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Little-known Kaplan darts into title match

Dave Who?

That's been the big question around the Rogue Valley Country Club thisweek after peering at the men's championship flight leader board.

His name is Dave Kaplan and after Sunday's play at the Southern OregonGolf Championships everyone now knows who he is.

The 36-year-old Kaplan advanced into today's 36-hole championship witha 5 and 4 win over John Ellsworth in the semifinals. Earlier in the day,Kaplan beat Mike Spiegel 1-up in the quarterfinals.

Kaplan's opponent in the finals will be the venerable Doug Olson, whoknocked off Brad Bills in the semifinals 5 and 3.

Kaplan has quietly and efficiently patrolled the fairways and greensat RVCC. His anonymous status has played in his favor.

It's been a big advantage, said Kaplan, who moved to Medford18 months ago from Denver. It's been kind of a joke, but that's finebecause it's better for now.

In his semifinal match against Ellsworth, Kaplan used a long chip-infor birdie on the fifth hole to swing the momentum.

Ellsworth reached the semifinals with a victory over Ian Parent on the19th hole.

That chip-in really helped, said Kaplan. I hadn't beenmaking many putts this week, but today I kind of got on a roll.

After birdies on 5, 8, 9 and 11, Kaplan had Ellsworth on the ropes.

He (Ellsworth) got caught with a few birdies that got him down,said Kaplan. When I stuck it close on 11 it really hurt him.

Kaplan deflects most of his success this past week towards his caddie,Jim Staahl.

Having Jim around is a big help to me, said Kaplan of Staahl,who is the head professional at Stone Ridge Golf Club in White City. Hereally keeps my head on straight. He was also the only person that thoughtI could make it this far.

Though his element of surprise has come to an abrupt end with his moveinto the finals, Kaplan remains optimistic about his chances against Olson.

It's been a lot of fun out here, said Kaplan. I don'tknow if I'll be able to sleep tonight.

For Olson, the 1966 and '84 champ and runner-up the past two years, thetrip to the finals was a long tough journey.

Before his win over Bills in the semifinals, Olson dispatched Mark DeBoer5 and 4 in the quarterfinals.

In his match with DeBoer, Olson shot a blistering 5-under par on thefront nine.

There was nothing easy about today, said Olson. I just playedgood golf.

Against Bills, who beat fellow North Medford golf coach Kevin Klabunde6 and 5 in the quarterfinals, Olson continued his hot play, shooting 3-under-parfor the match.

Your game just has to be there, said Olson. If I hadn'tbeen playing good golf it would have been much different.

Bills cut Olson's lead to two heading into 13 and seemed poised to cutthe deficit to one after Olson hit a poor drive.

But Olson had no plans of letting Bills back in the match as he blasteda six-iron to within a foot of the hole for an easy birdie and a 3-up lead.

He just doesn't make many mistakes, said Bills. Heknows this course better than anyone.

Olson followed with another birdie on 14 to extend the lead to four toput Bills dormie.

Anything can happen when you play golf, said Olson. Whenyou're playing good those types of things happen.

Olson, who has shot either four or three-under par in every match butone over the week, won't make any Monday predictions, but he feels veryconfident about his game.

This is the best I've played, said Olson. My opponentshave been really tough, but I've just played some great golf.

In the junior/senior championship flight, Dan Dixon will meet Doug Wardin today's championship match.

Dixon beat Jerry Cochrane — and 2 in the semifinals, and Ward downedTom Deatherage 4 and — in their semifinal encounter.

In the senior championship flight, John Dunkin will face Bob Harrellin the title match.

Dunkin beat James Johnson — and 2, while Harrell edged Ron Dixon 2 and1.

Dave Kaplan and caddie Jim Staahl study the green on the 13th hole Sunday. - Photo by Andy Atkinson</P