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Champs face difficult tests

Column by RANDY HAMMERICKSEN

All three defending champions are back today for the opening round ofthe Rogue Valley Stroke-Play Championships at Cedar Links Golf Course.

Glen Clark may be a slight favorite to defend his title in the 36-holemedal-play format, which concludes Sunday afternoon. But Clark, the 1997Cedar Links men's club champion, will have plenty of competition in tryingto defend.

Heading the list of challengers could be two-time champion Kevin Klabunde,1995 champion Brad Bills, 1993 champion Dane Smith, Cedar Links amateurcourse-record holder Mark DeBoer and rising amateur Jay Klemp, who stillplays his best golf at Cedar Links.

Klemp recently shot a 6-under-par 64 at Cedar Links to threaten the courserecord of 63, jointly held by DeBoer and professional Norm Homeier.

Senior champion Bob Harrell has been playing solid golf for nearly ayear, according to Cedar Links head professional Scott Lusk, and could havethe best chance to defend his title. But despite his recent hot streak,look for Harrell to be challenged by several seniors (ages 55 and over),including Fred Steele of Quail Point, Ken Bailey of Cedar Links and KenGentry of Cedar Links.

In the women's division, 14-year-old junior golf sensation Tai Kinneywill be looking to best the more-experienced women's players and defendher title this weekend. But Kinney will get some serious competition fromrejuvenated college player Reena Eklund and Trina Rasmussen, the new women'sclub champion from Rogue Valley Country Club. Only 12 women have registeredto play, which is not even close to representative of the number of goodwomen's players in the Rogue Valley.

That's unfortunate because this is the unofficial Medford city championship.And it's an ideal warm-up for the Southern Oregon Golf Championships, whichstart next week at Rogue Valley Country Club.

The stroke-play tournament opens today at 7 a.m. The top men's and women'splayers are scheduled to tee off early. The pairings for Sunday will beset after today's play. The leaders will be paired together and go off laston Sunday.

Spectators are encouraged to walk the fairways and get up-close looksat many of the top amateur golfers in Southern Oregon.

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The Medford Linebackers Club will stage the second Fred Spiegelberg MemorialGolf Tournament on Oct. 10 at Rogue Valley Country Club. Asante Health Systemshas become the major sponsor, with a whopping donation of $5,000 for thefour-player scramble tournament.

Cost to play is $75 per player, or $300 per team. All profits will goto the Medford Linebackers. The Linebackers, a local support group for highschool athletics, will put the money back into various projects they aredoing in behalf of North Medford High, South Medford and St. Mary's athletics.

Kevin Towers, general manager of the San Diego Padres and a former MedfordHigh football and baseball player, will be master of ceremonies at the tournamentlunch at 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 10 at Rogue Valley.

Towers is a former Spiegelberg football player. His best friend, Spiegelberg'syoungest son, Barry, will also be at the luncheon.

I'm so proud of Kevin Towers, says Kelly Rasmussen, new presidentof Medford Linebackers, and a 1979 Medford High classmate of Towers. He'sa good guy, and he's doing so well in professional baseball. He may be inpro ball, but he still cares about his hometown.

For more information on the tournament, call Bob Reed, program directorof the Medford Linebackers, at 770-1480, or call Shawn Retzlaff, daughterof Fred Spiegelberg, at 772-7414.

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Tip of the Week: Rogue Valley Country Club head professional Jim Wisetalks about chipping and putting. Remember, the short game is said to be65 percent of the game. So, soak in Jim's advice and try it out.

As you practice your chipping and pitching, we need to distinguishbetween the two. A pitch shot is a lot like a softball pitch. It is in theair more than on the ground. A chip shot is on the ground more than in theair.

A good phrase to remember when you are setting up for your shotsis: `Chip when you can, pitch when you have to.' You will probably pitchthe ball if the hole is cut close to your side of the green, if the greenis elevated or if there is an obstacle in your way.

All other times, you should try to chip the ball. Most people use a sandor lob wedge for pitching and a 7, 8, 9 or pitching wedge for chipping.

To chip the ball, set up with your feet less than shoulder-widthapart, slightly open stance, your weight on the target side of the balltoward your back foot, and your hands in front of the ball. The swing iswith firm wrists, low to the ground and sweeping the grass, keeping yourhands moving toward the target and not collapsing the wrists.

The pitch shots are done using the same technique, except the ballposition is forward to the center of the stance and the backswing is longer,with some cocking of the wrists and releasing of the hands to elevate theball.

You should practice these shots often enough so that you are ableto visualize the shot and feel the distance.