Mercy, mercy, you'll never guess who's going to tee it up in the Southern Oregon Golf Championships this week.
Former Trail Blazer Jerome Kersey, whose nickname resonated with Portland fans for the 11 years he starred with the NBA team through 1994-95, will give it a go in the men's junior-senior division of the 83rd tournament at Rogue Valley Country Club.
WHEN, WHERE: Today through Labor Day at Rogue Valley Country Club.
Play begins today with qualifying for local men. Women and out-of-town men — including Kersey, who lives in Lake Oswego — qualify on Wednesday, and match play begins Thursday. The tournament culminates with championships in each division Monday.
Kersey belongs to Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland. One of his regular golf partners is Nick Hodel, the father of Medford resident Andrea Murphy.
Kersey, in fact, is Murphy's godfather, says her husband, John Murphy.
The Murphys recently had their third child, and Hodel planned a visit that coincided with the Southern Oregon. He invited Kersey to join him.
Kersey, who has a 12 handicap, and Hodel — who competed in the Southern Oregon a couple years ago — play several times a week together, says Murphy.
"I've played a lot of golf with him," Murphy, who is entered in the men's regular division, said of Kersey. "He's a great person, as everybody knows. He's just a solid guy. Anybody who is lucky enough to get paired with him will find him to be a breath of fresh air. He's a salt-of-the-earth guy. You'd never know he was an ex-NBA star."
When he and Andrea were to be married, Murphy. said, he had to go to Portland and ask her godfather for permission. Murphy recalled riding in a golf cart when he posed the question and Kersey playfully — yet firmly — put him in a headlock.
Kersey visited Medford once before on business and played at RVCC with Murphy.
Kersey played 17 seasons in the NBA, wrapping up his career with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2001. He also had stints with the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Seattle SuperSonics and San Antonio Spurs.
The Blazers' second-round pick from Longwood University, and the 46th selection overall, completed his career with averages of 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds. His best season was 1987-88, when he averaged 19.2 points and 8.3 rebounds.
Kersey helped the Blazers to the NBA Finals in 1990 against the Detroit Pistons and '92 against Chicago Bulls and is widely regarded as the best small forward in Portland franchise history.
He is one of 408 entrants in the SOGC, the first time the figure has eclipsed 400 in several years. The tournament is the largest single-site match play event in the U.S.
There are 112 in the men's regular, 96 in men's senior, 80 in men's junior-senior, 64 in men's super senior, 32 in women's senior and 24 in women's regular.
All but one defending champion in the six divisions returns.
Those trying to repeat are Kevin Murphy (men's regular), Kevin Klabunde (men's senior), George Mack Sr. (men's super senior), Kelly Loeb (women's regular) and Judy Slater (women's senior).
Paul Johnson, last year's junior-senior winner, isn't entered.
RVCC head professional Tracy Snyder said the field is typically strong at the top of the divisions. The men's regular has a half-dozen players with plus handicaps, he said.
Murphy, then 17, became the youngest winner in the men's regular last year, beating Grants Pass' Ryan Hawkins 2 up.
Hawkins is back, and there are four players trying to become only the third with at least four titles in the marquee division. Mike Barry, Brooks Newsom, Tommy Smith and Doug Olson all have three championships.
Barry won his three from 2007-10.
Only Eddie Simmons, with six, and Dick Hanen, with four, have more men's regular crowns.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org