Thornton rallies to tie Hagen for lead at Washington Open Invitational

Brian Thornton not only knows the golf game of Kent Hagen, he helped shape it.

Thornton, the teaching professional at Meridian Valley Golf Club, gave Hagen a few lessons when the teenager played at Kentwood High School.

Now Thornton and Hagen — a recent graduate of Washington State University — are tied for the lead at 7-under-par 137 after two rounds at the 89th Washington Open Invitational at Meridian Valley Golf Club in Kent.

Thornton, the 2009 tournament champion, tied for the day’s lowest round — a 5-under-par 67 — to tie Hagen (72), who stumbled on his final nine holes Tuesday.

Lakes High School graduate Chris Griffin, an assistant professional from Tacoma Country and Golf Club, shot 70 and is one stroke off the pace, tied with Darren Black (67) at 138.

Thornton kickstarted his second round on his ninth hole (No. 18) by sinking a 50-foot putt for birdie. He then made four more birdies at his 13th, 15th, 16th and 18th holes.

“The lines off the tee and the familiarity with some of the breaks and speed on the greens is what I am generally used (to), and I feel comfortable (on them),” Thornton said. “Sometimes executing is a second matter.”

As far as Hagen, Thornton said the two play in a weekly game at the club.

“We’ve played together three or four times in the past six weeks,” Thornton said. “I know him very well.”

Griffin isn’t the longest hitter in the Northwest, but has had great success at Meridian Valley, mainly because he keeps his tee shots in the fairway.

He finished off his round with a birdie, hitting a sand wedge approach shot to within inches of the cup for a 70.

“I have always played well here,” Griffin said. “I feel the golf course suits my game based on driving it in the fairway and controlling my irons and staying below the hole.”