EAGLE POINT — Bill Winter doffed his cap, scratched his head and squinted at the question.

EAGLE POINT — Bill Winter doffed his cap, scratched his head and squinted at the question.

The golf coach of the University of Portland men's team was asked what he'd tell a player who was sitting on the overnight lead in a tournament.

"I'd tell them to try to treat it like just another round of golf ... even though you know it's not," he said.

Winter can heed his own advice.

The 42-year-old former college baseball star and Nike account manager crafted a round that would make that company's famous pitchman, Tiger Woods, proud.

Winter shot a 4-under-par 68 at tricked-out Eagle Point Golf Club to take the first-day lead in the Oregon Golf Association Men's Mid-Amateur Championship Saturday. He has a two-shot lead over Jason Wood of Clackamas and a three-shot edge on Scott Hval of Portland.

They are the only players under par heading into today's final round. Two waves of players will be sent off, at 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The leaders start at the end of the first wave at 9:30 a.m.

The top Rogue Valley players on Day 1 were Rick Dimick of Eagle Point and Ross Jesswein of Medford, each tied for 20th at 77.

In the smaller women's field, Sasha Dunlap of Tigard and Rachel Whittington of Lake Oswego are the first-day leaders with 3-over-par 75s. Loree McKay of La Quinta, Calif., is another shot back.

Trina Rasmussen of Medford had a strong 84 and is in seventh place in the 16-player field.

Winter's round came early — he was in the third group off the first tee — and his score drew gasps from other players as they filed in with scorecards and psyches in tatters.

Winter birdied the first two holes and last two holes on the front side to make the turn at 4 under. A birdie at the par-3 13th got him to 5 under, where he stayed until the closing hole.

The course didn't play as long as advertised because the OGA moved some tees up. What bite the track lost was made up for with rough that gobbled golf balls like it hadn't eaten in a week.

"The rough is very deep," said Wood, who played in Winter's group. "If you get in it, you're in trouble. The key to the round was staying out of that."

Wood plays in nearly every OGA event and said no course has been harder than Eagle Point.

At the scorer's table, one player kidded that the grounds crew must take care when it mows because small kids and pets could be buried in the rough. Added an OGA official, "and some of our players."

No wonder Winter took as much pride in his play from the ankle-grabbing grass just off the fairways. It tripped him up only once, when he made bogey on No. 18. Otherwise, he salvaged par each time he found it. That and terrific feel on the greens are what put him in command.

"The rough is brutal, very penal," said Winter. "The ball could go anywhere. I mean, when you see really good players shank the ball in this rough, it gets a little scary."

Winter would have to rank as a really good player. He made it to the U.S. Mid-Amateur last year, has twice advanced to U.S. Open sectional qualifying and captured the 2005 Pacific Northwest Golf Association Masters 40 tournament.

His fast start Saturday was actually set up in a practice round Friday, when, over the last three holes, he tweaked his swing and got favorable results. It was still working on the driving range before his round and carried over to the first two holes, where he made 10- and 2-foot putts for birdies.

"I was thinking, 'I'm very glad to make birdies now because there are a lot of good par holes coming up, like No. 3,'" he said. "You have to get them while you can."

He made a 25-footer at No. 8 to go to 3 under, then followed with an up-and-down birdie at the ninth hole when his 230-yard second shot with a rescue club went just long on the par 5.

Winter avoided damage at the 10th despite two bad breaks. His tee shot landed in a divot and his approach buried in a green-side bunker, but he made par.

From that point on, he became conservative, snuggling putts close and, when necessary, missing greens in the least-costly places.

"I was really protective of my score," said Winter. "I had a good feel for the speed today and didn't have any of those stressful, 6-foot par putts.

"The greens are perfect. You just get it started on the right line and watch it roll."

Enough of his rolled in that he accomplished the first goal he instills in his college players: get in contention.

"The more you're in contention, the more you start to handle it better," said Winter. "I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. That's why we do it."

Oregon Mid-Amateurs

At Eagle Point Golf Course, Par 72

Saturday's Results

MEN

LEADERBOARD (Top 40) — 1, Bill Winter, Portland, 68; 2, Jason Wood, Clackamas, 70; 3, Scott Hval, Portland, 71; T4, Eric Fiskum, Salem, 72; T4, Randy Mahar, Portland, 72; T6, Jim Dunlap, Tigard, 73; T6, Michael Kloenne, West Linn, 73; T6, Daniel Cheremnov, Silverton, 73; T9, Sam Spicher, Aloha, 74; T9, Tim Tucker, Coos Bay, 74; T9, Gregg Guernsey, Vancouver, 74; T9, John-Gerard Muirhead, Portland, 74; T13, Griffen Kruse, Sutherlin, 75; T13, Jack Schneider, Oregon City, 75; T13, Mark Wilson, Oakland, 75; T13, Mont J Green, Bend, 75.

T17, Fadhyl Nkya, Portland, 76; T17, Erik Myrmo, Eugene, 76; T17, George Hale, Lake Oswego, 76; T20, Chris Maletis, Portland, 77; T20, Tim Rouillard, Eugene, 77; T20, Rick Dimick, Eagle Point, 77; T20, Ken Weeks, Eugene, 77; T20, Ross Jesswein, Medford, 77; T20, Dick Shafer Jr., Portland, 77; T20, Alan Minor, Aloha, 77; T20, John Pennington, Eugene, 77; T20, Nils Lee, Gresham, 77; T20, Brad Skreen, West Linn, 77; T20, Eric Sundstrom, Corvallis, 77; T20, Tom Stumpfig, Bend, 77.

T32, Mark Bowler, Portland, 78; T32, Daniel Dyquisto, Clackamas, 78; T32, Ken Brooke, Bandon, 78; T32, Mark Olsen, Beaverton, 78; T32, Richard Bartholomew, Wilsonville, 78; T32, Paul Campbell, Tigard, 78; T32, Raymond Schuler, Tacoma, 78; T32, Chris Fasick, Portland, 78; T40, Scott Curry, Bandon, 79; T40, Brad Bills, Medford, 79; T40, David Lydell, Aloha, 79; T40, Denny Taylor, Gladstone, 79; T40, Scott Alford, Camas, 79; T40, Robert Matson, Wenatchee, 79; T40, Gerard Percy, Bandon, 79; T40, Matthew Reese, Seattle, 79; T40, Steve Belt, McMinnville, 79; T40, Justin Wise, Medford, 79; T40, Tom Carlsen, Bend, 79; T40, Ryan Schaefer, Grants Pass, 79; T40, Wes Borgstedt, Vancouver, 79.

OTHER LOCAL RESULTS — T53, David Boals Jr, Medford, 80; T53, Glen Clark, Medford, 80; T53, Greg Miller, Medford, 80; T62, Mike Bottjer, Eagle Point, 81; T68, Kevin Klabunde, Medford, 82; T68, Tim Croft, Central Point, 82; T91, Kyle Mabry, Phoenix, 86; T96, Derek Zwagerman, Medford, 87; T101, Tommy Smith, Scottsdale, Ariz., 88; T110, Jerom Gilbert, Ashland, 92; 120, Clinton Gridley, Central Point, 102.

WOMEN

LEADERBOARD — T1, Sasha Dunlap, Tigard, 75; T1, Loree McKay, La Quinta, Calif., 75; 3, Rachel Whittington, Lake Oswego, 76; 4, Charisse Spada, Portland, 77; 5, Penny Saenguraiporn, Lake Oswego, 81; 6, Karen Herness, Portland, 83; 7, Trina Rasmussen, Medford, 84; 8, Raquel Stutheit, Keizer, 86; 9, Jennifer Ramerman, Vancouver, 88; 10, Athena Zeek, Salem, 90.

11, Helen Beckel, Milwaukie, 92; 12, D'nise Minor, Aloha, 98; 13, Barbara Gee, Vancouver, 99; 14, Janis Crenshaw, Oregon City, 101; 15, Gretchen Yoder, Hillsboro, 105; 16, Leslie Gainey, Medford, 115.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com