Seattle native Fred Couples, a Hall of Famer, ranks No. 1 on the list of male golfers who were born in Washington. Filling out the top 10 isn’t an easy task.
Ryan Moore makes the clinching putt at the Ryder Cup. Fred Couples comes back from injury to win twice this season on the PGA Tour Champions and Kyle Stanley recovers from a long slump to win again on the PGA Tour.
Those three players have made big news in the past 12 months, and are locks on the top-10 list of male golfers who were born in the state of Washington. But rounding out the top 10? That’s no easy task.
Here is one writer’s stab at the top 10, and if you don’t agree … well, allow a mulligan.
No. 1: Fred Couples
Top five women
Picking the top women’s golfer in state history is rather easy. After that, it gets quite a bit tougher, but here are our selections.
1. JoAnne Gunderson Carner. Carner, 78, from Kirkland, won 43 times on the LPGA Tour and is in the World Golf Hall of Fame. She is the only woman to win the U.S. Girls’ Junior, U.S. Women’s Amateur, and the U.S. Women’s Open, which she won twice.
2. Ruth Jessen. Jessen, from Seattle, won 11 times on the LPGA Tour. She died in 2007 at age 70.
3. Anne Quast. Quast, 79, from Everett, is one of the greatest women amateurs in history. She won the U.S. Women’s Amateur three times and the U.S. Senior Amateur four times.
4. Jo Ann Washam. Washam, from Auburn, won three times on the LPGA Tour. Washam, 67, was a collegiate star at Washington State, and was elected to the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1982.
5. Patricia (Lesser) Harbottle. Harbottle, from Seattle, won the 1955 U.S. Amateur. It was perhaps the biggest achievement for Harbottle, 83, in a brilliant amateur career that spanned decades.
This is no contest. Who knows how much more the Seattle native could have accomplished had it not been for the chronic back problems he has endured for most of his career?
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But what he did do was enough to get him into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2013. Couples, 57, is the only golfer from the state to win a major, winning the 1992 Masters among his 15 PGA Tour victories. He also has won 13 times on the PGA Tour Champions and is the only golfer in state history to be ranked No. 1 in the world (for 16 weeks in 1992).
Of course, you can’t define what Couples has meant to the game by just the numbers. Couples, who is blessed with good looks and exudes cool, has remained a fan favorite of men and women for decades and is among the most popular golfers in history.
No. 2: Ryan Moore
The Puyallup native began his PGA Tour career in 2005 amid great expectations. He was coming off one of the greatest years ever by an amateur in 2004, winning the NCAA title, the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Public Links, the Western Amateur and the Sahalee Players Championship.
The biggest knock against Moore is that he has not played well in the majors (no finishes in the top eight) but by any account, he has had a successful career, winning five times on the PGA Tour and being ranked in the top 50 in the world for most of his pro career.
The clinching putt in last year’s Ryder Cup was his biggest moment, but at age 34, he has plenty of time to surpass that with a major victory.
No. 3: Kirk Triplett
Without much fanfare, Triplett, who grew up in Pullman, has been a solid player on the PGA Tour and then on PGA Tour Champions for almost three decades. He has three PGA Tour victories, five wins on the 50-and-older PGA Tour Champions and is currently No. 7 on that Tour’s money list.
Triplett also has a win on the Web.com Tour, at age 49, becoming the oldest player to win on that circuit.
Triplett, 55, has more than $20 million in career earnings and played for the U.S. in the 2000 Presidents Cup.
No. 4: Kyle Stanley
A few months ago, Stanley wouldn’t have been a lock to make the top 10, but the Gig Harbor native’s star is once again on the rise.
Stanley seemed destined for stardom in 2012. He showed his grit that year, winning the Phoenix Open one week after famously collapsing at Torrey Pines in San Diego in the Farmers Insurance Open, when he made a triple bogey on the final hole of regulation and then lost in a playoff.
A two-time runner-up in the NCAA championships while playing at Clemson, anything seemed possible for Stanley except for what happened. His game went into the tank, he dropped as low as No. 652 and he had to work his way back onto the PGA Tour.
And now, after winning earlier this month in the Quicken Loans Invitational for his second PGA Tour victory, he is all the way back. That win was no fluke, as he has five top-10 finishes this year and has made the cut in 17 of 20 events.
No. 5: Ken Still
Still, who was born in Tacoma and lived in Fircrest, won three times on the PGA Tour, twice in 1969 and once in 1970. He was a member of the 1969 Ryder Cup team, the first player from the state to take part in that competition. That alone would be enough to get Still on this list.
But Still, who died in March at 82, was more than just a great golfer, he was a great ambassador of the game and a booster of local golfers. He was larger than life with his gregarious, affable personality. Years ago, he made a call to his good friend, Jack Nicklaus, and asked the world’s greatest golfer for a favor.
He told Nicklaus that he wanted him to design a second nine at American Lake Veterans Golf Course in Lakewood — the only golf course in the nation designed specifically for the rehabilitation of wounded and disabled veterans. And he wanted Nicklaus to do it for free.
“Ken wouldn’t have asked me if he didn’t think it was the right thing to do,” Nicklaus said. The Nicklaus-designed second nine opened in 2016.
No. 6: Don Bies
Full disclosure here: Bies was born in Idaho, but he has lived almost all of his life in Seattle and went to Ballard High School, so we are claiming him.
Bies, 79, won once on the PGA Tour and seven times on the PGA Tour Champions. He finished fifth in the 1968 U.S. Open and seventh in the 1967 PGA Championship. He also is a three-time winner of the Washington Open.
No. 7: Al Mengert
Mengert, from Spokane, was the top-ranked amateur when he turned pro in 1952. The PGA Tour was still a fledgling circuit, and it was more lucrative for Mengert to become a club pro, teaching at some of the country’s most prestigious courses. But he found enough time to become one of the greatest club pros in history.
He played in 27 majors and in eight straight Masters. In 1958 at Augusta, Mengert was tied with Arnold Palmer with six holes remaining. Palmer played the last six holes in 2 under and Mengert was 3 over.
Mengert, 89, was the first-round leader of the 1966 U.S. Open. He was also the leader through 45 holes of the U.S. Open in 1954 before finishing 13th. Mengert, who was paired with Nicklaus, Palmer and Johnny Miller in those players’ first U.S. Opens, is also the only player to win three straight titles in the Washington Open.
No. 8: Rod Funseth
Funseth, from Spokane, might have been higher on this list had he not died in 1985 at age 52 from cancer.
Funseth won three times on the PGA Tour, finished second in the 1978 Masters (one shot behind Gary Player) and was a budding star on the PGA Tour Champions after turning 50.
He won his first event on the senior tour by nine strokes in 1983 and lost in a playoff to Billy Casper in the U.S. Senior Open that year. In 1984, despite losing weight and strength from cancer, he had nine top-10 finishes in 17 events.
In 2005, Miller wrote that “one of golf’s forgotten talents is Rod Funseth … he was a long hitter and the best chip-and-run player I’ve ever seen.”
No. 9: Kermit Zarley
Born and raised in Seattle, Zarley won three times on the PGA Tour and once on the PGA Tour Champions.
He went to the University of Houston (where Couples would later go) and was the NCAA champion in 1962 while leading his team to the title as well.
Zarley, 75, had three top-10 finishes in majors, with his best being a sixth-place finish in the U.S. Open in 1972.
No. 10: Rick Fehr
Fehr, who grew up in Seattle and graduated from Nathan Hale High School in 1980, won twice on the PGA Tour and was a nine-time runner-up.
He finished ninth in the 1985 U.S. Open.
Fehr, 54, spent a couple of seasons on the PGA Tour Champions and is now running the Rick Fehr Golf Academy at Willows Run Golf Club in Redmond.
Honorable mention: George Bayer (four PGA Tour wins spanning 1957-60); Chuck Congdon, two PGA Tour wins (1947, 1948), tied for third in 1944 PGA Championship); Michael and Andrew Putnam (five combined wins on the Web.com Tour); Bud Ward, two-time winner of the U.S. Amateur (1939 and 1941); Jeff Gove, three-time winner on the Web.com Tour and Jeff Coston, winner of a Web.com Tour event and the winner of 20 Northwest major titles.