Once a upon a time, Mike Barry was the youngster getting the attention of veteran golfers in local championship tournaments.
Now, the spikes are on the other foot.
"I'm the old guy," laughs Barry, 25, who will set out to win his second Rogue Valley Stroke Play men's championship today at Centennial Golf Club.
The 36-hole tournament concludes Sunday, when winners will be crowned in three men's divisions — open, senior and super seniors — and the women's division.
Serving as obstacles for Barry will be Kevin Murphy, 18, and Dylan Wu, 16, each of whom is playing in his first city tournament.
The age limit was lowered to 16 this year, and Murphy and Wu, who have excelled in junior golf in recent years, present formidable challenges. They will play together in today's first round at 1:45 p.m., just behind Barry's group, which includes another former champion, Brad Bills.
Barry has played a few rounds with Murphy, the Rogue River High senior to be who captured the Southern Oregon Golf Championships last year. But the former North Medford High state champion and Oregon State University standout hasn't teed it up with Wu, who will be a junior at St. Mary's.
"They're both obviously phenomenal young golfers," says Barry, who works for a paper and packaging company and, with his wife, Haylee, is expecting their second child in January. "In a best-case scenario, I get to play with them Sunday in the final group and we all play well. It's exciting to have some young blood in the tournament. It's been a while since we've had young players like them come up."
For the 11th straight year, a new champion will be crowned. Not since Bills, who claimed back-to-back titles in 2000 and '01, did it has there been a repeat champion in the men's division.
Last year, Jimmy White, a former mini-tour professional, ended Barry's bid to defend the crown when he won by two shots.
White is unable to play this year, leaving Barry as the only champion in the last five years in the field. Bills won his fourth title in 2006 and is one of only three players to win the event four times since the current format was adopted in 1989. Kevin Klabunde, the '08 winner, and Brooks Newsom, the '07 champ, also have four titles but aren't entered.
Division champions who are back to defend are Glen Clark in the men's senior, Bill Seymour in the men's super senior and Tracie Armitage in the women's.
Barry hasn't played a round of golf in a month or so, he says, but has gotten out a couple evenings this week to work on chipping and putting. The last time he played his own ball in a tournament was in the 2011 Southern Oregon, when he was eliminated in the second round by Newsom.
"We'll see how it goes," says Barry. "It'll be interesting on Saturday. But, you know, it's similar to riding a bike. You get right back into that competitive mode. The toughest thing to get back is chipping and putting. That's why I've been messing around with that stuff, but it's nowhere near the preparation I used to put into collegiate and bigger tournaments."
Clark is the Centennial club champion and had considered playing the men's division, says Chris Daggitt, tournament director of Centennial. But he elected to defend his senior title.
The senior division is stronger than it's ever been, Daggitt adds, with 20 players having handicaps of 5 or less.
"It's gonna be good," he says. "Every year it's wide open, with a lot of different winners. I'm excited for it."
WHEN LAST WE checked in with James Scott, he was making a hole-in-one at Bear Creek Golf Course despite a broken leg that required him to swing with only one foot planted.
That was last summer, and Scott was featured here.
Now, he's got a new highlight — the Bear Creek course record.
Scott shot a 5-under-par 24 on the executive layout on Aug. 14, breaking the record of 25. There are seven par 3s and two par 4s.
"I've known what the record was for quite a while," says Scott, 28. "That's been a goal of mine for before I leave Bear Creek."
He's shot 26 a handful of times, he says.
On this day, he was solid from tee to green on the first three holes, but two-putted each for par. He then birdied the next three holes with one-putts and made pars at Nos. 7 and 8.
On the par-4 ninth hole, measuring about 220 yards, he hit his tee shot to about 12 feet for an eagle opportunity.
"It's actually the only time I've ever had a putter shake in my hands," says Scott.
One of his playing partners, Neil Rose, who works in the pro shop, walked up the fairway with him.
"He reminded me all the way up, 'You can two-putt and tie the record,'" says Scott. "Then I hit it dead center. I took a deep breath and laughed a little bit."
He celebrated by buying drinks in the clubhouse.
Scott, whose other playing partners were Tom Tams and Bob Jones, has had ample opportunity to break the record. He plays at least twice a week, he says, and usually gets in 45, if not 54, holes in a day.
"My putter was working," he says. "The streakiest part of my game is my putting. That day I had a total of 11 putts with 24 strokes. That's the lowest number of putts I've had in a while. Normally I'm around 14."
Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org