Kevin Duke

REDMOND — Thank goodness they wore different shoes.

When the Kosanovic triplets, Jim, Joe and Gerry (with a soft “G”), showed up for our round of golf at Eagle Crest’s Resort course in matching shirts and shorts, I knew I was in trouble.

I have a hard enough time with names without having to deal with three identical brothers playing in the same group with me.

It helped that I rode in a cart for the round with Joe, so I only had Jim and Gerry to try to keep straight. Still, it took almost the entire round to begin to tell them apart. Even with the shoes as a reference.

“Well, you need some kind of marker,” suggested Joe, who lives in Eagle Crest.

No joke, Joe.

Oldest in Oregon

The brothers, born on Nov. 28, 1948, in Meadville, Pennsylvania, have done some research and believe they are the oldest living triplets in Oregon.

I found no evidence to the contrary.

All are married, with eight children and six grandchildren between them.

I had a strong hunch that I probably was not the first to have a hard time telling them apart.

“You knew today, but it’s always fun when people don’t know,” said Gerry, who lives in Corvallis. “People have been really confused. If they know Joe, and I walk in, they say, ‘Hi Joe,’ and I have to tell them, ‘No.’”

Jim recalled one of many cases of mistaken identity.

“Someone had a party for Gerry and I was invited,” he said. “I walked in and they thought I was Gerry, and I couldn’t convince anyone that I was not him.

“I had to go and pick Gerry up and bring him to prove I was not Gerry.”

Even their father had a difficult time as they were growing up, sometimes unable to tell the triplets apart.

Old photos that the Kosanovics shared made it easy to see why: They were truly identical when they were growing up.

During our interview after the round, I began to notice the small differences in their appearance now, and I think I could tell them apart if I ran into one of them on the street.

But that’s a guess. As you can tell from the photos, they are still amazingly similar.

Sibling rivalry

To say they are competitive would be understating the situation. The brothers are fairly evenly matched, all right-handed and in the 14-16 handicap range.

During our round at Eagle Crest the triplets were out for blood, evidenced by the counting of every stroke, rare gimmes (only inside a foot) and Jim’s intensity on the course.

“I’m the emotional triplet,” he laughed. “When things are going my way I’m super easy to get along with. When things are not going my way, I sort of get a little tense.

“I’m an emotional kind of guy, but at least I didn’t throw any clubs today …”

Gerry acted as Jim’s coach and counselor throughout the round.

“Because he puts off these (negative) waves, I have to pick him up,” Gerry laughed. “Then I hit a bad shot, just because HE gets emotional.

“That’s why I’m trying to calm him down all the time.”

The brotherly coaching worked on this day as Jim, who lives in Portland, finished with three straight pars to take the win.

“Gerry helped me on the last three holes,” Jim said. “That’s why I finished par, par, par.”

The siblings regularly come together to play golf for what they call the “Triplet Golf Championship” plaque and have been doing so since 1995.

Before our round, they had played and documented 165 rounds of golf together in the last 21 years, at courses all over Oregon and in other parts of the country. The winner each time is awarded the plaque, which he keeps until their next match. The golf has become more regular now that all three have retired and have moved west to Oregon in recent years.

“Gerry and I retired in 2011,” said Joe, who retired from his job as a high school history teacher in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. “I moved out from Pennsylvania and we get to play more golf now that we are all here in Oregon.” Gerry retired from his position as a school principal in Corvallis.

“They retired before I did,” said Jim, who worked as an advertising sales representative. “I retired two years ago, so there was one year I didn’t even win because they were so good.”

“In 2011, my handicap went down from 21 to 14,” Joe explained, laughing. “I bought a new set of clubs ... so everything was just clicking for me and that’s when I was taking the trophy.

“But things change, it goes in ebbs and flows.”

Gerry believes residing on the course at Eagle Crest gives Joe an unfair advantage.

“Joe lives on a golf course,” Gerry said, laughing. “Of course he owns this trophy more than I do.

“But Jim has come of age in the last three months and really improved. This is a guy that didn’t have less than a three-digit score for years.”

The brothers also compete (among each other) for a nine-hole plaque and a birdie head cover awarded to the last Kosanovic to make one. Both are currently held by Joe.

They will meet again in Portland later this month for their next match.

— Reporter: 541-617-7868, .