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McManus surprises '97 finalist

A year ago, Dave Kaplan battled his way through five rounds of Championship Flight play on his way to the finals of the Southern Oregon Tournament.

It was a Cinderella run for the Talent golfer, who eventually lost to three-time champion Doug Olson, 5 and 4 in the finals.

Entering first-round play in the 69th Southern Oregon on Thursday, Kaplan had designs on going from runner-up to champion in the regular Men's division.

But that objective fizzled when 30-year tournament veteran Dennis McManus of Chico, Calif. rallied from two holes back with three to go to upset Kaplan 1-up.

Kaplan's sudden departure from Championship Flight play proved to be the major upset of first-round play in the tournament, which runs through Labor Day at Rogue Valley Country Club.

McManus, 56, the Fifth Flight champion in the Senior Division last year, has a history of knocking out big-name players early in the Southern Oregon.

`I've never won (the Championship Flight) yet, but I've sent some good players home, said McManus, who played in the tournament for the first time in 1963, losing to current PGA Senior Tour player Tom Shaw. To tell you the truth, I didn't know (Kaplan) was the runner-up last year. Now, I'm scared.

But it was too late to be scared. The victory was already in McManus' grasp as he savored the win and got ready to meet Steve Wood today in the second round.

I'm a competitor who doesn't give up, said McManus, who won 15 with a par, 16 with a birdie and and 17 with a par to take a 1-up lead going to 18.

Kaplan and McManus both made bogeys on 18, giving the match to McManus.

I was struggling most of the day, said Kaplan. It's disappointing.

Kaplan said he also struggled on Tuesday in shooting an even-par 72 in men's qualifying. The difference was I made some putts on Tuesday, said Kaplan. Today, I didn't make many.

It wasn't a pretty day. I found myself standing on the tee at No. 15 with a 2-hole lead. But it got away form me.

Give him (McManus) credit. He didn't give up.

I'll try to get to sleep early tonight and get up ready to play in the first flight tomorrow, said Kaplan. It'll be hard to do. But the reasons I play in this tournament are to have fun and compete. I'll be ready.

Most other top-seeded players managed to win their opening-round matches on Thursday. Defending champion Olson, battling a sore back all day, rallied past Scott Swendiman 4 and 3. In other matches, Eric Austad downed Kevin Tucker, Brooks Newsom downed John Barry 4 and 3, Kelly Rasmussen stopped Jim Weitman 6 and 4, Mark DeBoer downed much-improved RVCC member Wayne VanWey 4 and 3; RVCC club champion Glen Clark dispatched Aaron Rayburn 5 and 4 and former champion Brad Bills stopped Greg Jacobs 1-up.

Olson battled a sore back in rallying past Swendiman. Olson found himself fidgety and two holes down after six holes.

Yes, I was worried, said Olson. I was hitting some terrible shots. I've made some (swing) changes, and I'm still getting used to them. It showed.

All I know is I have to play a lot better (today) to beat Ryan Schaffer. If I don't, I'll be in trouble.

Olson said he experienced similar back pain for six rounds in winning the Southern Oregon. It's a little worse this year, but I can deal with it, said Olson. If things go well, I can win it again.

Problem is, I can't practice or even warm up, said Olson. `I have to go right out and play. I can't waste the good swings I have in me each day.