It wasn’t the start Sumner’s Brian Thornton wanted — but it did not prevent him from the desired finish at the sun-baked Northwest Open at Wine Valley Golf Club in Walla Walla.
Fending off challenges from Ephrata amateur Andrew Whalen, Thornton closed with a 4-under-par 68 on Wednesday to win the year’s final Northwest major championship by three strokes.
Thornton’s 17-under 199 total tied Derek Barron’s tournament record, set last year on this same layout.
Whalen, a redshirt junior at Northwestern University, made a run with five back-nine birdies on his way to a final-round 65 for his best finish at this tournament.
It was Thornton’s fourth Northwest major title — and second Northwest Open crown. He became the first multiple winner of this event since Blaine’s Jeff Coston (2000, 2007).
“I felt the most comfortable playing this event in a long time,” Thornton said.
Entering the day with a five-shot lead, Thornton bogeyed the first hole on a three-putt, then missed a 4-footer for par at No. 5.
But he bounced back by making a 20-footer at No. 6 to ignite a hot finish to the front nine — three birdies over the final four holes.
The birdie at the ninth hole came on a 35-footer.
“That settled me down a bit,” Thornton said. “This golf course, you cannot press on. You really have to stay patient, and that is a big key.”
Thornton took home $7,000 for his win.
Highsmith upset at PNGA Juniors
Top-seeded Joe Highsmith, of Lakewood, saw his hopes of winning the PNGA Junior Boys Amateur vanish with a 2-and-1 loss to No. 16 Austin Carnese, of Portland, in the round of 16 at The Home Course in DuPont.
Highsmith, a Bellarmine Prep golfer, rallied to get the match to all square with a par at the 14th hole.
But Highsmith lost the next hole with a bogey — and Carnese took a 2-up advantage with a birdie at the next par 5.
Second-seeded Spencer Tibbits lost 1-up to Kenmore’s Mason Phelan.
On the girls side, the top three seeds — Oregon’s Ellie Slama, Bremerton’s Brittany Kwon and University Place’s Montgomery Ferreira — all scored convincing round-of-16 wins.