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Johns takes three-stroke lead

MEDFORD - 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.

Reach reporter at 776-4469, or e-mail dhunt@mailtribune.com