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  • Phelps' game is rounding into form

  • With an early introduction to golf, it comes as no surprise that Christina Phelps wants to pursue a career in the industry.
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  • With an early introduction to golf, it comes as no surprise that Christina Phelps wants to pursue a career in the industry.
    The first tournament she witnessed was so long ago, the soon-to-be 20-year-old can't possibly remember it.
    Her father, Mark, took her to see the Southern Oregon Golf Championships when she was less than a week old. It was her first outing of any kind.
    "He took me a few days after I was born to walk around, and I've gone every year since," says Phelps, a former South Medford and Cascade Christian high school golfer who just completed her freshman year as a scholarship player at Simpson University in Redding, Calif. "It's been a tradition."
    Phelps was born on Friday, Aug. 27, 1993. Tournament week started the following Monday.
    She actually was unable to attend last year because she was busy settling in at Simpson. She didn't play for the school as a freshman, opting to use a redshirt year.
    But Phelps figures to be one of its top players this fall, and will use the SOGC as a tuneup. It'll be her first time competing in it.
    "I've already talked to my coach about it," says Phelps. "I really like the way I'm playing right now. I asked him if there's any way I can play in it."
    She got the OK, and her father will be on the bag for her, just as he was in last year's Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships, in which Christina placed second. She'll be back for that tournament, too.
    Phelps has reason to like the way her game is developing. She shot a 79 — despite making a 7 on the par-4 10th hole — to claim low gross at the Centennial Ladies Pro-Am on June 10.
    Six days later, she recorded another 79 during a Father's Day round with Mark.
    Phelps helped her pro-am team shoot 27 under and win the team title by three shots over her boss' team from Quail Point.
    Chris Daggitt, the tournament director at Centennial, recruited Phelps before Brent Santoni, an assistant pro at Quail Point. Phelps works in the pro shop at Quail Point, the nine-hole sister course of Centennial.
    Daggitt's team, which also included Candy Lucas, Joan Peek and Judy Wallace, had a clean sweep of the top honors. In addition to the team award and Phelps' title, Daggitt was low pro with a 71, and Wallace — a 35-handicapper who made six straight net birdies on the front nine — had the low net score of 67.
    Phelps' round included a 40-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole, a 240-yard shot to drive the green on the par-4 13th hole that resulted in another birdie and another big drive at No. 18 that left her 60 yards in for what would lead to a successful, 6-foot birdie putt.
    "She played very well," says Daggitt. "I was impressed. Her driver was really good. She hit it straight all day."
    He also enjoyed her easy-going demeanor. On the rare poor shot, Phelps "sloughed it off," he says, and went about her business.
    Phelps heeded the words of her teacher, Ed Fisher, and didn't pay attention to her score during the round.
    "He's always telling me, 'Don't think about your score, just go out and play each shot,'" she says.
    Still, she knew things were clicking and it was a solid round, regardless of the number.
    "It was a blast," says Phelps, who didn't know what the format was until she showed up. "I thought it was just going to be a fun scramble. On the first tee, they said, 'Oh by the way, you're playing your own ball.' That was cool. We had a great team and it was great to pull through like that."
    Phelps has had success before. She earned her first trophy nine years ago in junior golf and has added plenty more since.
    In high school, she played for Cascade Christian for three years, placing seventh as a junior in the Class 4A/3A/2A/1A state tournament.
    She transferred to South Medford for her senior year in search of stiffer competition. She thought it would better prepare her for college. At the Class 6A state tournament in 2012, she tied for 32nd.
    After a strong junior year, she says, "I didn't finish my senior year as well as I would have liked."
    Phelps has turned that around and looks forward to a few summer tournaments, then competing for Simpson. She had considered attending a golf academy in Arizona or California, but decided a college degree would be more beneficial. She's studying business.
    Eventually, she'd enjoy teaching golf to kids.
    "That would be fun, and I'd get to stay on the course and work in that environment," she says.
    u
    REACHING HIS GOAL: Ed Irvine, he of the boatload of holes-in-one, isn't ready to put his golf clubs in storage after all.
    "I told my kids that after I got 20, I'd hang up my clubs," says Irvine. "Now I've decided I'm going for 25."
    The 88-year-old, who lives near Rogue River, recorded his 20th hole-in-one on June 10 at Laurel Hill in Gold Hill. He used a 7-wood on the 155-yard second hole — where he's made his last three aces.
    I first interviewed Irvine in 2002. We played a round at Red Mountain in Grants Pass, and I got a good look at his short, efficient swing and the energy he exudes while playing.
    As Angela Granger of Laurel Hill said recently, "He's 88 and gets around our course faster than most."
    Eleven years ago, Irvine had just made his 17th ace. He said then his goal was 20. In another story two years ago, he was still two shy of the magic number.
    No longer.
    In total, 12 of the aces were at Red Mountain, four at Laurel Hill, two at Illinois Valley in Cave Junction and two in Kenosha, Wis.
    Irvine has trouble seeing the ball these days. He's had four operations on his left eye for cancer.
    "That's settled down to where it's pretty good now," he says.
    He's had similar issues in his right eye but regular checkups indicate it has stabilized.
    "I always have somebody with me to tell me were the ball is," says Irvine.
    On ace No. 20, it was Gary Snow, who told Irvine from the tee he thought it went in the hole. Snow found it in the cup before Irvine got to the green.
    There wasn't a wild celebration.
    "After 19 or 20, I don't guess there's too much reaction left," says Irvine. "Any time you get one, you get excited, but not real bad excited."
    Irvine, who says he plays "eight days a week," called it his most memorable round. Not only did he get the ace, but he matched his lowest score at the course with an even-par 31.
    u
    OOPS: In a story on Ken Bailey last week, I reported that Dick Brekke was Bailey's opponent when the latter had a heart attack during a match in the Southern Oregon Golf Championships. Brekke was actually Bailey's caddie.
    Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com
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