All-Region boys golf: Fort freshman Tibbits stays on course at big moments

State champion Tibbits veteran of pressure even before 3A state crown

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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He might be a freshman in high school, but playing in the Class 3A state high school golf tournament was nothing new for Spencer Tibbits.

"It didn't seem different to me," he said, comparing the 36-hole competition at Tri-Mountain Golf Course in Ridgefield to countless junior golf tournaments he has played.

The result was familiar, too.

Tibbits made a difficult putt on the 17th hole to clinch the individual championship, holding off two-time defending champion Frank Garber of Juanita. His 36-hole score was a 4-under-par, one stroke better than Garber and giving Fort Vancouver a state champion.

That accomplishment made Tibbits the clear choice as The Columbian All-Region boys golfer of the year for 2013-14. But it was not only the strong finish that made Tibbits' freshman year noteworthy.

In October's Class 3A district tournament, he shot a 7-under-par 65 on the first day and wound up winning by 12 strokes.

Tibbits, 15, won his first state-wide tournament in 2009 by beating other 10-year-olds in Washington and Oregon.

So when his putter was inconsistent on the second day of the high school state tournament — "I was feeling a little bit more pressure the last few holes," Tibbits admitted — he was largely unfazed.

Plenty of work on his iron shots over the winter helped him prepare for 2014. And when his irons failed him a bit down the stretch, he made the chips that counted.

Chip shots on holes No. 15 and 16 were particularly crucial, he said.

"I hit a couple loose iron shots, but I got up and down both times to save par," he said. "I was in the rough and on both shots I had to go over a ridge and (the green) had a little break to it."

Tibbits credits coach Bruce Stewart at Arrowhead Golf Club in Mollala, Ore., with whom he has worked for several years, for refining his game. It helps that Tibbits often plays at least six days a week. Even in the winter, he is a regular at Heron Lakes in north Portland.

When he isn't golfing, his free time often involves watching the Golf Channel, the place where Tibbits first discovered golf. Australian Adam Scott, who entered this week's U.S. Open as the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world, is Tibbits' favorite professional golfer.

"Everything about his game is really good," Tibbits said, listing Scott's calm demeanor as one trait he aspires to copy.

This summer, Tibbits aspires to again be one of the top golfers competing on the Oregon Junior Golf circuit. He expects to play in 35 summer tournaments — yes, that is more than one a week. His goals for the summer include earning the opportunity to represent Oregon Junior Golf against the best junior golfers from other Western states in the annual Hogan Cup tournament in Portland.

Wherever his summer schedule takes him, no matter the ups and downs, Tibbits will go as a state champion.

Player of the year

Spencer Tibbits, fr., Fort Vancouver

Tibbits shot a pair of 70s to win the 3A state tournament by one shot. He won the 3A district championship by 12 strokes.

Rest of All-Region team

BRANDON BARNES, COLUMBIA RIVER: The 3A district runner-up shot a 154 at the state tournament to place 12th.

DIEGO DE LA TORRE, HOCKINSON: The 2A district champion shot a 151 at the state tournament to place eighth.

BRIAN HUMPHREYS, CAMAS: The 2013 All-Region player of the year rallied in the second day to finish tied for second in the 4A state tournament.

SPENCER LONG, COLUMBIA RIVER: Long shot a 150 at the 3A state tournament to place fifth. He also placed fourth at district.

ZACH NG, MOUNTAIN VIEW: Ng shot a 151 at the 3A state tournament to place seventh. He placed third at district.

RYAN STURDIVAN, WOODLAND: The 1A district champion shot 150 at the 1A state tournament to place third and help Woodland win a team title.