BELLEVUE – Seattle’s Jeff Gove thinks he has one more surge in him to get back to the PGA Tour.
Currently, the veteran is languishing on the Nationwide Tour. He turns 41 on Monday. This season, he has made just three cuts in nine tournaments. The 2005 Oregon Classic was his last victory.
That is, until Wednesday – at the 86th Washington Open Invitational.
Gove ended the event at Glendale Country Club in impressive fashion – no bogeys over his final 32 holes – and shot a 6-under-par 65 in the final round to cruise to victory.
He finished the three-round tournament at 13-under 200 – good enough for a tournament-record 11-stroke triumph over Jeff Coston (73), Tim Feenstra (73) and Corey Prugh (69) at 211.
Olympia’s Andres Gonzales, one of the money leaders on the Nationwide Tour, closed with a 72 to finish in a tie for fifth with Mike Roters at 212.
Walla Walla Country Club professional Brady Sharp closed with an even-par 71, good for a total of 2-over 215. He earned $2,650 for the ninth-place finish.
But the day belonged to local favorite Gove, who opened the final round with three birdies in a row – including a dramatic one on the par-4 third hole.
His drive was stuck behind a tree on the right. From 135 yards, he cut a 7-iron onto the green, and sank a 35-foot putt for birdie.
“A Bubba (Watson) shot,” Gove said with a wide smile, referring to Watson’s miracle playoff shot on the 10th hole at Augusta National that help him win this year’s Masters. “I had to cut it 20 yards.”
And that sequence pretty much made sure everybody else was playing for second.
“Jeff played a very great round of golf today – impressive to watch and fun to see,” said Feenstra, the 2011 Washington Open Invitational winner by seven shots. “You can tell the difference between guys that play for a living, and guys that teach and work in the golf business.”
Gove said he took the first tee as the leader, and felt as nervous as he had for any tournament on the PGA or Nationwide tours.
And it has been a while since he won – 157 tour events, to be exact.
“I really want to get back to the PGA Tour, or I still wouldn’t be out here playing.” Gove said. “A couple years ago, when I lost my card in 2010, I had one of those moments where I asked myself, ‘OK, what are you going to do – is this it?’ I kept asking myself, and the signs kept saying I need to keep playing.
“Hopefully I can get a little flow going now, and go back out there.”
For a second consecutive year, Gonzales played in the biggest professional tournament his home state has to offer. Last year, he placed third. And heading into the back nine Wednesday, he was in good position to finish second.
But he started with a bogey on the 10th hole. And two holes later, he missed a short putt for par. Those 31/2-footers plagued him the rest of the way.
“I like being up here. It is fun to play with guys I have played with in the past,” Gonzales said. “The course is good, but it was tough coming from Texas (at the Byron Nelson Championship) and really firm greens to here where you are trying to chip (approach shots) so the ball does not spin.”
A weary Gonzales has played competitive rounds on seven consecutive days, prompting him to remark after his round Wednesday: “I am going to sit on my couch all day tomorrow.”
NOTES: The last time Gove played in the Washington Open Invitational was 2002 at Meridian Valley Country Club in Kent. Gonzales made $3,750, and announced afterward that all the money he earns at this event from here on out will be donated to the tournament’s primary charity – Camp Korey. Other local finishers included Port Orchard’s Brady Sharp, solo ninth at 215; Sumner’s Brian Thornton, tied for 10th at 216; and Tacoma’s Derek Barron, tied for 12th at 217, Chris Griffin, tied for 19th at 219 and Taylor Ferris, tied for 39th at 226.