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Senior play lures many for tourneys

StoneRidge Golf Course has become the haven for senior men's golfers in the Rogue Valley.

Spurred by the organizational efforts of former head professional Jim Staal and course owner Jim Cochran, StoneRidge comes alive every Wednesday with a growing group of senior men, ages 50 and over, who look forward to camaraderie, friendly competition and a chance to relax and play golf.

It's all part of what's known as the StoneRidge Senior Tour.

Last Wednesday, Stan Smith of Medford shot a 2-over-par 74 to win individual low gross honors in the weekly Senior Tour event. Smith's score becomes even more impressive when you consider he shot one stroke under his age (75) to win.

I don't know what happened, says Smith. Things just kind of fell together.

More than 80 seniors converged on StoneRidge for this week's tournament. In the two-man best ball competition, Ken Gentry and Monk Karterman combined to win the competition with a 4-under-par 68 score.

Nils Sharpe, president of the Senior Tour, says the tournaments have become popular enough to hold them every week.

We're getting more and more players, says Sharpe, who is known as Razor to his friends because of his seemingly unfailing short game.

It's the competition that brings everybody out.

Smith, who plays to a 9 handicap, has been known to come out of the blue with a hot round.

He's always complaining that he's not playing very well, says Cochran. He uses this old white fiberglass 4-wood. It looks like it's had it. But he hits it about 240 yards and keeps making pars with it.

In addition to $15 for greens fees for the Senior Tour, players kick in an extra $5 for the prize fund.

Normally, the prizes are free greens fees or entry into the next Senior Tour event.

It's the only course around here that offers weekly minitournaments for the seniors, says Harry Abrams of Cave Junction, an active member and participant on the Senior Tour. I think it's great that Jim (Cochran) gives us a place to get together and play.

I look forward to going to the tournaments every week.

HE WAS ONCE A television weatherman for a station in Paris, Texas.

But Steven Pellegrine's thing is golf. Playing it, teaching it and living it. As a result, his TV career is over and he's now the new head professional at Quail Point Golf Course in Medford.

The first day for Pellegrine, 32, at Quail Point will be May 24. In the meantime, he's finishing up his three-year stint at the first assistant pro at Eastern Hills Country Club in Garland, Texas.

Pellegrine says he likes the people he'll be working with at Quail Point and the beautiful vistas the course affords.

The golf course is in beautiful shape, you have snow-covered mountains in the background and it's an amazing view, says Pellegrine. I've always loved the mountains. It's exciting to me to see snow on them and to know that skiing is so close.

Pellegrine says he feels Quail Point's greens are about as good as they can get.

I look forward to stepping up the programs there and getting more golfers to play more rounds.

Pellegrine grew up near Buffalo, N.Y., but his family moved to Plano when he was a freshman in high school. He attended Plano East High School and played for its golf team.

I'm a self-taught player, he says. I started working at golf when when we moved to Texas.

He won the Northern Texas PGA Match-Play Championship in 1995 and played a few years on minitours in Texas, Arizona and California.

I did pretty well as a club pro in tournaments, but I found that when you get out on tour and play for your livelihood, it's a different world, he says. I decided I wanted to be a club pro because I like to teach so much.

Pellegrine says he tries to accentuate the positive and work with skills and athletic ability his pupils already have.

Everybody is different, and you can't teach everybody the same way, he says. I try to take the good things that people have in their golf swings and incorporate them into sound fundamentals for them.

is the Mail Tribune sports columnist. He can be reached at 776-4499.