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Playing Well into the Hall of Fame

Aug 28, 2022

Editor's Note: The following story is part of a series highlighting the members of the 2022 Washington State Athletic Hall of Fame Class. The Hall of Fame induction will take place, Sept. 16-17, at the Washington State University campus. The induction dinner will be held Sept. 16 at Beasley Coliseum with the 2022 class also being recognized at the Washington State-Colorado State football game at Gesa Field the following day. For ticket information on the induction dinner, please click HERE

As she embarked on her first season playing for the Washington State women's golf team, Anastasia Kostina met with head coach Walt Williams and was asked her goals for the upcoming season.

"Play well," Kostina recalled saying. 

Williams responded about possible goals of All-Pac-10 or earning All-America status.

Kostina was perplexed.

"I didn't know about the Pac-10 or being an All American or how it all worked," Kostina said.

"She didn't know what those terms were," Williams said. "It was all brand new to her."

Kostina's play would soon warrant recognition with those terms. At the conclusion of her collegiate career her resume included three All-Pac-10 selections as well as two All-American accolades. 

And in September, induction to the Washington State Athletic Hall of Fame.

Path to Pullman

Growing up in Russia. Kostina was introduced to the game at age nine. Saying she was never athletic, her older sister Maria was active in sports and Anastasia followed her lead. 

Golf had just gained a foothold in Russia and the Kostinas happened to live near the only golf club in the country in Moscow. 

Anastasia remembered when her love of golf clicked.

Playing in a tournament as a 13-year-old she saw a friend wearing a shirt with the Russia's national flag,and was immediately inspired by the sight.

"That made me want it so bad," she said. "I had best tournament in my life and qualified for the national team. I found my competitive drive."

As Anastasia continued to grow her golf game in Russia, her journey to Pullman from Russia would not have been possible if not for the golfing talents of Maria.

Williams learned of Maria from Randy Henry, founder of Henry-Griffitts in Hayden Lake, Idaho.

"He put me in contact with Maria because he had done some teaching in Russia," Williams said.

Maria arrived to the golf team in the spring of 2003 and earned an All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention selection.

"Maria turned out to be really good," said Williams. "I didn't even know about Ana. I found out about her much later." 

Williams added, "I didn't need to see her play. If she is anything like Maria I'll take her."

The first time Anastasia saw the Washington State University campus was when the fall semester had just begun and classes were already in session.

"I couldn't believe what a beautiful, huge campus it was," Kostina said. "In Russia even the biggest universities only have a few buildings." 

Nearly two decades later, that first day on campus is Anastasia's favorite memory of her time at WSU.

"Everywhere I walked and every person I met they knew my name," she said. "My counselor took me to every single building where my classes were. I was so overwhelmed with friendliness.

"It would have been a scary place to come and not know anybody and not know the language, but every single person I met was extremely nice and helpful," she added. "That's in my memory for the rest of my life."

In addition to the friendly reception, having Maria already on campus proved to be invaluable to Anastasia.

 "She paved the way," she said of Maria. 

One of the difficulties Anastasia faced was learning the English language and Maria's guidance was vital to her making that adjustment.

"Once we got to school, she only spoke English with me, which super annoyed me," Anastasia said laughing, while adding, "but, she was super helpful."

Excelling on the course

While she was learning off the course, Anastasia was adjusting to the challenges, and finding success, on the course.

"I remember the first time I saw her play at the old nine-hole golf course," Williams said, referring to the previous golf course at WSU before Palouse Ridge was built.

"She was putting and she looked pretty good, then I saw her chip and she does that pretty good," Williams said. "We went out and played and she played really well. I thought, 'Woah, she is good.'"

In her debut, Kostina tied for sixth and many more top 10 finishes followed.

As a junior she earned All-American and All-Pac-10 First Team honors finishing in the top 11 in nine tournaments, including nine top eight efforts.

As a senior, Kostina repeated her All-American honor, garnered 12 consecutive top-25 finishes, with nine being in the top 10.

Kostina completed her time at WSU tied her for first in several categories, including top 10 season (9), career top 10 finishes (20), and top 25 season finishes (12). She is the second WSU golfer, with fellow Hall of Fame member Kim Welch preceding her, to earn that accolade.

After her WSU career, Kostina played professionally in Europe, represented Russia at multiple European and World Championships, and was a member of the Member of Ladies European Tour 2013 and Ladies European Tour Access Series. In 2012, she won the Golf Steam Ladies Open on the Ladies European Tour Access Series, the first Russian golfer to win on a Professional Tour.

Bringing back happy memories

Kostina is proud to be a part of the 2022 all-female class in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Title IX. 

The opportunities she enjoyed throughout her career is something she does not take for granted. And she is reminded of it frequently during her interactions on the golf course.

"Talking to older golfers, they never had a high school golf team or college golf team," Kostina recalled. I played with one golfer who went to Washington State and, she's a good golfer. She said, 'I wished we had a golf team.'

"I'm really grateful I was there at a time we did have a golf team at Washington State."

Kostina married in 2013 and is now a mother of two. She returned to the Pacific Northwest and is an instructor at Hayden Lake Golf Club developing a junior program at the club teaching kids the game she loves.

Kostina looks forward to returning to Pullman in September for the induction and rekindling memories of her time at WSU.

"When I left Washington State, I traveled and went back to Russia and kind of lost touch with the university," she said. "A few years ago we went to a football game and the whole memories just came flooding back. I can't wait to bring my family back in September and show them Pullman.

"Being on the Washington State golf team and being a Coug gave me life lessons and so many friendship and golf experiences that I would never be able to experience any other way," Kostina added. "A day doesn't go by without me thinking back to my days at Washington State. It always brings happy memories and wonderful feelings of my time there."