There were some awfully dominant performances in the Sasquatch Open Pro-Am at Centennial Golf Club this week, including one by a professional whose nickname, "Sasquatch," provided keen symmetry for the tournament.
Isaac "Sasquatch" Sanchez — his friends call him "Squatch" — won his third straight overall professional championship here, a feat the former "Big Break" television star hadn't accomplished anywhere else.
Meanwhile, on the amateur side, Rogue River's Kevin Murphy virtually cleaned up, winning the horse race with the help of back-to-back eagles and claiming the overall amateur title in the fourth annual event.
Sanchez and Murphy were during the two-day tourney. Jay Klemp, a Medford amateur, needed a single swing to enjoy a nice payday in the Sunday skins game, holing out on the par-4 fifth hole to take the whole pot.
The pro-am attracted its largest field with 125 players, or 25 five-man teams.
The tournament features the skins game on Sunday, tournament play Monday and Tuesday with individual and team prizes each day for pros and amateurs (gross and net) and the horse race after Monday's first round, which takes the top six pros and top six amateurs in a hole-by-hole elimination competition.
Here's how Sanchez, Murphy and Klemp went about their business:
SANCHEZ, 33, LIVES in Folsom, Calif., and turned pro in 1999. His experience has been on mini tours — top 10 on the Pepsi Tour — and in pro-am's and such.
However, he gained notoriety last year on the Golf Channel series "The Big Break," this one at Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. A dozen contestants were chosen from a field of about 4,000 and competed in elimination skills tests. The winner earned exemption in the PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic, plus other prizes.
Each week, one player was ousted from the show. Sanchez, who cut an imposing figure at 6-foot-6, 330 pounds, stood out, and he made it to the final three before being sent home. It should be noted he's now down to 285 pounds.
He said watching himself on 60-inch, high-definition TVs told him "it was time to put the ice cream down."
The first Greenbrier show aired Oct 2. He was on 10 of the 11 shows.
He is asked often about his appearance, and it doesn't grow tiresome.
"Honestly, I never get sick of talking about it," said Sanchez. "It was a once in a lifetime experience. It gave me an opportunity. There are a lot of people who are chasing their dreams in different walks of life. This gave everybody a window into my world and showed some of my ability. It was something I'll never forget."
His most memorable show was his last. He and the two others were to hit three tee shots and got points for each one in the fairway. The winner gained a one-shot edge in the next challenge. Sanchez was aggressive, hitting driver each time, while the eventual winner used an iron off the tee.
Sanchez considered himself a long shot to begin with, loosely likening himself to "Tin Cup" hero Roy McAvoy, and felt he needed "to take those risks "¦ go for the shot other people think is a low percentage shot."
"What's to say I would have won in the finale or lost in the finale," he added. "Once you're in that situation, you have to be willing to accept the glory that comes with pulling it off or the defeat that comes with not pulling it off."
Mark Silvers was the Greenbrier winner, defeating James Lepp a week after Sanchez was eliminated. The finale was the most-watched "Big Break" episode since the series began in 2002. In addition to a tour spot, Silvers won $50,000 and a lucrative endorsement deal with Adams Golf.
Sanchez has played a number of pro-ams and charity events, in part because of being on the show. But he was coming to Medford for the Sasquatch before "Big Break" ever happened. It's a place and a tournament at which he's comfortable, and it's not just for namesake purposes.
He said Chris Daggitt, Centennial tournament coordinator, and the staff roll out the red carpet for all the players.
"I play tournaments all over the country," said Sanchez. "Nobody does it any better than they do."
In a departure from his "Big Break" experience, Sanchez exhibited patience in pulling out the overall win.
The first day, he couldn't get anything going until the final seven holes, of which he birdied five en route to a 6-under-par 66.
"I told myself to stay patient and the putts will drop," he said. "Golf has a weird way of rewarding you when you do that."
On Day 2, his putting touch was off as he tried to force some in, said Sanchez, and it led to an even-par 72.
"I was really trying to win," he said. "I've won a lot of pro tournaments, but that's the first time I've won three in a row. That might have contributed to even par. That's not a score I'm typically over the moon about. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good, either."
Sanchez, whose goal is to gain status on the Web.com Tour or, ultimately, the PGA Tour, won the two-day title by three shots over Dane Judson and Jarrod Warner. He pocketed $1,500 for that, plus $250 for the Day 1 win and $100 each for two closest-to-the-pin shots.
His team claimed the overall title, another gratifying first for Sanchez. It was worth another $230 in cash, and daily prizes earned pro-shop credit.
No wonder he likes it here.
MURPHY USED increased length off the tee and a crowd of onlookers to his advantage during the horse race.
"I don't know if it's the excitement of getting back to playing with a lot of people watching me," he said. "I think I do better with that, but I am hitting the ball a lot further. I've really focused on trying to get a lot stronger."
The 19-year-old Murphy, who will enroll at Oregon State this fall and play for the Beavers, rode a couple of massive drives and precise iron play to win the horse race.
The dozen players started on the par-3 14th hole, which Murphy parred as two were bumped out.
At No. 15, his drive left him only 70 yards to the flag, and he holed out for eagle to a difficult front pin placement over a bunker. His ball hit, spun back, then trickled downhill to the cup.
"There were about 30 or 40 people watching," he said. "It was pretty cool."
On the par-5 16th, his drive was in the 360- to 370-yard range, leaving him a 9-iron in. He hit to 7 feet and made another eagle.
A par 3 on the 17th landed him in a chip-off for the final three spots, and he successfully advanced to the 18th. On the 391-yard hole, his drive again resulted in a short chip of about 20 yards, which he converted into birdie and the win.
Murphy has been lifting weights the past couple years.
"It's paid off a lot more than I expected it would," he said, adding that he'd be considered a longer hitter in college. "Which is good; any advantage I can get, I'll try to get."
In the tournament, Murphy was second among amateurs on Day 1, his 67 coming in one behind Dwain Barfuss. The next day, Murphy's 66 was low gross by two shots.
His two-day total of 133 bettered Sanchez's pro tally by five.
Murphy used it as a tune-up for the 61st Oregon Stroke Play Championship this weekend at Emerald Valley in Creswell. He opened the three-day event — in which he tied for second last year — with an even-par 72 Friday, putting him in a tie for seventh place, three back of leader Trey Pflug.
Murphy plans to wrap up his summer schedule in the Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships at Centennial and the Southern Oregon Golf Championships at Rogue Valley Country Club, where he's the two-time defending men's open titlist.
KLEMP NEEDED only one swing to make his presence known in the skins game, whereby entrants pay a fee and those who win a hole outright get a share of the pot.
Klemp made the gross skins all his own, knocking in his approach shot on the par-4 fifth hole for eagle. A big drive left him with only 50 yards, and soon after he found the center-back hole placement.
Winning the only gross skin earned him $1,240. The 2 also gave him a share of the net pot; five players each earned $240.
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