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Blaine's Coston wins 20th NW major win with birdie on final hole

Jeff Coston pumps his fist after making a key chip onto the 18th green, leaving him a short birdie putt at the Washington Open Invitational at Meridian Valley Country Club in Kent on Wednesday.
Jeff Coston pumps his fist after making a key chip onto the 18th green, leaving him a short birdie putt at the Washington Open Invitational at Meridian Valley Country Club in Kent on Wednesday. dperine@thenewstribune.com

Blaine’s Jeff Coston carries an affirmation for any golf-related situation — and usually an answer to every golf challenger.

Coston has set the bar to the highest level in the Pacific Northwest PGA Section. The teaching professional at Semiahmoo Resort has won every big tournament this region offers — multiple times.

He was a 19-time Northwest major winner — looking for No. 20 in the final round of the 90th Washington Open Invitational on Wednesday at Meridian Valley Country Club.

The overnight leader, Coston lost it to amateur Erik Hanson on the final nine holes, but recovered just in time to pull out a victory.

Tied for the lead with Hanson and defending champion Darren Black, Coston’s wedge shot on the finishing par 5 spun back to tap-in distance, and his birdie clinched his 20th major.

His three-round winning score was a 7-under-par 209 total, just ahead of Hanson (72) and Black (67) at 210.

At age 60, Coston is the oldest winner of the Washington Open Invitational. His five tournament wins ties former Tacoma Country and Golf Club professional Chuck Congdon for most all-time.

“I have miles on me, but they are highway miles,” Coston said. “I change the oil regularly.”

He could make jokes and laugh afterward after he won with a 1-over 73 in the final round — including a 39 over his final nine holes.

Known as a rock-solid frontrunner, Coston made the turn at 10-under, but immediately made a bogey on his 10th hole — or No. 1 for the members.

He sank a 15-foot putt for birdie on the next hole, but made bogey at the 12th hole.

And he lost his lead entirely to Hanson at the 14th hole where he had to punch out from the right-side trees, hit his third shot in the back bunker, and missed a 4-footer to save bogey at the par 4.

“Maybe I thought about (No. 20) too much on the back nine,” Coston said.

With a one-stroke lead, Hanson — the former Seattle Mariners pitcher who took up golf at the age of 29 — faced a 40-foot putt from off the fringe at the 15th hole.

Right when he took the putter back, a loud noise went off in the distance — which noticeably disrupted Hanson’s timing.

“I felt like a gunshot went off — like they had started a shotgun for the members,” Hanson said. “I flinched on it, and pull-smashed (the putt) right through the break.”

Hanson missed the 10-footer to save par, but held onto the lead when Coston bogeyed as well.

But Hanson bogeyed the next hole. Suddenly, three golfers were deadlocked at 6-under — including Black, who rallied with four birdies over his final nine holes.

“To be honest, I wanted to put a valiant defense up,” Black said. “I was shocked (to be tied).”

On the final hole, Hanson’s wedge shot from 86 yards landed in the middle of the green. He faced a 25-footer for birdie.

Coston was 12 yards closer in the opposite right fairway, but lofted a perfect wedge shot past the hole on the back plateau of the green. It slowly crept back to 2 feet.

Hanson left his putt short, and Coston calmly coaxed in the winning birdie.

“This means a lot,” said Coston, whose last Northwest major win came at the 2010 Washington Open at Glendale Country Club in Bellevue. “Sixty has been a hard number for me.

“You always wonder (if you can win), but I’ve always finished high in this tournament.”

Tumwater’s Shane Prante, the last member of the final group, made a couple of long birdie putts at the 11th and 16th holes. But he also had a few too many three-putts for bogeys — and also made a bogey from the trees at the 13th hole, a par 5.

Prante shot a 75 to finish in a tie for seventh at 214.

“It was a synopsis of the whole week,” Prante said. “I got away with (loose shots) more in the first two days. I didn’t really hit it great the whole week.”

CHIP SHOTS

Yelm’s John Cassidy, the 2014 state open winner. had the day’s best round with a 65, matching Coston for the best score of the week. Cassidy’s 213 total tied for fourth. … Oregon native Vincent Johnson, the first-round co-leader, was the only man in the field to shoot two rounds in the 60s. He shot 69 on Wednesday; unfortunately had had an 84 in the second round. … The state open will remain at Meridian Valley through 2019.

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