Will anyone be as loose as Mike Barry for the area's two big golf tournaments the next week and a half?

Will anyone be as loose as Mike Barry for the area's two big golf tournaments the next week and a half?

That's doubtful.

The 21-year-old spent Monday and Tuesday playing in the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst, N.C.

Today he tees up at Centennial for the two-day Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships. A few days later he starts defense of his Southern Oregon Golf Tournament title.

"Yeah," he said with a laugh, "it'll definitely be a different experience. It'll be fun to get out there and play golf with guys I know."

He sat in the Portland airport as he spoke, waiting to board for his last leg home and complete about 17 hours of travel. Friday was to be a day of much rest. Today, it'll be more play in a group with his U.S. Amateur caddie, Justin Wise, and Glen Clark, clearly one of the marquee pairings.

But Barry won't soon forget about his experience to start the week.

He finished two rounds of stroke play qualifying at 11 over par on Pinehurst's No. 2 and No. 4 courses. He tied for 209th place, missing out on the top 64, which advanced to match play.

Yet, he can't help but know the adventure will only help him, will only steel him for the next gigantic tournament.

"It was definitely one of the most fun events I've ever been at," said Barry. "Obviously, it was a little disappointing. I just picked a bad week to have problems with my swing. I couldn't get comfortable with my driver all week, and back there that's one of the clubs you have to be hitting right on."

Nervousness wasn't an issue, which is something Barry predicted beforehand. The only time anxiety crept up on him was on the first hole the first day. It was also his best of all 36 holes.

"It was kind of a tease, I guess," he said, noting that he "had trouble on the range all morning that day."

Starting from the back nine on the No. 2 Course, he pounded a perfect drive on the 607-yard par 5, then nearly reached the green with a 3-wood. A little flip with his lob wedge over a bunker nearly holed out, and he made birdie.

"Then it all fell apart after that," he said.

The enormity of it wasn't lost on him, however. He recounted seeing the statues of Donald Ross, the course designer, and Payne Stewart, a dramatic winner of the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst who months later perished in a plane crash. And he couldn't help but notice TV cameras all over the course as he played a practice round. And he was fortunate to have family who made the trip with him.

"The whole, entire experience is something I won't ever forget," said Barry.

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WE'RE SEEING ONCE again that women's divisions in the Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships and the SOGT are fairly sparse.

There are nine entered this weekend at Centennial and less than a full field is set for the Southern Oregon.

And while the economy has taken its toll on sign-ups all summer, these numbers are par for the course. That's a bit surprising considering the vibrant women's clubs at area courses.

A random check of some shows there are 88 players in the Ladies Twilight Golf Association at Stewart Meadows and 41 in the Ladies League at Centennial.

Why don't more women play in the big tournaments?

It was suggested they aren't, on the whole, as competitive as men. That might be true, but I know women who would give a secret recipe before they'd give a 6-inch putt. (I'm sure that one will cost me.)

It could be that they think they don't have enough game to compete. But once you get past the handful of championship contenders, parity comes into play. Just as in the men's divisions, there are far more players of, shall we say, a pedestrian level than there are in championship flights. (That might cost me, too.)

It could be the last two weeks of summer are too busy — what with last-minute vacations, school and related activities starting up — to devote to golf.

It could be work schedules.

It could be that women are frugal. (That came from a woman, honest.)

It could be all of the above.

One woman pointed out the Catch-22. More women need to be entered to entice more women. If there are nine in a tournament, you know you're in the top division and stand no chance to win.

I talked with a local golf pro awhile back about possibly having once-a-week women's clinics to prepare for one of these events. If enough signed up, they might feel a strength-in-numbers resolve to play.

Then there was this idea, again from a woman: As a carrot, how about putting a hunky guy as the prize who would clean house and cook meals for a year. We'd see the sign-ups then!

Whatever the reason or the answer, these events can be a lot of fun — for both genders — and might be worth a try for those who haven't done so.

Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com