The Southern Oregon Golf Tournament has a gathering for former champions each year, and this year a new wrinkle was added when a few of them were invited to tell a story or two.

The Southern Oregon Golf Tournament has a gathering for former champions each year, and this year a new wrinkle was added when a few of them were invited to tell a story or two.

Clayton Lewis, a former club president and two-time senior division champion in the 1970s, joined the club in the mid-1940s and recalled being placed in a group with the fabled Eddie Simmons, who had 10 men's and senior titles in the tournament, and Al Littrell.

Littrell, after taking stock over the course of the round, finally turned to Lewis and told him, "You're not very good."

To which Lewis responded, "I'll beat both you guys one day."

He told Littrell it'd take only a couple years. He told Simmons, "Eddie, it might take me a little longer with you."

Lewis made good on his promise to Littrell in reasonably short order.

As for Simmons, the two were matched up 32 years later for the 1977 senior championship, and astonishingly, Lewis was 1 up on the 18th tee.

Simmons, remembering what Lewis had said more than three decades earlier, walked up to him and said, "Don't mess it up."

Lewis didn't and finally made good on his word.

"The next year," said Lewis, "he beat me 9 and 8."

John Nuich won the 1974 men's title and nowadays is using his magical putter — "Everything I looked at, it was like it had a wash bucket at the end of it," he said — as a cane.

That might have been when he played Mark Binegar for the title, and his opponent was quoted in the paper as having called Nuich "over the hill."

"That had me kind of upset," Nuich deadpanned.

It also was motivation to a lopsided victory.

Nuich recounted a favorite story about the time he played a man in a tight match. The two were on the 18th hole when Nuich's caddie told him the opponent was looking in his bag on every second shot to see what club Nuich was hitting.

Down one on the final hole, Nuich told his caddie, "no matter what I ask for, give me my 5-iron."

He then asked for his 3-iron loud enough for his foe to hear and hit a beautiful shot to the green, which has out-of-bounds directly behind it.

"I don't know what he hit," laughed Nuich, "but the ball was still flying when it went over the flag."

The two then played seven playoff holes before Nuich triumphed.

Jim Quincy, who won the junior-senior title in 1975 and continues to play at a high level, remembered when he and his wife had moved away for a while and he came back to play in the SOGT.

He was at a function with his wife's sister — who also is her twin. Their picture appeared in the Mail Tribune the next day identifying his sister-in-law as his wife.

The sister, Peggy, mailed it to Quincy's wife, Dorothy, with the notation: "I represented you well."

Speaking of SOGT, Quincy choked up a bit.

"I have to tell you, I'm quite emotional about this tournament," he said. "I've played probably between 200 and 225 matches, and it's given me the opportunity to make 225 new friends. I can look around this room and see I have a lot of friends."

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SISTER ACT: The Nealy sisters have been regulars in the tournament, and although only Amanda and Molly are playing this year, there's a little story with each.

Amanda lives in Louisiana and has kept abreast of Hurricane Gustav. Three years ago when Katrina hit, she was here and feared her car was under water in an airport lot.

Molly no longer goes by Nealy. Her last name now is Hilton.

Johnna is here watching but can't play because she's a professional, which won't last long. After playing on a mini tour in Arizona, she's decided that isn't the life for her and has petitioned to get her amateur status back.

Josie was entered, then dropped out Wednesday morning because of work. It was her withdrawal that opened the door for medalist Stephanie Johns to get in the field.

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TRACK MEET: Golfers turned runners on Wednesday when a man walked into the locker room and stole money and credit cards from a wallet, then remained in the area.

When the victim realized what happened, he followed a tip, saw the perpetrator and yelled at him to stop. The thief took off, and a couple of golfers gave chase while the police were called.

He was apprehended several blocks away, and the cash and cards were returned to the owner.

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