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Ecklund, Nealy gain title match

Reena Eklund hopes the third time will be the charm in the women's final of the Southern Oregon Golf Tournament.

Eklund, 22, a former North Medford High player who will be a senior for Oregon State's women golf team, reached the Southern Oregon Women's Division championship match for the third straight year Sunday when she defeated Jennifer Ausland of Columbia Edgewater Country Club of Portland 5 and — in the semifinals at Rogue Valley Country Club.

Eklund will meet 1992 Southern Oregon women's champion Amanda Nealy of Grants Pass in today's championship match at RVCC.

Nealy, 30, rallied from three holes behind to edge Luneta Ahsam of Central Point 1-up in the other women's semifinal match.

Nealy struggled early, falling three holes behind after three holes, but she began to find her rhythm as the match progressed.

I had been playing around even-par all week, and I don't know where this came, but hopefully it's out of my system, said Nealy. I'll have to play a lot better tomorrow (today) to have a chance against Reena.

Nealy slowly cut into Ahsam's lead and reduced it to 1-up when she won the 14th hole with a par. She evened the match at 15.

Nealy won No. 17 to take a 1-up lead when Ahsam took a double-bogey 5 after missing the green to the right and needing three putts to get down from the left fringe.

Nealy three-putted the hole, but still won it with a bogey.

I'm lucky I'm not heading home, said Nealy. Luneta played really well early, and I was in trouble.

She's a good player. She may have lost a little of her focus as I cut the lead.

Eklund also struggled early in her match, falling behind Ausland by two holes affter the fifth. For some reason, it took me a while to warm up, said Eklund. I actually got here earlier to hit balls than I did Saturday , but my feel wasn't there early in the match.

By about the eighth of ninth hole, I started to get it back, said Eklund, who broke the RVCC women's course scoring record two weeks ago with a 3-under-par 75 on the Outside Course. Then I felt like I had the previous days here.

Eklund, who played six holes of the back nine in 2 under par, chipped in for an eagle on the par-5 14th hole to go four holes up. She closed out the match with a par on No. 15.

Eklund, who lost to Mary Lou Mulflur in the women's final in 1997 and fell to Laura Tennant in the title match last year, says she's playing better golf than she was during the last two years.

I had a good spring for Oregon State and we made it to the regionals (NCAA West Regional), says Eklund. I'm hitting the ball better and I'm making more putts.

I know Amanda Nealy is a great player and has a lot of experience, says Eklund. But I feel comfortable with my game. I'm not trying to fix anything in my game going into the finals, which is good.

This is my third time to the finals, says Eklund. Hopefully, I've gotten this down.