Spencer Tibbits qualifies for U.S. Open

Former Fort Vancouver Trapper to play in his first major

Vancouver will have a golfer at the U.S. Open.

Spencer Tibbits, a former Fort Vancouver Trapper, earned a spot in next week’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach with a second-place finish Monday at a qualifier in Walla Walla.

Spencer Tibbits, shown here in 2017, qualified for the U.S. Open on Monday. Tibbits was a standout golfer for the Fort Vancouver Trappers and now is at Oregon State. Photo by Paul Valencia
Spencer Tibbits, shown here in 2017, qualified for the U.S. Open on Monday. Tibbits was a standout golfer for the Fort Vancouver Trappers and now is at Oregon State. Photo by Paul Valencia

“I’m obviously super excited to play in my first major. We’ll see how it goes,” Tibbits said late Monday night after he returned home.

“Pebble is a place I’ve played before so I have a pretty good idea of how I want to play the course, although it will be very, very difficult,’’ Tibbits said. “I’m super excited to play with the best in the world. It’s truly amazing.”

Tibbits, who just completed his sophomore season at Oregon State, won a local qualifier a few weeks back to advance to sectionals. The Walla Walla sectional, at Wine Valley Golf Club, had 55 golfers in the field, with the top three advancing to the U.S. Open.

He opened with a 5-under-par 67, and after a short break, recorded a 70 in his second round for a 7-under total. Eric Dietrich of Connecticut won the sectional at 11-under. Tibbits tied Matthew Naumec of Massachusetts for second place.

“It’s really hard to come up with the words,” Tibbits said. “I have so many people to give thanks to and be grateful for. I couldn’t have done it without the support I get from everyone on a daily basis: My parents, my coaches, my teammates, my friends. The support I get is constant. That really is what keeps me going and gives me the confidence to keep playing.”

Tibbits finished his second round with several golfers still on the course. He knew he was in good position, and he even received some congratulations from others, but he refused to celebrate until it was official.

A few minutes later, it was true. He had made it.

“It was definitely a special moment,” Tibbits said, adding he will always remember the embrace he had with his dad Steve Tibbits, and his caddy, Keith Lobis, a former Union Titan and current Gonzaga golfer.

Tibbits was 4-under after the front nine in his opening round but then suffered bogeys 11 and 13. Windy conditions to go with firm and fast conditions played a role.

“On a course like that …  I knew I wasn’t going to avoid stretches like that,” Tibbits explained. “I knew everyone else was going to have the same problem. After I made my second bogey on 13, I told Keith, ‘It’s OK. It’s going to happen. We got birdie holes coming in. We’re going to claw our way back to see how low we can go in the first round to give ourselves a chance going into the last round.’”

Mission accomplished.

“I birdied three of my last five to card a 67,” Tibbits said.

The conditions continued to be tough, but his second-round 70 was enough to gain one of the three spots from Walla Walla.

“My second round was the definition of grinding,” Tibbits said. “So many round-saving par putts, and a couple birdie putts here and there from the 4- to 8-foot range. I made every one of them. With the U.S. Open on the line, there’s a lot of pressure on those putts. I was able to make all of those putts and keep my chances alive.”

Now his schedule is about to change.

Tibbits was scheduled to play in Vancouver this week at the Royal Oaks Invitational, one of the most prestigious amateur events in the Northwest. He might have to say “no, thank you” to that invite now, because he might be traveling to California over the weekend to ensure he experiences all of U.S. Open week.

That’s a good problem to have, of course.

He said Lobis will be on his bag at Pebble Beach, too.

“My goal is to get over there and be prepared and soak it in as much as I can,” Tibbits said. “Not only for this tournament, but for future tournaments. This is my first exposure to playing with the best pros in the world. This is definitely going to be a tournament I learn from, a ton, no matter what happens.”

As far as tournament play, he wants to be there for the weekend.

“I absolutely want to make the cut. I feel my game is a good game for venues like Pebble Beach and the U.S. Open,” he said. “I like to grind it out when par is a meaningful score.”

Regardless of his play next week, Tibbits has already won. Two years after high school graduation, he will be one of 156 players playing in one of the most famous tournaments on one of the most famous courses in the world.

Almost two from Vancouver: Alistair Docherty, a professional golfer from Vancouver who went to Union High School and then Chico State University, finished in a tie for fourth at the Walla Walla sectional, one shot behind Tibbits.

Docherty has had a strong 2019, as well. He won his first professional tournament at the Reno Open, earning a spot in a PGA Tour event in July.

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