Vancouver golfer will leave for California to play in U.S. Open.
VANCOUVER — The Royal Oaks Invitational Tournament will tee off Friday, but the story of this year’s tournament is who is not playing in the most prestigious amateur golf event in Vancouver.
Spencer Tibbits showed up to get in some practice time Wednesday, but in his first 30 minutes at Royal Oaks Country Club he spent more time thanking everyone who came up to congratulate him.
Club members are proud that Tibbits is one of their own, a scholarship athlete, a golfer who has been able to hone his skills at Royal Oaks for many years.
Those skills were on display at the 2016 Royal Oaks Invitational when Tibbits, still in high school, won the event that features some of the best college players in the west as well as top post-college amateurs throughout the Northwest.
The Royal Oaks Invitational is a three-day tournament, which led to Tibbits declining his invitation this year.
After all, he has a plane to catch Sunday morning — he is on his way to California for the U.S. Open.
Tibbits, a former Fort Vancouver Trapper who just completed his sophomore year at Oregon State University, qualified for the U.S. Open on Monday in Walla Walla.
By Monday night, he was still unsure about what he was going to do about the tournament at Royal Oaks. As a scholar-athlete, and with the tournament’s solid reputation in amateur golf, Tibbits did not want to withdraw.
But several Royal Oaks officials and his coach pretty much insisted he get to Pebble Beach early, to focus on the U.S. Open and enjoy the whole experience. There would be no hard feelings from the club. In fact, the club is thrilled to have Tibbits representing Royal Oaks next week.
Tibbits has learned that he will be in the final group of the day for the first round next Thursday (June 13), teeing off on No. 10 at 2:42 p.m. He is playing with professional golfers Hayden Sheih of Fremont, Calif., and Connor Arendell of Cape Coral, Fla.
Interestingly, Tibbits and Sheih are friends. Two two played a few rounds together when Tibbits was a freshman at OSU and Sheih still played for Santa Clara University.
Tibbits said he will fly to San Jose, then travel to Pebble Beach on Sunday. On Monday, he has an 18-hole practice round scheduled. He will go nine holes Tuesday and nine holes Wednesday.
“The whole thing is going to be incredibly special,” Tibbits said.
Meanwhile, his caddy will have some hustle time in the traveling department. Keith Lobis, a former Union Titan who now plays golf at Gonzaga, was on the bag for Tibbits at the qualifier Monday, and he will have the bag at the U.S. Open, too.
However, Lobis is still scheduled to play at the Royal Oaks Invitational. He will join Tibbits late Sunday or some time Monday.
On the day before the Royal Oaks Invitational, Tibbits got to the course for some practice and, it turned out, a lot of socializing. So many wanted to wish him the best next week. Another golfer, seeing him on the putting green, asked him if he intended on playing the tournament.
No, Tibbits said, just practicing. Leaving for California on Sunday.
“Oh good,” the golfer said. “Maybe now I have a chance to win.”
Looks like there is an opening for a new champion, too.
Robbie Ziegler, who won the past two Royal Oaks Invitational titles, is not in the field this year. In fact, the last winner of this event who is in the field is Landon Banks, who won it in 2012.
Among the local favorites would have to be Brian Humphreys. The former Camas Papermaker now plays at Boise State.
The Royal Oaks Invitational runs all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tee times for Sunday are determined by the results from the first two days. The leaders usually tee off after 2 p.m. Sunday. The event is free to the public.