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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Azzarito comes from way back to win

Josh Petrie Correspondent

Jason Azzarito of Kettle Falls entered the 12th hole of Thursday’s Washington State 1A boys golf championship at Esmeralda Golf Course five strokes behind defending champion Andrew Putnam of Life Christian and fresh off a double bogey at the 11th.

Nine holes later, it was Putnam who was behind.

Starting on the 12th, where Zillah’s Duran Torrez hit a hole-in-one in the same group, Azzarito hit three straight birdies to close the gap and eventually force a sudden-death playoff. He defeated Putnam on the second playoff hole to earn his first state title and third top-10 finish.

“I’ve been to the second day before, so it calmed me down a little bit,” Azzarito said. “I had a lot of confidence after the first birdie, and then they just kind of kept coming. That got me pretty much back into the tournament.”

Azzarito didn’t get off to a great start on the second playoff hole, nearly missing the green with his 8-iron on No. 2, a 148-yard par 3.

Azzarito rebounded with a solid birdie attempt from 25 feet, leaving a tap-in for par. Meanwhile, Putnam’s tee shot sailed over the green. He couldn’t get his second shot near the hole, and he two-putted for bogey.

Each player nearly won the tournament on the final regulation hole. After slicing his second shot into the rough surrounding the 18th green, Azzarito chipped the ball behind the hole, where it caught a downhill slope and finally rested 2 feet from the cup.

Putnam’s approach landed on the fringe, about 20 feet in front of the hole. Putnam came within inches of making his birdie putt, but both players tapped in for par to enter the clubhouse with two-day totals of 140.

Azzarito and Putnam finished one stroke ahead of Freeman senior Devon Moe, whose 1-under 69 was Thursday’s low round.

Led by Putnam’s 140 and aided by having four players in the final round, Life Christian won its third consecutive team title with 44 points, defeating Charles Wright by 21.

Earlier in the day, Jon McPherson didn’t have nearly as much drama on his way to the B boys title. The Lind-Ritzville senior, a heavy pre-tournament favorite, shot 4-over 74 for a two-day total of 144, 14 strokes ahead of Northwest Christian freshman John Graham.

“It’s nice to win. It’s a pleasure,” McPherson said, “[but] the greater joy was playing a second round that was actually decent.”

McPherson, who struggled a bit with his short game, finished off the tournament with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th.

NWC won the team title on the strength of three medalist performances. In addition to Graham’s second-place finish, Jared McConahey shot 78 to move from 11th to a tie for third with 159, and Jesse Vowels finished in a four-way tie for fifth at 160. The Crusaders scored 58 1/2 points, defeating Bear Creek by 29 1/2 .

NWC also won the 1A/B girls team title with 27 1/2 points. Krystal Pitkonen maintained her fourth-place position, shooting 91 for a total of 174, and Lianne Matkin finished tied for 10th at 186.

First-round leader and 2004 runner-up Marianne Banton of Bear Creek won the individual title, shooting a second-round best 83 for a 162 total.

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