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News / Sports / Clark County Sports

Elmes dazzles on way to Royal Oaks title

Loyola Marymount grad wins by 7 strokes

By Joshua Hart, Columbian sports reporter
Published: June 9, 2019, 10:11pm
2 Photos
The awards stand at Royal Oaks awaits the winners of the 2019 Royal Oaks Invitational.
The awards stand at Royal Oaks awaits the winners of the 2019 Royal Oaks Invitational. (Joshua Hart/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The small gallery of a dozen or so people following the final group at the Royal Oaks Invitational Tournament on Sunday frequently “oohed” and “aahed” over who one woman called “a tall drink of water.”

That was none other than 6-foot-5 Loyola Marymount graduate Riley Elmes, whose final-round 72 had plenty of dazzling shots.

Pretty much his whole weekend did, in fact. He finished the tournament at 9-under-par after a 68 and 67 gave him a six-stroke lead heading into the final day. His 207 for the weekend tied the modern-day tournament record set by Vancouver native Jonathan Moore in 2001.

“It’s nice to do it in style,” Elmes said. “Just a nice way to start off the summer.”

Despite the sizable lead over Sunday playing partners, Mark Strickland, a Western Washington University graduate, and Oregon State’s Carson Barry, Elmes’ mindset didn’t change. He set the course ablaze the first two days; why not a third?

A wayward tee shot off the first tee led to an opening bogey and Barry birdied the par 4 to cut that lead to four. It never got closer.

Elmes hit his second shot on the par 5 second 230 yards just off the back edge of the green and chipped and putted for a birdie to move back to 9-under. He drained a 12-foot putt on the par 4 third to extend the advantage back to six strokes.

His shot of the day came when the gallery was the largest at the seventh hole.

A downhill 310-yard hole — named “Looks Easy” — leads many golfers to attempt to drive the green. Most golfers find the guarding bunkers or gargantuan trees; Elmes found the dance floor and had only 12 feet of it left to traverse for his eagle. He missed slightly left, settled for birdie and moved to 11-under on the weekend.

“I thought it was in the bunker to be honest with you. It was nice to walk up there and see it,” Elmes said. “I knew if I put it close to the green, I’d have a look at birdie. It was nice to have a look at eagle.”

A bogey on the ninth gave him a six-stroke lead at the turn. Elmes went on to bogey two of the first four holes on the back nine, but turned things around on the par 3 16th hole.

A safe shot to the fat part of the green led to a 25-foot birdie putt that Elmes drained to move back to 9-under for the weekend. He drilled an iron to 8 feet on the final hole, and nearly made the putt to tie the overall tournament record of 10-under, set in the 1950s.

“It’s put on very professionally,” Elmes said of why he enjoys the tournament. “The people here are awesome, and the course is awesome. It’s one of my favorite tournaments to play.”

Elmes won’t be able to play the tournament next year, as he intends to turn professional this fall to work his way through qualifying school and the Web.com Tour. He eyes a PGA Tour debut in two years.

“But anything can happen, so who knows,” he said.

Barry finished 2-under for the weekend and won the championship division.

Former Seattle Mariners pitcher Erik Hanson won the junior/senior division for the eighth time after going 1-under for the weekend, and Arrowhead Golf Club’s Pat O’Donnell won the senior division for the sixth time after finishing at 5-over for the weekend.

Columbian sports reporter