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  • Bills, others hope to challenge 'the kids'

  • It seemed an appropriate question for Brad Bills.
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  • It seemed an appropriate question for Brad Bills.
    With golf's championship tournament season in full swing, is he going to behave himself?
    At this time last year, he was embroiled in a couple controversies spanning the Rogue Valley Stroke Play and Southern Oregon Golf championships.
    "I hope to stay out of the paper when it comes to ruling issues," he laughed.
    Bills will be among those vying for the men's championship today and Sunday in the RVSP, a 36-hole tournament at Centennial Golf Club that has long been regarded as the city championships.
    Should he prevail, he would become the first five-time winner since the current format was adopted in 1989. Two others have claimed four titles, Kevin Klabunde and Brooks Newsom. Klabunde is in the men's senior division, and Newsom is not entered.
    There are only 15 entrants in the men's championship division, about half of the normal turnout.
    Chris Daggitt, tournament coordinator for Centennial, surmised the presence of NCAA Division I recruits Kevin Murphy and Dylan Wu prompted several low-handicap players to enter the first flight.
    For the 13th straight year, there won't be a successful title defense. Last year's winner, Brandon Taylor of Bend, has turned professional and isn't eligible.
    Glen Clark will return to try to make it three straight in the men's senior, and Dick Brekke is back to defend the men's super senior. Kathy Kolar, last year's women's winner, is not returning; the women's field has only nine players.
    There are more than 130 players overall. The final groups are expected to go off between 1:30 and 2 p.m. Sunday.
    Bills, who recently captured the Centennial Men's Club crown with rounds of 1-under-par 71, followed by a 69, would like nothing better than to be in the final group Sunday.
    That opportunity was wiped out in the RVSP last year when his group, which included Mike Barry and Mark Wilson Jr., was disqualified for hitting from the wrong set of tees two-thirds of the way through the first round. They inadvertently went to the black tees at No. 11, which weren't in use, rather than the required purple tees.
    Three days later, Bills was taken out of contention to be men's junior-senior medalist in SOGC qualifying. He put down an "8" on the 12th hole but, in an effort to improve speed of play, tournament rules don't allow scores higher than "7." And, anyone with an adjusted score can't be medalist.
    When Bills turned in his card, tourney officials lowered his score by one stroke on 12th, giving him a 72.
    Understandably, Bills — the last player to win back-to-back men's city titles when he did it in 2000 — would prefer to be recognized for his play.
    But that, he said, will be a tall order in a lineup with Rogue River's Murphy, who will begin school and play golf at Oregon State this fall, and Medford's Dylan Wu, who has committed to Northwestern.
    "I would say my game is pretty good, for me," said Bills. "I'm putting really well and driving the ball pretty well. But I got a good look at where my game is versus a really good game the other day."
    Bills, 54, squared off against Murphy in a match during a Centennial tournament Wednesday. Bills was even par through 14 holes and could have been a couple under, he said. But that's when the match ended.
    "He was just a real easy 5 under and beat me 5 and 4," said Bills. "Kevin and Dylan are just at another level. I just hope to maybe be in the last group with them on Sunday. Those guys can shoot 65 from the purple tees without even working at it. I think Kevin was hitting irons into all the par 5s.
    "Gentleman golfers or working-man golfers like myself can't keep up with kids who are full-time golfers."
    One player who might, said Bills, is Mike Barry, 26 and himself three years removed from playing for Oregon State.
    "He's young enough and hits the ball far enough that if he gets his putter going, he can compete with those kids," said Bills.
    Daggitt agreed, noting that Barry has had a couple rounds of 67 in the past couple weeks.
    "He's playing solid," said Daggitt.
    Barry, who won the city in 2010, and Murphy met in the Southern Oregon finals last year, with the latter preventing his elder opponent from claiming a fourth men's open title.
    Another player who could contend, said Daggitt, is Scott Lassen, who works at Lake Shastina in northern California. Daggitt has played three rounds with him, and Lassen's worst score was 68.
    Jimmy White, the 2011 winner, is another threat.
    The men's senior is the largest division with 51 players, and it probably is the most competitive, said Daggitt, noting that 21 players have handicap indexes of 5.2 or lower.
    Clark and Klabunde "seem to always be there, no matter what it is," said Daggitt.
    Mark Wilson Sr., who won the Southern Oregon last year; recent former champions Ken Stringer and Jim Hoffman and Centennial club champion Marty Morlan are part of the strong field.
    In addition to Brekke, top men's super senior players are Bill Seymour and Jon Paauwe.
    Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com
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