Royal Oaks Country Club feels like home for Brian Humphreys and Spencer Tibbits.
It’s only fitting the Washougal and Vancouver natives got to play three rounds of golf together during the Royal Oaks Invitational last weekend.
“This tournament means a ton to me,” Tibbits said. “It’s in my backyard.”
“We’re out here playing together every day,” Humphreys added. “So, it was pretty much par for the course.”
Tibbits had a comeback for the ages Sunday. Down by seven strokes coming into the championship round, the 18-year-old from Vancouver eagled the second hole and then birdied five, six and seven.
“I knew I could kind of just freewheel it, sort of,” Tibbits said. “Bombs away … and I was 5-under after my first seven holes.”
Tibbits knew he had to get off to a good start. After just missing a birdie on hole one, he smashed his next drive into the middle of the fairway on two.
“I had about 215 (yards) to go, with no hesitation of hitting a wood and trying to slice around the trees,” Tibbits said.
He hit the ball “perfectly,” and it rolled up about 15 feet from the hole. Tibbits wasn’t out of the woods yet. He had a downhill putt, “with some left to right movement.” With a touch of English, Tibbits enjoyed watching his next shot snake into the cup for an eagle. He chalked that up to experience.
“I’ve had that putt before. I knew the line,” he said. “I just tried not to force it into the hole. I just tried to die it in there.”
Tibbits shot a 31 on the front nine. The back nine proved to be tougher, as the wind picked up and the greens were more bumpy.
“The final nine of a tournament; it’s always hard, but I gave it my best shot,” he said. “I made a couple bogies, but I also made some good par saves.”
Tibbits finished his three rounds with a 214, just one stroke away of a three-man showdown for first place. Robbie Ziegler, of Willamette, Oregon, beat Riley Elmes (The Oregon Golf Club) and Drew McCullough (Meadow Springs Country Club) in a four-hole playoff to win the championship. Tibbits followed in fourth place.
“Winning this event last year was really cool, and I definitely wanted to try and win it again,” Tibbits said. “Defending my title, and getting up there again, feels really good. I gave it my best shot. No regrets.”
Humphreys couldn’t get off the seesaw Sunday. Every time he hit a birdie, he bogeyed the next hole. The 19-year-old from Washougal finished in a five-way tie for ninth place with a 219. Humphreys shot an even par 72 Friday, went 2-over Saturday and 1-over Sunday.
“I was hitting enough good shots where I was making birdies,” he said. “When you do that, you know you’re close to putting together a good round.”
Although a few of Humphreys’ drives sailed into the trees, he quickly got back on course, which saved a few strokes. The short game is where Humphreys struggled. His approaches were inconsistent and his putts danced around the cup.
“I need to work on my chipping,” Humphreys said. “Any time I’m close to the green, I’m just not super comfortable right now.”
Humphreys had an impressive freshman year on the golf courses for Boise State University. The Camas High School graduate won the Mountain West Championship, and competed in the NCAA West Regional. He also earned an opportunity to play in the U.S. Open Sectionals.
“I was just happy to be at either one of those events,” Humphreys said. “It’s super encouraging.”
Each course threw Humphreys a curve. He wasn’t used to the deep rough at Stanford, and the Tacoma Country and Golf Club had difficult greens.
“I kind of need to see that coming earlier in the round and adapt,” Humphreys said. “I feel like I learned how to manage my way around the course better, even though I might not have played as well as I wanted to.”
Humphreys and Tibbits have become close friends through golf.
“I love playing with Brian,” Tibbits said. “He’s mature beyond his years. He handles himself so well on the course, and obviously he’s a good golfer, so I kind of feed off him.”
Humphreys was thrilled for the opportunity to watch Tibbits do his thing Sunday.
“Of course, you want to be right there with him making birdies, but it’s always fun to see your friends doing well,” Humphreys said.
Tibbits graduated from Fort Vancouver High School Saturday. He skipped the ceremony to play in this tournament. He’s on his way to Oregon State University.
No matter how far golf takes Tibbits and Humphreys, they can always come back home to Royal Oaks Country Club and have a ball.
“This is the tournament we look forward to every year because we’re representing our club,” Humphreys said. “Whether you play well or not, you know that you’re going to have a good time just because the course is that good every time we see it.”