The Hickory Corner: Washington State Hickory Championship

Updated: September 2, 2015

By Brian Giboney, Special to Inside Golf
Welcome back to The Hickory Corner where we will explore hickory golf (golf with pre-1935 equipment). Hickory golf in the Seattle area has made a resurgence in recent years. During the 1990s there was a hickory golf boom in this area and a state championship was held each year to declare a victor.

The first being contested at Allenmoore Golf Course in 1993 when Fred Smith became the Hickory State Champion after his fine play. By the end of the 90s it was clear who was the top hickory golfer in the region. It was Colin Gants, now the head pro at West Seattle Golf Course. Colin won the Washington State Hickory Open a record seven times from 1993 to 2002.

I recently caught up with the 7-time hickory state champ to discuss the history of the Washington State Hickory Open and in particular his record low round of 72 at the 1999 WA Hickory State Championship held at Jefferson Park. It was a round that featured 16 pars and only two bogies. Colin said he knew he had a special round going as he stood on the tee box of the treacherous 18th hole at Jefferson Park. A 400-yard par 4 that is awkward no matter what kind of clubs a golfer has in the bag.

Colin was one over par and told himself he would be happy with a 5 on the hole and played it way left away from Beacon Avenue and the expensive windshields heading Northbound. Colin decided to intentionally hit his drive off the toe of his brassie and duck hook it left into the 17th fairway. For the 2nd shot he hit a mashie up the 17th fairway setting up a niblick over the trees to the front of the green. From there Colin calmly two putted from 40 feet for a good working bogey and set the State Hickory scoring record of 72.

Worth noting that scores in the hickory era were much higher than they are on the PGA Tour today. Harry Vardon himself had a scoring average of 76.9 strokes while winning his 7 major championships. Harry did not have any rounds in the 60s and several rounds in the 80s while winning his majors. As for Harry’s scoring average in the major championships that he didn’t win, well we will not discuss those big numbers, but let’s just say that Colin’s round of 72 with wood-shafted golf clubs is a state record that will be very tough to beat in the years to come.

Colin still has the hickory bug and has no plans to seek any method to reduce his hickory fever. He has taken 16 trips to Scotland to play hickory golf and most recently won the Pro Division of the Chambers Bay Hickory Open with an incredible score of 75.

A playoff of the Washington State Hickory Championship took place after the 2002 Championship. From the outside looking in it would seem there was a lack of competition to dethrone. However, that changed in early 2014 when Durel Billy of Puyallup (now a WSGA board member) successfully ran hickory tournaments at Chambers Bay, Lipoma Firs, and Meadow Park. After he had a solid base of hickory golfers to compete in his tournaments, Durel selected October 4th, 2014 as the date to rebirth the Washington State Hickory Championship.

Why October 4th? It was selected in honor of the very first U.S. Open held on Oct. 4th, 1895 when 11 golfers competed for our country’s first national golf championship. As for the venue, Durel selected the WSGA’s very own USGA rated Home Course in DuPont to hold the annual state championship on or near October 4th of every year. A solid field of hickory golfers competed in the 2014 State Championship (one even traveled from South Carolina to compete). In the end it was Grayson Giboney from Mill Creek Country Club who fired the low round of 76.

As for that 2015 Washington State Hickory Championship, mark your calendars for September 26th, 2015 at The Home Course. More details are available at: or contact tournament director Durel Billy at