The Southern Oregon Golf Tournament will turn another decade older this summer.

The Southern Oregon Golf Tournament will turn another decade older this summer.

But the celebration of the 80th event at Rogue Valley Country Club might be muted in the face of low entry totals that could lead to unprecedented format changes.

Specifically, in the men's division, there's historically been a championship flight of 64 players, but it could be reduced to 32 if there isn't a sign-up spike in the next 11/2 weeks. The tournament is Sept. 1-7.

A full tournament field is 416 players. Last year marked the first time the SOGT fell short of that, topping out at 360.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 255 registrants, and the largest gap in entries versus a full field was in the men's division. Only 70 of the 128 slots had been filled.

The tournament has long been the largest single-site, match-play event in the United States. That billing could be in jeopardy.

The committee that runs the SOGT will gather the first week of August, take stock and decide how to proceed, based on the number of entries.

"Who knows what it will be," says Jim Wise, the RVCC head pro. "I can understand what people are doing. They're holding onto their dollars longer than they usually do because of the economy."

Other divisions are short of players, too, albeit to a lesser degree.

The junior-senior and senior men's divisions are each 112 strong. There are openings for 49 junior-seniors and 26 seniors.

The women's division has 32 spots and 13 remain. A senior women's division has been reinstated this year, and 14 of the 32 spots are available.

It takes three to four weeks for the trophies to be engraved and the tee prizes to be ordered and received, says Wise.

It'll further complicate matters if divisions have to be reflighted and rescheduled.

Hence, the urgency.

An ad running in the Mail Tribune indicates space is limited. That's based on the number of entries now and the possibility the field will be reduced.

"Unfortunately, we have to make a decision early enough so that we can take care of the last-minute stuff and everything else that goes into something this big," says Wise.

He's a "great fan of tradition," but even Wise admits the "handwriting seems to be on the wall" and that tough decisions could be in the offing.

There has been talk in recent years that as the general age of entrants rises, perhaps it's time to cut the men's championship flight in half. That hand might be forced this year.

"There's no easy answer to it," says Wise, who has been involved with the tournament for more than 40 years.

The tournament fee is $275, down from a high of $295. Those who register as couples get a $50 break for each player (but only one tee prize), and club members get a $25 reduction.

The fee includes at least four rounds (practice, qualifying and at least two matches), plus access to nightly cocktail parties and other festivities.

To register, call 772-5965, or download an entry form at www.rvcc.com.

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THE INAUGURAL event of a golf tour designed to focus on Southern Oregon amateur players has been postponed.

The I Gotta Golf Tour was supposed to debut Sunday at Centennial Golf Club, but organizer Bob Haney has put it on hold as he tends to his ailing father.

There had been minimal response to the tour, with only 14 members signing on, Haney says, but he and his partner will rework their plan with an eye on starting it in mid-September.

The tour is to operate along Interstate 5 and cater to professionals and amateurs alike. The one-day tournaments every other Sunday would allow players to compete against those in their own handicap brackets for decent prizes. They would play close to home, so travel costs would be minimal.

However, it won't fly just yet.

"I'm kind of glad it didn't take off because of the timing of everything," says Haney, who drove between his home in Fairfield, Calif., and his father's Colorado home this past week. "The whole thing is in the embryonic stage. I can see it being very big down the road, but right now it's a matter of getting life's necessities handled. Then I can focus on this thing."

When the tour is revisited, Haney, a former head pro at Oak Knoll Golf Course in Ashland, will have a better plan in place.

Initially, an annual membership fee of $99.97 was required, then each tourney would cost $145, of which $100 would go into the prize fund. However, only a few courses were in place at the time he began promoting it.

Next time, the IGG Tour will come out with a per-month member fee of $10 and a much larger schedule in place.

"That was our first lesson," says Haney, who still hopes to have it debut at Centennial.

For more information, visit www.igottagolftour.com.

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WHICH ROGUE VALLEY school, be it high school, middle or elementary, can put together the best golf team?

That's what Stone Ridge Golf Course is hoping to find out.

Owner Jim Cochran is putting into place an idea he's bandied about for a couple years: a contest between faculty and staff members at local schools that will earn the winner a donation to its athletic fund.

The Rogue Valley Education Challenge is scheduled for Aug. 20 at 9 a.m. It's a four-person scramble that costs $200 per team, and the only requirement is that all four players work for the school they're representing.

There is no limit to the number of teams schools can field.

"It should be cool," says Scott Lusk, the head pro at Stone Ridge. "What we're trying to do is get competition between the schools. The more people we get, the more money we'll donate back to the winning team's athletic fund."

In addition, hole sponsorships at $50 a pop are available, and sponsors can specify where they want their money to go.

It's expected to be an annual event, with a perpetual trophy the winning school gets to house for a year.

"All these schools have some strong players," says Lusk.

To sign up, call Stone Ridge at 830-4653.

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