Three-time champion Mike Barry learned Monday that it's better to play alongside Rogue River teenager Kevin Murphy than against him.
In a matchup of players who have won four of the past five men's titles at the Southern Oregon Golf Championships, Murphy defended his crown in fine fashion with an impressive 8-and-6 victory over Barry in the 83rd edition of the tourney at Rogue Valley Country Club.
The 18-year-old incoming senior at Rogue River High carded an impressive 5-under score in the first 18 holes and needed only 30 of the 36 scheduled playoff holes to become the 10th men's champion to successfully defend his title.
"It's awesome," Murphy said of his second straight title. "I've played great all summer and this has been for two years a great way to end my summer. It shows that I can play well when it matters. Today it mattered and I pulled it off."
By all accounts, the unassuming future Oregon State University golfer earned his championship. He had only one bogey among his 30 holes and rarely put himself in a bad position during Monday's round.
"He played exceptional, he's a fun kid to watch play," said Barry, who was a standout golfer at North Medford High and later at Oregon State. "You can't be mad about it when you're playing with a player who's only going to be getting better and is going to be representing your alma mater. It was fun to watch him out there today and fun to play with him."
Barry was only 1 over in his first 18 holes but that didn't seem to matter much with Murphy clicking on all cylinders.
"He was knocking 'em stiff on the first 18 and I just couldn't make enough birdies to keep up," said Barry, 25, who won SOGC titles in 2007, '08 and '10. "Playing a guy of his caliber, you've got to make a lot of birdies and I just wasn't hitting it close enough on my approach shots to do that. I wasn't on my 'A' game today, which I needed to be, so that comes out to a thumping."
Murphy was 6 up after 18 holes, then gave one hole back thanks to a wayward tee shot on the second hole — 20th overall — of the final 18. Such driver woes plagued Murphy during Sunday's semifinals but they were few and far between on Monday as his tee shots were routinely dynamic and well-placed.
"Yesterday was kind of a fluke with my driver being all over the place," added Murphy. "Today I just tried to stay as confident as I could with it and just know that it was going to be there for me and it was."
Whatever glimmer of hope Barry may have held for a comeback quickly dissipated as Murphy regained his 6-up advantage two holes later and then played nearly flawless down the stretch.
"I just wanted to play my own game and not worry about what he's doing," Murphy said of his game plan for the second 18 holes. "I knew if I play good and play to my abilities and my strengths that I would be able to finish out and take the win unless something crazy happened."
Even when Barry put himself in prime position for eagle at the par-5 seventh hole with a mere 90-yard chip to the green, Murphy had an answer as he rolled in a 40-foot pitch and run for eagle. Barry calmly deposited his 6-foot putt for eagle, but halving the hole was definitely not what he had hoped for when he stepped on the green.
Those scoring positions came only so often for Barry, who wasn't quite as sharp off the tee as he was on Sunday and routinely had to be creative with his shots, either behind clumps of trees or playing from bad angles to the hole.
"I just put myself in bad spot after bad spot and didn't give myself a good look at birdie on any hole really," said Barry.
Murphy bumped his lead to 7 up through 26 holes overall — No. 8 on the second 18 — and then just waited Barry out with matching shots and pinpoint accuracy off the tee. The players shook hands presumptively on the 11th hole of the second 18 then were informed that the match was only dormie at that point, with Murphy 7 up with seven holes to play.
On the 30th and deciding hole, Barry turned his tee shot left into the pond to give Murphy more opportunity to close him out. The teenager's drive barely stopped outside the pond further down the fairway and he was able to get up-and-down from the sand trap to win the hole with a match-clinching 10-footer for par.
"That was a great way to finish," said Murphy, who received a well-deserved handshake and pat on the back from Barry moment's later. "I putted well all day and that just kind of topped it off."
"I want to play the best and I think Mike is one of the best out here," he said of his final grouping with Barry, "so it was a great match and I'm glad I played well."
So. Oregon Golf Championships
CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT — Kevin Murphy d. Mike Barry, 8 and 6.
FIRST FLIGHT — Taylor Garbutt d. Ryan Hawkins, 19th.
SECOND FLIGHT — Erik Hill d. Jerry Johnson, 3 and 2.
THIRD FLIGHT — Benjamin Wright d. Justin Wise, 6 and 5.
FOURTH FLIGHT — Ryan Suvoy d. Bobby Foote, 1 up.
FIFTH FLIGHT — Tony Fazzolari d. Ryan Kantor, 5 and 4.
SIXTH FLIGHT — John Murphy Jr. d. Chad Cota, 7 and 6.
SEVENTH FLIGHT — Chase Schumacher d. Darrell Flora Jr., 1 up.
EIGHTH FLIGHT — William Riddle d. Jon Ausland, 1 up.
NINTH FLIGHT — Richard Buchler d. Greg Jacobs, 2 and 1.
TENTH FLIGHT — Scott Entinger d. Scott Anderson, 5 and 4.
ELEVENTH FLIGHT — Jim Stormo d. Josh Godfrey, 2 and 1.