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Johns espressos herself

Stephanie Johns of Ashland, the defending champion, battles inclement conditions to shoot a 1-over-par 74 Monday at Rogue Valley Country Club in the first round of the Southern Oregon Conference championships. Ashland leads the team race by 17 strokes. / Roy Musitelli — — — With a shot of ice mocha, Ashland junior has a sweet 74 as Grizzlies open a big lead at district

Kick-started by an ice mocha espresso drink for breakfast, Stephanie Johns refused to allow cold, wind and occasional rain to interfere with her golf game Monday at Rogue Valley Country Club.

The Ashland High standout shot a 1-over-par 74 to emerge with the lowest score during opening-round play of the Southern Oregon Conference championships.

Twins Stephanie and Elaina Graham added 84s for the Grizzlies, who opened a 17-stroke lead over Grants Pass in the team standings heading into today's final round of play.

Roseburg's Melissa Carl fired a 77 for the second-best round of the day.

Johns, a junior, parred the first seven holes even though that was when the weather was at its worst.

— It's a good thing I had caffeine in my body when this thing started, Johns said. It was pouring down rain during the second hole, but I didn't let it bother me.

Johns bogeyed the eighth and 11th holes before registering her first birdie on the 15th when she chipped in from 20 yards.

I had just hit a bad chip and then the next one went in, Johns said. I got lucky.

Johns kept her impressive round intact by sinking a tricky 10-foot par putt on the 17th hole and finished her day by nearly holing out with an approach shot for eagle on the 18th. She settled for a 3-foot birdie.

I'm really happy with my round, Johns said. To shoot 1-over on a day like this, well, I'll take that any day.

Johns' length off the tee ' her drives routinely sailed out to 240 yards and beyond ' helped on a day when the heavy air and damp ground did the golfers no favors.

I love this course, Johns said. With my length off the tee, it plays to my advantage. I was hitting a lot of comfortable iron shots into the greens.

The Graham sisters were a bit off their games Monday ' they normally shoot in the high 70s or low 80s ' but Johns is happy to have them on her side. The Grahams transferred to Ashland from North Medford at the beginning of the school year.

It's really exciting having them on our team, Johns said. They were a little shy at first, but me and Rissa Barton (Ashland's No. 5 player) got them to loosen up.

Added Ashland coach Stephanie Santos: I think the twins have found a home with us.

Ashland's No. 4 player, Lauren Dow, struggled to a 108 but the Grizzlies still took a 17-stroke lead over Grants Pass.

Justine Hix shot an 80 to lead the Cavers, who built a 16-stroke lead over third-place Roseburg and have the inside track to join the Grizzlies at the Class 4A state tournament next week at the OGA Members Course in Tukwila.

Ashland, by virtue of its strong showing during the regular season, had a state berth essentially locked up before the district tournament began.

TOP 10 INdivIDUALS

1, Stephanie Johns, Ashland, 74; 2, Melissa Carl, Roseburg, 77; 3, Justine Hix, Grants Pass, 80; 4, Helen Blauser, Grants Pass, 83; 5, tie, Stephanie Graham, Ashland, and Elaina Graham, Ashland, 80; 7, Anna Wiley, South Medford, 90; 8, Ashley Yraguen, Roseburg, 97; 9, Cassie Van Vleet, Roseburg, 99; 10, Hannah Shorter, Grants Pass, 100.

ASHLAND (350) '

Stephanie Johns 37-37'74, Elaina Graham 40-44'84, Stephanie Graham 44-40'84, Lauren Dow 57-51'108.

GRANTS PASS (367) ' Justin Hix 36-44'80, Helen Blauser 41-42'83, Hannah Shorter 50-50'100, Shauntel Werner 50-54'104.

ROSEBURG (383) ' Melissa Carl 41-36'77, Ashley Yraguen 52-45'97, Kelly O'Brien 60-50'110, Cassie Van Vleet 51-48'99.

NORTH MEDFORD (424) ' Rachel Barry 48-53'101, Snow Powers 50-51'101, Christina Thompson 57-53'110, Sheena Knight 58-54'112.

SOUTH MEDFORD (456) ' Anna Wiley 41-49'90, Hannah Barr 57-60'117, Calley Duvall 63-59'122, Jordan Sies 74-53'127.

KLAMATH UNION (538) ' Holly Brookshire 60-58'118, Ashley Wendt 62-61'123, Jessica Schlyper 68-57'125, Hannah Brookshire 82-90'172.

Stephanie Johns of Ashland, the defending champion, battles inclement conditions to shoot a 1-over-par 74 Monday at Rogue Valley Country Club in the first round of the Southern Oregon Conference championships. Ashland leads the team race by 17 strokes. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune images