steilacoom Golf Course in Tacoma. A graduate of Black Hills High School in Tumwater, he was a three-time All-American at Saint Martin’s University.
Cassidy matched Prante’s final-round 67 despite suffering from an ailing back. The reigning State Open champion, he was three-under-par for the day through eight holes, but failed to convert several birdie putts in the 8- to 12-foot range the rest of the day.
“The last couple of days, it’s been pretty tight,” he said of his back. “I still hit some good shots today, but couldn’t get the putts in. That’s golf.”
After last year’s record-setting scoring binge, only three players broke par this year. A smaller field (with only 15 pros entered) undoubtedly contributed to the higher scoring, but Prante added that the course was also playing much firmer and faster than normal.
Pros: Shane Prante 133, John Cassidy 137, Mitch Runge 137, Chris Griffin 140, Tony Robydek 142.
Amateurs, Gross: Jon McCaslin 142, Jeff Wright 144, Scotty Scott 147, John Stullick 150, Tom Hale 150.
Amateurs, Net: Phillip Blackburn 134, Ron Martinez 135, John Stullick 136, Steve Natwick 136, Matt Tanselli 136.
Seniors: Tom Sovay 143, Mark Olson 144, Brian Davis 149.
Team: John Cassidy-Jeff Wright-Eric Snell-Matt Tanselli 240, Shane Prante-Jerry Johnson-Kirk Figg-Dave Rathbun 241, Tony Robydek-Andy Hale-Steve Natwick-Tyson Thao 243, Don Mojean-Dave Achziger-Dan Meldrich-John Quigg 244, Mark Olson-Jim Teigen-Ron Scott-Ron Martinez 244.