Looking for a royal repeat

Paul Valencia
Paul Valencia

The Royal Oaks Invitational Tournament (ROIT) is one of the most prestigious amateur golf tournaments in the Northwest, with some of the top college players and former scholarship athletes from the West taking their best shot at a title.  

 

And some of the best high school players, too.

A year ago, Spencer Tibbits became the second-youngest champion of the ROIT, winning the title while he was a junior in high school.

Spencer Tibbits gets some work on the putting green Thursday. A three-time high school state champion from Fort Vancouver, he is also the defending champion of the Royal Oaks Invitational. Photo by Paul Valencia
Spencer Tibbits gets some work on the putting green Thursday. A three-time high school state champion from Fort Vancouver, he is also the defending champion of the Royal Oaks Invitational. Photo by Paul Valencia

Tibbits is back, a couple weeks after claiming his third high school state championship representing Fort Vancouver.

“It’s kind of a weird feeling,” Tibbits said in between practice shots Thursday at the driving range at Royal Oaks. “I still feel the pressure of this tournament, knowing how many great players are in the field. At the same time, feeling great to be the defending champion. It gives me the edge of knowing I’ve done it before, and I can do it again.”

Spencer Tibbits
Spencer Tibbits

The tournament opened Friday morning and players will be on the course all day through Sunday evening. The final round tee times will be determined by scores from the first two rounds. The tournament is free and open to the public.

Winning does not get old but it does come with expectations. From outsiders. From within.

“That’s what you strive for. You want to be the one player other people put a target on,” Tibbits said. “That’s why I practice. That’s why I love the game.”

Tibbits won state championships as a freshman, and then again as a junior and senior. Those tournaments are the top of high school competition but tournaments such as the ROIT require even more attention to detail. Besides all the present-day college players in the field, there are former college athletes who still have game. There are former professional players in the field, players who have regained their amateur status.

“This is way harder,” said Tibbits, who will be playing for Oregon State University. “There are a lot of great champions in this field.”

In fact, the ROIT has not had a back-to-back champion since 1971.

Of course, it is not every year when the defending champion returns. Often, these are players from all around the golfing West and their schedules can fill up.

Spencer Tibbits practices at the driving range Thursday in preparation for the Royal Oaks Invitational Tournament. He is the defending champion. Photo by Paul Valencia
Spencer Tibbits practices at the driving range Thursday in preparation for the Royal Oaks Invitational Tournament. He is the defending champion. Photo by Paul Valencia

Still, 1971 is a long time ago. Tibbits, who already has a career filled with impressive outings, would love to add back-to-back Royal Oaks Invitational champion to that resume.

2017 Royal Oaks Invitational Tournament

Friday through Sunday
At Royal Oaks Country Club

What: One of the top amateur tournaments in the Northwest
History: Tournament started in 1957
Defending champion: Spencer Tibbits

Cost: Free

“To be honest, it’s not great. It’s OK,” he said of his game the day before the opening round. “My overall play is getting up there. It can show up at any time.

“I’m trying to grind away, get a few good rounds and get a hot streak going,” he continued. “I have every intention of getting a hot streak this week.”

The field for the 54-hole tournament has a lot of big names from the local golf scene, players who made their mark in high school golf from Clark County.

Brian Humphreys, a 2016 graduate of Camas and a former state champion, expects to be among the leaders. He just completed an impressive freshman season at Boise State.

Brett Johnson, who won a state title for Ridgefield in 2011, is in the field. So, too, is two-time state champion Gaston De La Torre, formerly of Hockinson.

Kevin Beavers, who finished second last year at the ROIT, is a Skyview graduate.

Tibbits has good memories from high school, as well. Living in the Fort Vancouver boundary, he represented the Trappers throughout his career. The past school year, he attended class there. A home-school student for most of his life, Tibbits wanted to experience campus life before going to college.

“It was definitely good for me,” Tibbits said. “From being home-schooled to all of a sudden going to Oregon State University, that was too big of a jump all at once. I would have been overwhelmed.”

Spencer Tibbits is not accustomed to that feeling. Instead, he thrives under pressure.

Three-time state champion. Defending champion at the Royal Oaks Invite. He is proud of those accomplishments, and he expects a lot more out of himself.

This weekend. This summer. And beyond.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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