When Kevin Murphy claimed his first title at the Southern Oregon Golf Championships in 2011, he made history as the youngest champion in the elite men's division at Rogue Valley Country Club.
These days at the ripe old age of 19, the Rogue River golfer appears to be taking the exact same path in pursuit of making even more history as the first to earn three consecutive titles in the men's regular championship flight.
MEN: Kevin Murphy vs. Ryan Hawkins, 9:10 a.m. and 2:50 p.m.
When he burst on the SOGC scene two years ago, the lanky teenager scored a 3-and-1 victory over former three-time champion Brooks Newsom in the semifinals and wound up edging Ryan Hawkins by a 2-up tally to secure his first victory.
In that year, Murphy was 2 up with two holes to play against Newsom when he sent a dart to the back of the green on the par-3 17th hole while Newsom's shot settled under an overhanging tree limb. That led to a wayward chip by Newsom, who ultimately conceded the hole and the match.
Flash forward to Sunday's semifinals in the 84th edition of the SOGC and the same scenario played out, much to Murphy's relief, to allow the Oregon State incoming freshman an opportunity at a third straight title. The only difference was a gentleman's agreement this year to halve the 17th hole for a final 2-and-1 margin.
Murphy's opponent today in the 36-hole match play finals? The same as it was in 2011: Ryan Hawkins.
The duo will tee off at 9:10 this morning for their first 18 holes, then resume play for their second scheduled 18 holes at 2:50 p.m.
"It'll be fun as a rematch of two years ago and I'm looking forward to the opportunity," said the 37-year-old Hawkins, who scored a 5-and-4 victory over Jimmy White to earn his title shot. "We all know how good of a player Kevin is, I'm going to have to play well. I can't give him anything, that's for sure."
Staying away from trouble and capitalizing on misplays by their opponent seemed to carry the day for Murphy and Hawkins on Sunday.
Hawkins, who won a three-hole playoff with White for medalist honors earlier in the week, got off to a scorching start while his counterpart uncustomarily struggled. Hawkins won the first five holes of their match, a few thanks to birdie efforts and a couple more courtesy of errant shots that put White in a bind, and then waited out his foe before closing things out on the par-4 14th hole.
Neither Murphy nor Newsom set the course on fire during their match, but Murphy gained a 1-up advantage midway through the front nine and essentially carried that edge through a back nine that saw him gradually heat up and leave little margin for error by Newsom.
"He didn't make many mistakes," said Newsom, 44. "Neither one of us were throwing a lot of birdies out there so it was kind of who made the least amount of mistakes, which he did."
Added Murphy: "I kinda started off slow as I have been for the last few days, but what really matters with match play is how you finish most of the time. As long as you don't give yourself a really big deficit, you've always got a chance in match play. I kinda just fed off his mistakes throughout the round; I never really did anything too special. I hung in there well enough to where I never was behind."
As in 2011, Newsom was bidding to become only the third four-time winner of the men's championship division. He has now been ousted in the semifinals in three of the last four years. It's been 66 years since the SOGC had someone win his fourth men's regular title, a feat accomplished only by Eddie Simmons (six titles) and Dick Hanen (four titles).
"Anytime you play a player like Kevin, it's a lot of fun," said a gracious Newsom. "That's why you come out here and play in these."
In other championship matches today, Trina Jones will vie for her second women's championship when she takes on Terry Levis in a 36-hole final that tees off at 9:20 this morning and at 3 p.m. Looking to defend their titles will be junior-senior champion Don Gorman, who will square off against Dan Westbrook at 9 a.m. and 2:40 p.m., and senior men's champion Mark Wilson, who goes against Steve Wood at 2:20 p.m.
First-time champions will be crowned in the other senior divisions, with Toni Anderberg and medalist Claudia Robbs vying for the senior women's title at 2:30 p.m. and Dan Dixon facing Bob Maentz in the super senior men's championship at 2:10 p.m.
Few were as shocked as Jones on Sunday that she would be playing more rounds in the SOGC. The Medford resident went 5 down to Rosie Cook after her counterpart birdied the 10th hole but managed to persevere and gain a 1-up triumph.
"She had six birdies so there's not a lot you can do," Jones said of her early deficit. "I tried to stay patient. I was just a hair off on the front nine, which wouldn't have mattered because she was throwing in darts and hitting it 50 yards past me."
"I really just wanted to make a match," she said of her back-nine mindset, "because at 5 down, you're thinking, 'Man, this is almost embarrassing,' although I didn't play horrible, I was just getting beat."
The turning point in the match proved to be Cook's inexperience on the inside course at RVCC, which can be demanding and requires a precise game plan to avoid disaster.
"She doesn't know the course well enough yet and she ended up in the wrong place and had a lot of three-putts that hurt her," said Jones, who won the women's title in 2008. "Then the wheels kinda came off. She played so well on the front but she had two three-putts in a row and went (out-of-bounds) on 12 and on 13 as well and then three-putted 14. It was unfortunate for her, it really was, because she played amazing before that."
Other than a couple hiccups as he played a little more conservative in the holes before closing out White, Hawkins said he was on top of his game Sunday. The 1994 Grants Pass High graduate made his first championship flight final in 2011 after twice earning titles in the first flight, and followed that with a runner-up showing in the first flight last year after losing on the 19th hole.
"After two years ago playing Kevin, obviously you kinda wonder if you're going to get back there," Hawkins said of the men's regular final. "I don't feel like I'm old but I am probably one of the older guys who plays in this anymore besides Brooks so you don't know how many opportunities you're going to get."
That was the same feeling echoed by Murphy, who fully understands the opportunity ahead of him. Nine players have captured consecutive titles 10 times — Dick Hanen went back-to-back in 1940-41 and 1946-47 — but none made it three in a row.
"It feels really good," Murphy said of positioning himself for another run at history, "especially since I haven't had exactly my best game out here but I've still managed with it."
"That's all it is with golf, just managing your mishits and your mistakes and not letting it get the best of you," he added. "I've done well with that this week and I've had a good attitude so I feel like I'm just building up my confidence and it'll hopefully be easier tomorrow and I won't have to really fight for it. But Ryan Hawkins is playing really well so it's going to be a good match."
Southern Oregon Golf Championships
CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT — Kevin Murphy def. Brooks Newsom 2 & 1, Ryan Hawkins def. Jimmy White 5 & 4.
FIRST FLIGHT — Derek Zwagerman def. Brandon Crosier 1 up, Joey Rossknecht def. J.T. Compher 5 & 3.
SECOND FLIGHT — Jay Klemp def. Alex Hobson 19th, Justin Azavedo def. Ryan Suvoy 3 & 2.
THIRD FLIGHT — Jesse Taylor def. Craig Smith 1 up, Robert Husel def. Eric Engelbach 19th.
FOURTH FLIGHT — Matt Eschenbacher def. David Mayer 1 up, Cody Stover def. Michael Richardson 5 & 4.
FIFTH FLIGHT — Jonathan Purtzer def. Sean McGlinn 2 up, Nick Malone def. Jake Witte 1 up.
SIXTH FLIGHT — Blake Bartlett def. Jim Achenbach 3 up, Spencer Frantz def. Keith Lallo 2 & 1.
SEVENTH FLIGHT — Tim Shaw def. Joe Arnesen 4 & 3, Josh Huffman def. Collin Krueger 3 & 2.
EIGHTH FLIGHT — Jim Garrison def. Bryan Wheelock 1 up, Tom Pepple def. Rick Buchler 1 up.
NINTH FLIGHT — Don Shanklin def. Scott Anderson 1 up, Al Reynolds def. Glen Johannes 3 & 2.
TENTH FLIGHT — Scott Sterton def. Jim Corbett 1 up, Ben Humphrey def. Jim Stormo 20th.
ELEVENTH FLIGHT — Rick Holcom def. Kevin Anderson 1 up, Nic Corbett def. Darren Bruhns 2 up.
CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT — Dan Gorman def. Tommy Smith 2 up, Dan Westbrook def. Ken Stringer 5 & 4.
FIRST FLIGHT — Duke DeBernardi def. Brooks Gard 2 & 1, Robert Neff def. Joel Jessel 19th.
SECOND FLIGHT — Brian Edwards def. Tim Trower 1 up, Craig Knips def. David Culbertson 1 up.
THIRD FLIGHT — Paul Chitwood def. Mark Weiss 1 up, Bret DeForest def. Jim Mansfield 20th.
FOURTH FLIGHT — Kevin Jones def. Dewayne Robinson 1 up, Paul Heiner def. Eric Artner 1 up.
FIFTH FLIGHT — Tom Jones def. Alex Mann 1 up, Joe Mahar def. Don Boucher 1 up.
SIXTH FLIGHT — Tom Mayer def. Rick Dyer 19th, Jack Lewis def. Christian Carrigan 1 up.
SEVENTH FLIGHT — Chris Miller def. Mark Hardin 2 & 1, Michael Diehl def. William Stewart 1 up.
CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT — Mark Wilson def. Marshall Holman 2 & 1, Steven Wood def. Glen Clark 1 up.
FIRST FLIGHT — Ken Van Daam def. Scott Mayfield 4 & 3, Doug Ward def. Robert Hyer 1 up.
SECOND FLIGHT — Michael Bauer def. Paul Reynolds 1 up, Steve Watkins def. Jerry Sessions 3 & 2.
THIRD FLIGHT — Steve Boldish def. Charlie Tissen 3 & 1, Scott Swendiman def. Doug Hartley 7 & 5.
FOURTH FLIGHT — Brent Orrico def. Mark Binegar 2 & 1, John Zupan def. Al Raduski 1 up.
FIFTH FLIGHT — Michael Armitage def. Lloyd Thompson 1 up, William Milimuka def. Don Mitchell 3 & 1.
SIXTH FLIGHT — Jeff Blum def. Darrell Hunt 3 & 1, Dan Marshall def. John Lawton 1 up.
SEVENTH FLIGHT — Mike Confer def. Chuck Carnese 19th, Mike Jantzer def. Ed Knight tied 18th withdraw.
EIGHTH FLIGHT — Al Proctor def. Michael Jones 19th, Ron Moore def. Lee Fortier 1 up.
NINTH FLIGHT — Dan Fowler def. Don Pinkham 1 up, Cliff Barnett def. Craig Prewitt 1 up.
SUPER SENIOR MEN
SECOND FLIGHT — Dick Brekke def. Dodd Samel 2 up, Bruce Hanson def. Gary Mann 1 up.
THIRD FLIGHT — Michael Goldman def. Richard Larsen 1 up, Bernie Fraser def. Ron Dixon 2 & 1.
CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT — Trina Jones def. Rosie Cook 1 up, Terry Levis def. Lindsey Stockton 1 up.
FIRST FLIGHT — Jessica Young def. Laura Pinkham 6 & 5, Julia Tissen def. Tracie Armitage 4 & 2.
SECOND FLIGHT — Melinda Heiner def. Tory Nieto 1 up, Michele Rostron def. Leslie Gainey 2 & 1.
THIRD FLIGHT — Dana Carrigan def. Dana Cody 1 up, Bridgitte Griffin def. Julie Austad 2 up.
CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT — Toni Anderberg def. Linda Tungsvik 3 up, Claudia Robbs def. Cindy Fortier 4 & 3.
FIRST FLIGHT — Nancy Moore def. Dianne Angelich 3 & 1, Jan Selby-Hughes def. Sue Hunter 2 up.
SECOND FLIGHT — Janet Stark def. Susie Daly 1 up, Sheri Driskill def. Barbara Pinkham 2 & 1.
THIRD FLIGHT — Sue Flinchpaugh def. Maggie Kilroy 1 up, Alice Hunt def. Deb Stuart 1 up.