Sahalee Country Club instructor shoots pars final hole to defeat John Cassidy, who bogeyed it, by one stroke.
Ryan Benzel, director of instruction at Sahalee County Club, embellished his teaching credentials Wednesday by winning the Muckleshoot Casino Washington Open Invitational on the final hole.
Benzel, 39, the son of the retired town barber in the Eastern Washington hamlet of Ritzville, parred the par-5 final hole at Meridian Valley Country Club while John Cassidy of the Arrowhead Golf Club in Molalla, Ore., bogeyed it.
Both had driven into the same bunker in the left rough on the last hole (No. 9 for members but nines were reversed for contenders). After both escaped, the difference was that Benzel’s third shot left him with a 20-foot putt and an easy two-putt while Cassidy’s third shot missed the green. He chipped to 6 feet but missed the putt that would have sent the tournament into a playoff.
Benzel finished with even-par 72 and was 3-under 213 for the 54-hole tournament.
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“I didn’t think 72 was going to be enough,” said Benzel, for whom the victory was his fourth in a Northwest major. Benzel had taken a two-stroke lead with a birdie on the 16th hole that Cassidy bogeyed by missing a 3-footer. But on the 17th hole there was an immediate two-shot swing when Benzel bogeyed with a three-putt from 55 feet and Cassidy birdied.
The third member of the final group was Sahalee assistant pro Derek Berg, who started the day with the lead at 5 under but shot 4-over 76 and finished fifth.
Joining Cassidy in a three-way tie for second at 2-under 214 was Shane Prante of The Home Course and top amateur David Ganz, a Gonzaga golfer from Portland who just graduated and intends to turn pro late this summer. Last year’s winner, amateur Drew McCullough of Richland who just finished his college career at Wyoming, finished tied for sixth at even-par 216.
Benzel won $8,500 from an overall purse of $78,500 for pros.
An auction to benefit the charity Folds of Honor Saturday night raised more than $90,000 that will provide scholarships for children and spouses of U.S. military personnel killed or severely wounded in action. A donor added $1,500 Sunday.
This was the 92nd Washington Open and sixth year in a row that the tournament was played at Meridian Valley.