A smile crept across Kevin Murphy's face and then a well-meaning handshake was extended to the three other men who shared the 13th green with the Rogue River teen Monday evening at Rogue Valley Country Club.
At first glance, one would be hard-pressed to discover what separated any of the foursome, only Murphy most definitely separated himself from the pack on this day.
The 19-year-old accomplished something no one before him had ever done at the Southern Oregon Golf Championships — and he did it in typical steady, unassuming fashion.
With pinpoint drives and precision play around the greens, Murphy proved too much for counterpart Ryan Hawkins and scored a 6-and-5 match play triumph to become the first player in the tournament's 84 years to secure three consecutive men's championship titles.
While Murphy didn't erupt with a flurry of emotions after he had made SOGC history on the 31st hole, the moment most definitely wasn't lost on the three-time champion.
"It feels great," he said of his win after stepping away from Hawkins and the player's caddies. "I'm still in the golfing mode so I'm still not really too excited, but I think it'll start to sink in here in a little bit. With all my family here and that kind of thing, it makes it really special."
Murphy already owned a piece of SOGC lore as the tournament's youngest champion after his 2011 victory — also over Hawkins — and he said he was full of confidence heading into Monday's championship final.
"I just feel like I'm getting better every year so it feels really good," said Murphy, who is an incoming freshman for the Oregon State golf team. "It's nice to know I'm improving as I keep aging and maturing. Now I get to take this confidence over to OSU and hopefully play well in some of our first tournaments."
Against the 37-year-old Hawkins, who was the medalist during the qualifying rounds, Murphy couldn't have played much better than he did in his final rounds. He needed only 31 of the 36 scheduled holes to dispatch Hawkins, who didn't play poorly but was given little wiggle room after Murphy made bogey on only one hole.
Murphy opened a 3-up advantage during a morning 18-hole round that saw Hawkins fail to gain ground despite three birdies because his counterpart had four.
"That's the way it goes," said a resolute Hawkins. "When you play a kid of his caliber and when he's playing that well, you get down like that and he doesn't give you a whole lot of opportunities. I dug myself too big of a hole this morning and he's too steady of a player to let up."
"He's just a real solid player and a good kid, too," added Hawkins. "He's won three in a row and I'm happy for him, he deserves it."
Murphy's win two years ago over Hawkins came in much different fashion than on Monday. That year, Hawkins was the one who led 3 up after 18 holes, only to have his young opponent rally by winning eight of the final 18 holes for a 2-up triumph.
Both players talked up the need for a quick start to their finals match after Sunday's semifinals, but it was Murphy who was able to make good on his word.
"I just found my swing early and I kinda ran with it," said Murphy. "I just felt comfortable most of the day and it didn't leave me at all. I kinda got that confidence going and as soon as I had it, it was like, 'Well, this is going to be a good day.' I didn't really miss too many today."
Hawkins was solid as well, only his rare misses tended to result in a lost hole. His drive on the second hole of his afternoon round took a bold bounce through the fairway and settled underneath a tree, leaving him to drop to his knees and punch the ball out as his only play.
Murphy capitalized on the opening to go 4 up but that was short-lived as Hawkins came back with a birdie on the next hole to trim his deficit. Another drive that resulted in the need to punch out from harm's way cost Hawkins on the fifth hole — 23rd overall — and Murphy built a 5-up edge on No. 6 with a birdie.
Murphy continued to deny Hawkins after that, dropping in an 8-footer on top of Hawkins' birdie to halve the seventh hole and then doing likewise from about 3 feet on No. 8 after Hawkins didn't put enough pace on his birdie effort.
Murphy's only blemish of the day came on the ninth hole when he didn't take a stiff crossing wind into account and dropped his approach shot into a greenside bunker. His up-and-down effort just missed its mark, leaving Murphy with his only bogey of the day and Hawkins nine holes to make up for a four-hole deficit.
But whatever door anyone considered Murphy had left open with his bogey came crashing closed moments later as the defending champion masterfully drained a downhill 15-footer for birdie to restore his 5-up edge.
"That was kind of a key little stretch there," Hawkins said of hole Nos. 6-10 in the second 18. "If he misses one or two of those then I'm kinda still in that striking distance. But I knew once it got to five after I made a couple errors early on that it was going to be tough to come back on him. He just kept striping it and played really solid, and his putter was hot today."
Murphy continued the theme by ramming home a 6-footer to halve the 11th hole, then Hawkins' weeklong issues on the 12th hole caught him again with a missed putt to halve the hole. With the match now dormie heading into No. 13, the writing was on the wall and the two finalists essentially matched shots before calling it a day after each parred the hole.
"I'm happy I hung in there," said Hawkins. "I wish I would've played a little bit better but that's the way it goes."
As for Murphy, the immediate question of whether he'll continue his record run at the SOGC with a fourth straight championship next summer brought forth another smile and a simple response.
"I think it's doable," he said. "I'll definitely give it a try."
With three titles overall, Murphy joins a handful of golfers who trail only Dick Hanen (four titles) and Eddie Simmons (six titles) in tournament lore.
Southern OregonGolf Championships
CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT — Kevin Murphy def. Ryan Hawkins 6 & 5.
FIRST FLIGHT — Joey Rossknecht def. Derek Zwagerman 5 & 3.
SECOND FLIGHT — Jay Klemp def. Justin Azavedo 5 & 4.
THIRD FLIGHT — Jesse Taylor def. Robert Husel 5 & 4.
FOURTH FLIGHT — Cody Stover def. Matt Eschenbacher 2 & 1.
FIFTH FLIGHT — Jonathan Purtzer def. Nick Malone 1 up.
SIXTH FLIGHT — Blake Bartlett def. Spencer Frantz 1 up.
SEVENTH FLIGHT — Josh Huffman def. Tim Shaw 3 & 2.
EIGHTH FLIGHT — Tom Pepple def. Jim Garrison 1 up.
NINTH FLIGHT — Don Shanklin def. Al Reynolds 19th.
TENTH FLIGHT — Ben Humphrey def. Scott Sterton.
ELEVENTH FLIGHT — Rick Holcom def. Nic Corbett 1 up.