Chris Griffin’s life has calmed down considerably.
He married longtime girlfriend, Sara, last October. The couple bought its first house in Sumner this spring. They honeymooned at the Masters. And also last month, the golf professional returned to familiar grounds to teach – Tacoma Country and Golf Club.
Life is good. And it got better in a hurry at the 87th Washington Open Invitational at Meridian Valley Country Club in Kent on Wednesday afternoon.
After reeling in overnight leader Matt Cowell, of Bellingham, with a few front-nine birdies, Griffin closed the deal on his first Pacific Northwest Section PGA major title with late clutch shot-making.
He birdied the sixth and seventh holes – his 15th and 16th of the round – to pull away from the field. He shot a 4-under-par 68 for a three-round total of 8-under 208 total – two strokes ahead of amateur Erik Hanson (67) at 210.
Cowell shot a birdie-free 74 to finish tied for third with Mike Roters (67) at 211. Roters, of Clarkston, briefly held the lead at 8-under before suffering a final-hole triple bogey.
Four-time Washington Open champions Todd Erwin, of Tacoma, and Blaine’s Jeff Coston each shot 73, and placed tied for sixth at 213.
As for Griffin, a 1993 Lakes High School graduate, he has entered 25-30 Northwest majors over his career, and come up empty. In fact, his best finish was the last time this tournament was at Meridian Valley – 2009 – when he finished tied for third.
Funny thing, as a single man, he tried all those times and never won.
Now married, he is 1-for-1. And his wife was the caddie this week, constantly offering a second set of eyes – and suggestions.
“It was awesome that she was out here today,” Griffin said. “She is a very good golfer herself, so it is nice to get that confirmation from what she saw in a putt. But obviously being my wife and caddie – it is unreal.”
Griffin took the lead outright, but fell back after not getting up and down at the long par-4 fifth. He walked to the next tee at the downhill par 3, needing to make something happen.
With the hole playing 188 yards, Griffin hit a 4-hybrid just left and below the hole, and he rolled in the 6-foot putt to regain the lead.
And on the next hole, he struck his 6-iron approach to an uphill green just behind the hole – and walked in the 10-foot putt for another birdie to grab a two-stroke lead.
“You know what’s funny, I didn’t feel nervous at all,” Griffin said. “Sara was asking if I was breathing the whole time. I asked her if she was breathing.”
After that, Cowell and Coston – in the final group with Griffin – fell apart, never able to put any pressure on the 38-year-old champion down the stretch.
“When guys are making back-to-back birdies on Nos. 6 and 7, what can you do? You’ve got to make birdies, and I just didn’t make the putts,” Cowell said. “I had a little trouble with the greens being soft. Everything was spinning too much (on approach shots).”
After Griffin tapped in his short par putt on the final hole, he raised his left arm and pumped his fist. Just about that time, Sara Griffin came over for a long hug.
“Things have changed for the better in my life,” Griffin said. “Things are so good right now.”
Hanson, a former Seattle Mariners pitcher, notched his career third Washington Open runner-up finish. His 67 on Wednesday was bogey-free. He has won the Oregon Open and Northwest Open. … Roters’ triple bogey came after hitting his drive on the par 5 out of bounds right. … Nine players in the 150-man field finished under par. … The Washington Open is expected to return to Meridian Valley next year as well.