Mike Barry knew it was going to take some incredible play to take down three-time defending champion Kevin Murphy in the men’s championship of the Southern Oregon Golf Championships on Monday.
Still, there’s no way he could’ve scripted the way things panned out in front of a large crowd of onlookers at Rogue Valley Country Club.
“You’d probably have to see it to believe it,” Murphy said of the dramatic conclusion.
One hole after Murphy sent their 36-hole match into extra holes with two of the most clutch shots in tournament history, Barry did him one better with an eagle of his own.
With a miraculous 66-foot putt on the 37th hole, Barry was finally able to separate himself from Murphy and a handful of others by securing his fourth men’s title in the 85th annual event. Barry joins Dick Hanen, who won four men’s championships from 1940-47, in second place behind Eddie Simmons’ six titles earned from 1934-49.
“This one’s No. 1,” Barry, 27, said in ranking his championships. “I don’t think this one will ever be beat by me. It was the funnest round of golf I’ve ever played with a great person and good friend. The shots that we were hitting in there were phenomenal. It was a blast.”
It was a blast that was decided with a thunderous boom as Barry’s improbable putt raced uphill from the front of the green at hole No. 1 and slammed into the back of the cup, eliciting a big ovation by the crowd and a celebratory fist-pump by the typically reserved Barry.
“Putts like that don’t go in,” said the former North Medford High and Oregon State University standout. “It’s unbelievable. It tracked the whole way. I thought I hit it a little firm but it hit the back of the cup and dropped. If it doesn’t hit the hole I’m probably close to the fringe with about a 12-footer to go to another hole.”
Murphy stood halfway between Barry and the hole and, although impressed, still had a shot of his own to force a 38th hole. The incoming Oregon State sophomore attempted to answer but his 30-foot eagle putt barely went alongside the hole.
“I was amazed,” Murphy said of his reaction to Barry’s putt, “but I was still thinking I was going to make mine though. I gave it a run, it just didn’t happen. You can’t really explain what that’s like to have it end like that.”
Even Barry was dumbfounded to put it all into words, choosing first to praise the 20-year-old Murphy for his own heroics about 10 minutes earlier on the 36th hole, No. 18 on the inside course.
“I don’t know what to say right now, I’m numb,” Barry said directly after his post-match handshake. “I hit two of the best shots I’ve ever hit on our 36th hole and Kevin hit the greatest shot I’ve ever seen to 12 feet or whatever it was and then made his putt.”
Barry was 2 up with three holes to play when his par putt missed the mark and opened the door for Murphy. The Rogue River standout lipped out a putt on the 17th hole that might have squared the match, then caught a big break when his tee shot on the 18th hole (36th overall) hit a spectator’s golf cart and was stopped from potentially going into the tree line on the right edge of the hole.
After Barry hit a long-iron into the green from 235 yards out, Murphy responded to the pressure-packed moment by striping a 3-wood to within 15 feet of the hole. He then curled his eagle putt into the heart of the hole.
“The shot I hit on 18 was just like I imagined it,” said Murphy. “It was almost a 30-yard sliced 3-wood from 230. I had no idea where it went, I was just like, ‘That looked good.’ Then it’s up there around 15 feet and I make it, that’s a pretty awesome finish. Then you see this (last putt) from Mike and you’re like, ‘Wow.’”
Barry said he was confident standing over his fateful final putt.
“I’ve had that putt before, not that long, but I know it doesn’t move a whole lot,” he said. “It was just outside the right edge of the hole and make sure I get it there. At the same time I’m thinking Kevin has a pretty straight putt, but it’s not a putt you make all the time, so I had to be conscious about speed. I think adrenaline got to me a little bit there on that putt, but I had the right line and that’s what mattered.”
Barry held a 1-up advantage after the morning 18 holes, then both players turned it up on the final 18 — much to the delight of those on hand. If they were playing a best-ball format, the duo would have been 8-under-par on the opening nine holes of the afternoon 18. Murphy was 6 under on his own ball for the final 18.
Other highlights of the second 18 holes included:
— Barry made an amazing recovery sand wedge from the 17th fairway to within 3 feet of the cup to set up a hole-winning birdie.
— Barry drained a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 5 to go 3 up.
— Murphy drove the green on the 308-yard uphill par 4 11th hole to set up a kick-in birdie to go 1 down.
— Barry made a big up-and-down on the par 3 15th hole with a chip that burned the edge of the hole and left him with a 3-footer that proved to be a difference-maker when Murphy’s answering putt was too crisply played. That took Barry from 1 up with three holes to play to 2 up.
“Obviously I had to have my best game to beat him and it was sure pretty close to the best I could possibly play,” said Barry. “It was solid golf all the way around by both of us. It all came down to missing in the right spots and just scrambling to push holes or scrambling to win a hole here and there.”
And, of course, a little magic in the end.
MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT
Mike Barry d. Kevin Murphy 37th.
MEN’S FIRST FLIGHT
J.T. Compher d. Bret Breeze 4 & 3.
MEN’S SECOND FLIGHT
Joey Walker d. Tom Leavens 5 & 4.
MEN’S THIRD FLIGHT
Cole Weinhld d. Brian Smith 1 up.
MEN’S FOURTH FLIGHT
Cody Stover d. Nick Malone 2 & 1.
MEN’S FIFTH FLIGHT
Ryan Kantor d. Mark McUne 1 up.
MEN'S SIXTH FLIGHT
Matt Stringer d. Keith Lallo 3 & 2.
MEN’S SEVENTH FLIGHT
Brandt Cullen d. Dave Mettler 2 & 1.
MEN’S EIGHTH FLIGHT
Rick Buchler d. Collin Krueger 3 & 2.
MEN’S NINTH FLIGHT
Scott Sterton d. Jeremy Ross 1 up.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry