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Locals ready to make runs at golf glory

Reena Eklund pocketed one prize on Sunday.

Now she turns her attention to the grand prize, the Southern Oregon Golf Tournament, which begins a seven-day run today at Rogue Valley Country Club.

Qualifying for the tournament starts today with local men on the course this morning. Women and out-of-town men will qualify on Wednesday.

Match play for the full field of 416 players starts Thursday morning.

Eklund, who will be a junior at Oregon State, where she's a member of the golf team, won her third title in four years in the Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships this past weekend at Cedar Links Golf Club.

The 21-year-old won by 10 strokes in the 36-hole event, finishing with a 151 total.

It's a good time for me to shoot a score like that, says Eklund of her final-round 72, which is — over par. I needed that to build my confidence going into the Southern Oregon.

Eklund lost in the women's open division finals last year to University of Washington women's golf coach Mary Lou Mulflur.

Eklund, who recently won the RVCC women's club championship, wants another shot in the finals, at Mulflur or anybody else.

Among those expected to contend for the women's title are Trina Rasmussen of Medford, 1996 champion Heather Holte of Eugene, former Grants Pass High star Amanda Nealy, Kristen Couch, a former South Medford High star and Laura Mack-Tenant.

Eklund made five birdies on Sunday, including a 70-foot chip on No. 16.

I made a lot of putts, says Eklund. I was surprised because the greens were fast and some of the pin placements were outrageous.

The difference was I hit solid putts and they dropped. When I get to believing I can do something, then I can pull it off.

Meanwhile, the men's open division may be as strong this week as it's ever been, even without top amateurs Scott Tuttle and George Daves.

Among the men's favorites are Kevin Klabunde, who also won the Rogue Valley on Sunday -- he shot a final-round 64 -- and is a two-time Southern Oregon runner-up; Brad Bills, Brooks Newsom, defending champion Doug Olson, Glen Clark, Mark DeBoer, Jay Klemp, Kelly Rasmussen, Mark Laurence, 19-year-old former South Medford player Luke Brosterhous, Rob Mullaney, Steve Wood and Steven Wood.

The defending men's senior champion is Bob Harrell of RVCC. He defeated John Dunkin 1-up on the final hole last year.

Other seniors to watch are Bob Buck, Rich Reardon, Don Hodgen and Dick Swanson.

Doug Ward is the defending junior-senior champion. He will be challenged by several well-known names in the Southern Oregon tournament, including Jerry Cochrane, Gary Loeb, Greg Miller, Bob Cox, Dave Wittkopf, Doug Engle and Tom Detherage.

For the first time, there will be a women's senior division (50 and over). Expected to be leading contenders are Pam Hubbard, Bunny Casey, Nancy McDonald, Lynda Adams and Deanna Wilson.