The way Kevin Murphy and Mike Barry were in each other's ear throughout Sunday's semifinal round at the Southern Oregon Golf Championships, one might have assumed they were a match-play duo squaring off against their counterparts, Joey Rossknecht and R.O. Gamez.
Murphy and Barry seemed to have a playful dig toward the other ready at a moment's notice, and each seemed to revel in their own match within a match under perfect conditions at Rogue Valley Country Club.
MEN: Kevin Murphy vs. Mike Barry, 9:20 a.m. and 2:50 p.m. tee times.
Whatever the dynamic between the once and future Oregon State University golfers, it'll certainly be interesting how any of that changes today when the two past champions square off in what's sure to be an entertaining 36-hole final in the men's championship bracket at the 83rd annual tournament.
Barry, a three-time SOGC champion, assured his spot in the final with a 4-and-3 win over Gamez that included several big-time putts, while the defending champion Murphy was stretched to the limits by Rossknecht before ultimately scoring a 2-and-1 victory.
"That was the matchup I wanted at the beginning of the week when we got put on opposite sides of the bracket," said the 25-year-old Barry, who won the men's title in 2007, '08 and '10. "This is the perfect situation so it'll be a lot of fun. You've got an old Beaver (in Barry) and a future Beaver (in Murphy) going at it so it doesn't get much better than that."
The men's championship finalists tee off at 9:20 this morning for the first 18 holes of their match, with the second 18 holes resuming at 2:50 p.m.
In today's other championship finals, Amanda Nealy will be in search of her third SOGC women's title when she squares off against Tiffany Schoning at 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. in their 36-hole match; George Mack will vie for his third straight super senior men's title when he takes on former SOGC senior champion Bob Harrell at 2:15 p.m. in an 18-hole match; and Deb Cordell will shoot for her second senior women's crown in three years when she plays Claudia Robbs at 2:40 p.m. in another 18-hole match.
First-time champions will be crowned in the junior-senior men's division, which pits Don Gorman against Erick Doolen at 9:10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., and the senior men's division, where Steven Wood takes on Mark Wilson at 2:20 p.m.
When Barry and the 18-year-old Murphy cross paths again this morning, there's sure to be some jabs thrown — playfully, of course.
"I may try to put it by him on the first tee or something and talk a little smack down the fairway," Barry said with a laugh. "It'll definitely be a good match. I'm sure we'll both straighten our drivers out a little bit (today) and hopefully it will be all right from there."
Barry was on top of his game Sunday against Gamez, a 22-year-old golfer from Blue River. Gamez won the third hole of the day but little else after that as Barry came through time and again with clutch efforts.
"Mike's just a great player," said Gamez, who last year lost in the second round to 2009 champion Casey King. "He didn't make many mistakes and when he did, he recovered pretty good, and I didn't make any putts."
Barry went 3 up through nine holes and forced Gamez to play almost perfect if he was to make up any ground on the back nine. Barry put the match at dormie by winning the 13th hole to go 5 up, then was conceded the win after Gamez's tee shot went out of bounds on the par-3 15th.
Added Barry: "I kept the pressure on him pretty good all day and made a few birdies when I needed to and some clutch putts when I needed to as well. I hit a couple bombs today and it felt pretty good."
Barry was consistently the furthest off the tee in the semifinal foursome, but it was his long-range putting that drew the most praise. His downhill 40-footer for birdie on the ninth hole was a thing of beauty, and another wry moment between him and Murphy. Barry had advised his young peer that he was going to sink the putt prior to addressing it on the green.
"We had a side match going today with some KP games in the middle if we both hit the fairway and things like that," Barry said after the match, loud enough to remind a nearby Murphy of his cool putt on the ninth. "It was a lot of fun out there."
Murphy, a senior-to-be at Rogue River High, enjoyed a pretty even match with the 30-year-old Rossknecht before both began to limp home over their final few holes. Rossknecht squared the match on the par-4 11th before an errant tee shot on the 13th led to him giving the lead back to Murphy.
Rossknecht, the current golf coach at North Valley High and former Grants Pass High standout, had a chance to square the match again on the 15th hole but his uphill 7-footer for par just missed the mark.
"That was kind of the turning point in the match," said Rossknecht. "I had a real opportunity to do it and for whatever reason it didn't happen for me."
His luck turned even worse on the 16th when Murphy opened the door after another errant drive — an element of concern for the teenager on the back nine — but Rossknecht couldn't capitalize. With Murphy in his pocket with a conceded bogey after he lipped out a 40-foot chip, Rossknecht had a birdie putt in his sights from well above the hole but even though his soft effort made it just to the end of a plateau, it picked up too much speed on the bottom half of its journey and rolled off the green and just beyond the fringe.
"There's not much you can do from that angle, you just can't miss over there," Murphy said of Rossknecht's initial position. "You know you're going to have that steep downhill putt and that's probably what's going to happen, it's going to roll over. These greens are getting really fast and dry so you've got to really watch where you place the ball."
Rossknecht's comeback chip rolled within two feet of the hole but his bogey putt caught the right edge of the cup and circled out to suddenly give Murphy a 2-up advantage with two holes to play.
On the downhill par-3 17th hole, Murphy dropped his tee shot on the green neatly below the hole but Rossknecht's shot sailed left and under a tree. He was able to direct a chip over a sand trap and under an overhanging limb but didn't hesitate to walk up to Murphy and concede the match.
"I just kinda got tired to be honest," said Rossknecht, who was over par on his final five holes. "It was kind of a long week and I haven't played this much golf in that many days in a long time. It sounds kinda ridiculous but it's the truth."
Thankful to earn the victory, Murphy also acknowledged that he would have to step up his game if he is to defend his SOGC title.
"What really kind of hurt later on in the match was my driver, it was just not doing what I wanted it to do," he said. "The thing that kept me in it was that Joey wasn't playing very well either, we were both struggling off the tee. That inside nine, our last nine, is pretty tough, especially off the tee, so you've got to be hitting the ball great to score. It was just playing a lot harder than I thought it would be."
Nealy had an equally challenging road to her berth in the finals. She put Calista Crenshaw dormie through 15 holes before suddenly finding herself in an extra-hole adventure after Crenshaw won hole Nos. 16-18. Undaunted, Nealy birdied the 19th hole to edge Crenshaw and earn a finals spot against Schoning, who went 3-0 in round robin play among her four-person division.
Nealy ultimately finished tied with Trina Jones as each posted a 2-1 record in a loaded division that included two-time defending champion Kelly Loeb, but Nealy held the tiebreaker by virtue of her first-round win over Jones. Nealy won the women's title in 1992 and 2000.
Kevin Klabunde's bid for a fourth straight senior men's title was derailed in a 2-and-1 loss to Wilson, who clinched the match in dramatic fashion on the 17th hole. With a ball mark obstructing his path to the hole, Wilson opted to chip his ball on the green instead of putt it and deftly deposited it into the cup.
S.O. Golf Championships
MEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT
Kevin Murphy d. Joey Rossknecht, 2 and 1; Mike Barry d. R.O. Gamez, 4 and 3.
MEN'S FIRST FLIGHT
Taylor Garbutt d. Alex Hobson, 3 and 2; Ryan Hawkins d. Ryan Scheafer, 5 and 4.
MEN'S SECOND FLIGHT
Jerry Johnson d. Jamie Burton 6 and 5, Erik Hill d. Jeremy Burrows, 3 and 2.
MEN'S THIRD FLIGHT
Justin Wise d. Orette Facey, 2 up; Benjamin Wright d. Eric Engelbach, 1 up.
MEN'S FOURTH FLIGHT
Bobby Foote d. M. Eschenbacher, 1 up; Ryan Suvoy d. Jeff Barry, 1 up.
MEN'S FIFTH FLIGHT
Ryan Kantor d. Steve Bernard, 1 up; Tony Fazzolari d. Curtis Wagoner, 1 up.
MEN'S SIXTH FLIGHT
Chad Cota d. David Cutrell, 3 and 2; John Murphy Jr. d. Scott Weiland, 5 and 4.
MEN'S SEVENTH FLIGHT
Chase Schumacher d. Brady Rice, 1 up; Darrel Flora Jr. 2 up.
MEN'S EIGHTH FLIGHT
Jon Ausland d. Daryn Clark, 2 up; William Riddle d. Matt Hansen, 1 up.
MEN'S NINTH FLIGHT
Greg Jacobs d. Andy McHugh, 3 and 2; Richard Buchler d. Jim Corbett, 2 and 1.
MEN'S TENTH FLIGHT
Scott Entinger d. Jad Dickson 3 and 2; Scott Anderson d. Tanner Lawton, 1 up.
MEN'S ELEVENTH FLIGHT
Jim Stormo d. Lynn Knight, 1 up; Josh Godfrey d. Ben Humphrey, 2 up.
JR./SR. CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT
Don Gorman d. Jay Klemp, 1 up; Erick Doolen d. Keith Dierkes,19th.
JR./SR. FIRST FLIGHT
Bret Breeze d. Steve Taormino, 1 up; Mark Holden d. Todd Neilson, 4 and 2.
JR./SR. SECOND FLIGHT
Brian Adolph d. d. Robinson, 1 up; Rick Jackson d. Glenn Kilroy, 19th.
JR./SR. THIRD FLIGHT
Dave Judd d. Eddie Bostwick, 2 and 1; D. Westbrook d. Brent Barr, 3 and 2.
JR./SR. FOURTH FLIGHT
Rich Warner d. Dennis Richards, 1 up; G. Humphrey d. Alex Mann, 2 and 1.
JR./SR. FIFTH FLIGHT
John Hall d. James Parsley, 1 up; Joe Mahar d. Matt Sorenson, 1 up.
JR./SR. SIXTH FLIGHT
Brian Mosier d. Bud Bowie, 3 and 2; Tony Nieto d. Don Boucher, 1 up.
JR./SR. SEVENTH FLIGHT
C. Carrigan d. J. Salamone, 1 up; Jack Lewis d. Mike Snyder, 3 and 2.
SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT
Mark Wilson d. Kevin Klabunde, 2 and 1; Steven Wood d. Glen Clark, 4 and 3.
SENIOR FIRST FLIGHT
Terry Anderson d. Jerry Eklund, 1 up; Ken Stringer d. Jim McCabe, 1 up.
SENIOR SECOND FLIGHT
Mark Slezak d. Norm Veronneau, 4 and 3; Ron Harvey d. Ron Lewis, 2 and 1.
SENIOR THIRD FLIGHT
Terry Smith d. Dennis Slattery, 2 and 1; Scott Weaver d. Warren Wagner, 20th.
SENIOR FOURTH FLIGHT
Billy Bednar d. Scott Swendiman, 2 and 1; Wm. Milimuka d. Mark Artner, 2 up.
SENIOR FIFTH FLIGHT
Gary Glass d. Terry Buntin, 1 up; Chuck Bork d. Doug Hartley, 3 and 2.
SENIOR SIXTH FLIGHT
John Lawton d. Shane Thurston, 1 up; Dan Marshall d. Kevin Aguirre, 1 up.
SENIOR SEVENTH FLIGHT
Michael Armitage d. Tom Jamison, 1 up; Darrel Hunt d. Chuck Carnese, 1 up.
SENIOR EIGHTH FLIGHT
Don Pinkham d. Ed Knight, 1 up; Cliff Barnett d. Jim Hauck, 19th.
SENIOR NINTH FLIGHT
Lee Fortier d. Jim Zauher, 1 up; Tom Groves d. Dan Kosmatka, 2 and 1.
SUPER SENIOR SECOND FLIGHT
Arn Whitol d. Michael Miller, 1 up; Bruce MacDonald d. Jim Hatton, 3 and 2.
SUPER SENIOR THIRD FLIGHT
Harvey Myers d. Ron Primasing, 2 and 1; Gary Mann d. Larry Schmaltz, 1 up.
WOMEN CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT
Trina Jones. d. Kelly Loeb, 3 and 2; Nettie Morrison d. Terry Levis, 2 and 1; Amanda Nealy d. Calista Crenshaw, 19th; Tiffany Schoning d. Amy Anderson, 4 and 3.
WOMEN FIRST FLIGHT
Tracie Armitage d. Lori Humphry, 5 and 4; Leslie Gainey d. Melinda Heiner, 2 up; M. McFaddin d. Julia Tissen, 2 and 1; Jennifer Ausland d. Makenna Clark, 2 and 1.
WOMEN SECOND FLIGHT
Lindsey Stockton d. Eileen Whitten, 1 up; Cathy Trower d. Bridgitte Griffin, 19th Barbara Stormo d. Heather Wise, 1 up; Tonia Husel d. Cortney Hall, 4 and 3.
SENIOR WOMEN CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT
Claudia Robbs d. Judy Slater, 3 up; Deb Stuart d. Barb Pinkham, 3 and 2; Shelley Lehrkind d. Gail Jones, 5 and 4; Deb Cordell d. Sue Hunter, 1 up.
SENIOR WOMEN FIRST FLIGHT
Cindy Fortier d. Alison Myers, 1 up; Alice Hunt d. A. Van Daam, 19th; Sharon Krauss d. M. Metzger, 3 and 2; Janis Crenshaw d. Janet Stark, 3 and 2.
SENIOR WOMEN SECOND FLIGHT
Jan Selby-Hughes d. Teri Mayer, 2 and 1; Tina Blum d. Tammie Allen, 3 and 2; Dana Carrigan d. LeeAnn Loftin, 1 up; Cathy Dunlap d. Tory Nieto, 3 and 2.
SENIOR WOMEN THIRD FLIGHT
Peggy Tomlins d. Sandra Wagner, 1 up; R. Harrington d. Maggie Kilroy, 3 and 1; Sharon Swartsley d. Coral Edwards, 1 up; Julie Austad d. Nancy Gish, 1 up.