It was easy to spot Camas resident Eli Huntington at the Royal Oaks Invitational Tournament on Friday.
Dwarfed by elite college golfers and the massive fir trees that line the Royal Oaks Country Club fairways, the 14-year-old’s youthful face and slender frame quickly indicated his age.
It would have been hard to tell from his golf game. Huntington became the youngest golfer ever in the history of the ROIT when he teed up at 2:27 p.m. off the 10th tee.
He peppered a low liner down the center of the fairway and was off and running against the best Pacific Northwest amatuers in Clark County’s premier golf event.
And to think, he hasn’t even started high school yet.
“It’s an honor,” Huntington said. “I’d like to thank the ROIT committee for accepting me.”
Huntington, a Royal Oaks member, earned his way into the invitational-only field, and event organizers frequently checked in on how he was playing — out of curiousity not concern.
The youngster is as steady as they come on the golf course, and showcased that through 11 holes, when his 6-foot birdie putt fell to move him to even-par.
Outside of a flubbed pitch shot on the par-4 10th hole, his first of the day, he was practically perfect.
He hit all but one fairway in his first nine holes, and hit seven greens in regulation through his first 11. A bunker shot on the 17th was put to within inches for his par save.
“I was feeling pretty good,” Huntington said. “I’m pretty good at keeping my driver straight, but on the back nine I started to just make some tired swings and not hit it as good.”
The round went sideways after the 11th, as he finished went seven-over in the final seven holes to card a 79. He was tied for 73rd heading into the second day of the three-round event.
But playing alonside University of Oregon signee Austin Carnese (4-over 76) and Johnny Ward (2-over 74), a Lake Oswego High junior, Huntington got to learn a few things.
Eventually he, too, would like to play collegiate golf and got a front-row look at what it takes Friday.
“It’s a great experience to get to play with these amazing golfers,” said Huntington, whose older brother, Owen, teed off Friday but withdrew after the eighth hole with a tweak in his back.
Eli Huntington tees off at 9:27 a.m. Saturday.
Rileys rule the roost
Loyola Marymount’s Riley Elmes and Concordia University’s Riley Killip both went on heaters on a stormy Friday. And both preferred better endings. But the two Division I golfers ended the first day atop the leaderboard, after Elmes went 4-under 68 and Killip finished with a 3-under 69 to take the top two spots into the second day. They will try to hold off the 12 golfers that finished under par Friday.
Elmes birdied five of six holes after he made the turn, but bogeyed his final two holes to finish just one stroke up on the rest of the field.
Killip started off hot with an eagle on the par 5 second hole, before recording three straight birdies on the sixth through eighth holes to make the turn at 4-under. He made two bogeys and a birdie on the back side and was the clubhouse leader for 3 1/2 hours.
“It’s just a good field,” Killip said. “This is one of my favorite tournaments of the summer, for sure.”