WWU senior wins Bellingham Amateur
Sept. 8, 2009
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
by MICHELLE NOLAN - THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
Matt Cowell and Chris Barker expressed gratitude to their bosses for giving them the three-day holiday weekend off after they finished one-two in the 35th Bellingham Amateur.
In turn, Lake Padden director of golf Mel Fish, who guided his 20th Bellingham Amateur, and head pro Greg Morris were pretty proud of both players, each of whom has worked at the course for four months.
"But now, you're really going to pay!" Fish joked with Cowell as the Western Washington University senior was officially declared the winner with a par-216 for 54 holes, including 1-under 71s on Friday and Sunday, Sept. 4 and 6.
"We really are grateful to get the Labor Day weekend off," Cowell said as Barker nodded in agreement. "This is the busiest course in Bellingham, with the tee-off sheet filled from sunrise to sunset."
Barker, 24, a 2003 Sehome graduate who took up golf in high school, enjoyed his best tournament showing with a second-place 221, including a 71 Sunday to match Cowell for the tournament's low round. James Hiester of Sudden Valley GC was third low gross at 226.
Cowell, 23, a 2004 Friday Harbor graduate, is one of the best athletes to come out of the Class 1A school, having earned all-league football and basketball honors as well as three trips to the state golf tournament.
"I'm still hoping to walk onto the golf team at Western this year, but my eligibility for two quarters has to be cleared," said Cowell, who played two years of golf at Santa Barbara City College before moving on to Santa Clara University.
"Santa Clara was very expensive and I decided to come back home and I enrolled at Western last fall," said the lanky 6-foot-3 athlete, who also played a season of community college basketball. "But I had to sit out a year because I had transferred from a four-year university."
Cowell, whose personal best at Lake Padden is an 8-under 64, finished third last year in his first Bellingham Amateur.
"My game is a work in progress, but I've definitely improved a lot," said Cowell, whose best finish in the state Class 1A tournament was fourth. "This summer, I've been fortunate to play courses all over the area and that has really helped.
"I feel I'm able to control the ball a lot better," he said. "I'm learning to hit from both left to right and right to left."
Cowell, who won $750 in merchandise, credited caddie Charlie Bolton for "a lot of great help on all three rounds." Cowell posted three birdies on the back nine holes after making one on the front nine.
"My best shot was on eagle Friday on the par-4 14th hole," Cowell said. "I drove it to the green and made an 18-foot putt."
Barker, who hopes to become a teaching pro, fell in love with golf at Sehome and made the varsity lineup as a senior. He has spent the past six years working in the game, including at courses in Arizona at Glendale and Sun City.
"I had a solid round (with his 71 Sunday)," said Barker, whose runner-up finish tied his career best in any tournament. "I had good birdies on No. 5 and 11. The only blemish was when I missed a five-foot putt for par on the 16th hole."
"Today (Sunday) was definitely the best day here for golf," said Cowell, who admired Barker's final-round rally for second place. "The wind was pretty rough the first two days.,"
Morris said the tournament went well, thanks to the course workers - sans Cowell and Barker, of course.
"We had a great turnout," the head pro said, "considering we had some pretty bad weather. But we did not have to go to winter rules. The difference is so much hard work put in by the staff. But those two (Cowell and Barker) have worked for (their days off) and definitely deserved how they finished."
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