Three days after Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship at 50, Jeff Coston did something perhaps even more remarkable but with a lot less fanfare — he won the Muckleshoot Casino Washington Open Invitational on Wednesday at Meridian Valley Country Club in Kent at age 65.
Yes, at 65, he beat players decades younger in a tournament that dates to 1922 and whose winners include some of the greatest players in state history: Fred Couples, Don Bies, Rick Acton, Al Mengert and Chuck Congdon.
Coston’s victory was his record-setting sixth, moving him out of a tie for first with Congdon. He is the oldest winner of the Washington Open Invitational — or any Pacific Northwest PGA Major — breaking the mark he set five years ago when he won at 60.
“I’m only 35 from the neck down,” said Coston, a renowned instructor at Semiahmoo Golf & Country Club who has spent time on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions.
Coston said he believed he could still win at 65 “because I understand the golf swing very, very well.”
“And I think my experience pays off,” he said. “I think not only understanding my golf swing, but how to control my club face and how to practice properly, but also how to break down a golf course, create momentum and stop negative momentum.”
Coston had to stop negative momentum early in Wednesday’s final round. He began the day five shots behind Colin Inglis, and fell seven shots behind after playing the first four holes in 2-over par.
“I was bleeding bad and I got knocked to the canvas,” Coston said metaphorically. “Then I had a talk to myself. I try not to beat myself up on the golf course. I just took some deep breaths, tried to relax my body, and said to myself, ‘It’s OK, Jeff. Today can be easy. It doesn’t have to be hard.'”
It wasn’t hard after that. With son Tyler caddying for him, Coston played the final 12 holes in 6-under to win by two shots.
“The patience thing really served me well,” Coston said.
Coston said he was moved by his peers, who came up to him to congratulate him after the event.
“They were very genuinely, very excited about what I had achieved and that meant a lot to me,” he said.
Coston realizes winning at his age might inspire people.
“I’m not doing it for other people, but I am glad if they want to come along for the ride,” he said. “I’m trying to run across the finish line. I know I am on the back nine of life, but I want to finish strong and run across the finish line.”
Coston was an interested viewer of another inspirational victory: Mickelson’s win Sunday in the PGA Championship.
Coston first met Mickelson when Mickelson was 14 years old.
“He was my standard-bearer (the person who walks around with a mobile scoreboard) at the San Diego Open, a PGA Tour event, in 1985,” Coston said. “He still calls me Mr. Coston. I played at the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island — I was the grandpa of the field — and he said, ‘Mr. Coston, you’re still doing it.'”
Yes he was, at 56. And still at 65.
Coston spent the day after his victory teaching golf students all day. He said he doesn’t always appreciate his accomplishments, but this one he will.
“I work really, really hard but sometimes the lows are lower than the highs are high,” he said. “I’m trying to congratulate myself, rather than trying to go on to the next goal.”