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Numbers game finds Medford on top again

Tee Talk

OK, numbers do sometimes lie. — Which means Tualatin's ballyhooed boys golf team has nothing on the 1967 Medford High team, which the former has been credited with swiping away from the record book as effortlessly as one swats a ball off the green.

The Timberwolves were hailed for shooting the lowest score in state championship history Monday and Tuesday at Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis, and that certainly isn't something to scoff at. They are, without question, one of the finest teams the Oregon ranks have known.

But the best?

That distinction still belongs to Medford.

Using five players and taking the best four scores each day, Tualatin shot a 568 team total, well below the 579 that Medford, led by state champion Greg Miller, shot 37 years ago, as listed by the Oregon School Activities Association.

— Yet, the Timberwolves were 8 under par at the par-72 Trysting Tree.

When the Black Tornado steamrolled to the crown, it did so at Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland. With the exception of four years, state was played there every season from 1956-96.

The kicker is, Glendoveer East was a par 74. (It later became a par 73 when a short par 4 was turned into a par 3, says golf shop manager Mike Niece.)

Medford's 579 was a mind-boggling 13 under.

That, says Miller, now a local dentist, was something.

Especially considering the format used in those days.

Four guys teed it up, and they all counted, says Miller. We didn't have any to throw out.

Miller, like others who read of Tualatin's supposed unparalleled feat, was taken aback, and for good reason.

The OSAA's records are for total score, not score in relation to par. But that will soon change, says Steve Walker, sports information director for the association, adding that he agrees Medford's record stands.

We're going to go back and research and find out the pars of every course and add the over and under par figures to all those totals, he says. Obviously, that's critical in golf.

Similarly, the low 18-hole individual score was affected. The 65 by Tualatin's Cole Peyton on Monday was 7 under. When Craig Griswold of Lake Oswego shot 66 in 1968, he was 8 under.

Miller in no way wishes to minimize the efforts of Peyton or Tualatin.

But you're comparing apples to oranges, he says.

Miller remembers well that state tournament, when he shot 9 under for two days with rounds of 70 and 69. The Black Tornado and Lake Oswego were running neck-and-neck entering the final nine holes, he says, but Medford played the back side in 5 under par and its rival was well over.

The title was the Tornado's second straight.

We had a real good team, and we pulled it all together, says Miller. It was (Paul) Tiny Evensen's last year as golf coach, and he told us we had to go undefeated. We won district and upstate by one stroke each, then state (by 16).

The other three team members were no slouches, either.

Kent Clark shot 5 under, Allen Brooks 4 under and Terry Scroggins 5 over.

Brooks (Houston), Clark (Brigham Young) and Miller (Oregon) all went on to play collegiately.

Brooks actually rescued Medford at district in Klamath Falls, where he shot a 68. A week later at upstate, then a sort of regional prior to state, Clark's 71 paved the way.

Miller stumbled to a 78 at district and went to state as the team's No. — or 4 man, he recalls.

I hit 14 greens in regulation and shot 78, he says of district.

His father, Bill, himself a 2-handicapper, gave Greg some impromptu chipping and putting lessons, and Miller responded with the state title.

It was really enjoyable, he says. Each one of us got to contribute.

That Medford's performance has stood the test of time is remarkable given the advances in equipment and the greater skill level of today's players. But there is more to a round of golf than the titanium driver you pull out of the bag.

Miller, who drives the ball 20-30 yards farther than he did as a high school player, admits the clubs, balls and players are improved, but scores don't reflect it so much because golf courses are tougher, with tighter fairways, taller rough and firm, fast, undulating greens surrounded by bunkers.

If you short-side yourself, you have trouble getting up and down, says Miller. In the old days, all the greens were softer and slower. If you missed it to one side or the other, you just flopped it up there and it would stop.

Greens then, he says, were 4 or 5 on the stimpmeter versus 10 to 12 nowadays.

Even with long drives, the game still comes down to putting. Miller, for instance, might have a full 8-iron into the green and wouldn't be quite as close as a wedge by today's player. But a two-putt from 25 feet is just as good as a two-putt from 12 feet.

No matter how far you hit it, you still have to get it into the hole, he says. Greenskeepers and tournament committees keep making the courses tougher to play.

If technology was the only thing happening to improve the game, you'd have 12-handicappers shooting in the 60s.

And the numbers would come into question again.

Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail