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Croft cards improbable victory

After 22 holes of hard-nosed, grind-it-out golf, Tim Croft just needed a moment to collect himself Friday evening at Rogue Valley Country Club.

An unfathomable finish to an unbelievable day gave rise to a moment of reflection ' and slight disbelief ' after surviving at the 75th annual Southern Oregon Golf Tournament.

Just to come through when you knew you had to, it makes you feel pretty good, said a worn-out Croft, who outlasted Justin Wise on the 22nd hole in unlikely fashion. It's pretty overwhelming.

The Central Point resident considered himself fortunate to even be in a sudden-death playoff with Wise, who had a 1-up lead and a chance to close out the match on the 18th hole but left the door open with a three-putt bogey.

I made a pretty big mistake there, said the 23-year-old. All you've got to do is make par and it's done, and I didn't do that.

— Wise didn't let his head hang long, however, as he put the pressure squarely on Croft at the 19th hole, the 539-yard, par-5 No. — hole.

The long-hitting Oregon State graduate stood at the base of the green with an eagle putt while Croft faced a 10-foot birdie putt. After a solid lag putt put Wise in gimme distance, Croft slammed a do-or-die effort into the cup to extend the match.

Both players birdied the second playoff hole, the 393-yard, par-4 No. 2 hole, and each scored a par 4 on the next hole as Wise answered a Croft putt for the second straight hole.

To make the putts and have him do that on top of me like that, that's great golf, said Croft.

It got better, or possibly worse depending on your perspective.

Croft was first to the tee on the 165-yard, par-3 fourth hole, the duo's 22nd of the day, and promptly deposited a floater toward the creek on the right.

I can't explain it, the 45-year-old said later in describing the errant shot. I tried to make a good swing but pressure does funny things to you.

Wise was unable to capitalize, however, as his tee shot found the front left bunker.

Circumstances were equally precarious for both championship flight players, with the ball below Wise's feet, a full bunker to carry and a small landing area. On the flip side, Croft was fortunate enough to have his ball come to rest about 2 feet from the creek, but was enveloped by tree limbs on a peninsula about 10 feet below the green.

It was a decent lie and I had a look at the pin, said Croft. I just needed him to give me a chance to play a shot.

That opportunity was supplied moments later as Wise needed two attempts to get out of the bunker.

He got pretty fortunate with that ball staying dry, said Wise, and that was one of the tougher bunker shots I've had in a long time. I just made a rookie mistake and left it in there.

Croft followed with a punch shot that made it up the hill, across the green and settled about — feet up on a ridge just off the fringe.

What happened next will play over in Croft's mind for years to come.

With his tilted stance making it too awkward to use his cross-handed grip, Croft opted for a traditional hand position and banged the 18-footer off the pin and in for a match-clinching par.

I was just trying to get it close, trying to make him have to make his putt, said Croft. It's a good thing the pin was there, otherwise it rolls 5 or 6 feet by.

Either way, it was a heartbreaking end for Wise, who couldn't help but lament what might have been had he not had bunker troubles.

Anywhere on the dance floor would've been nice, Wise said. Then he would've had more pressure to do something. With the pressure not on him, he had a free run with that putt and you saw what happened.

He's a very gritty player and he doesn't make very many mistakes.

Bret Breeze uncustomarily committed his share of mistakes Friday, but found enough resolve to fend off an upset bid by bowling legend Marshall Holman.

Breeze was 2-down heading into the 15th hole, but got a break when Holman's tee shot hit a tree on the right side of the fairway and ricocheted out of bounds.

If you hit that tree 100 times, five balls might go out of bounds, so that was a bad break, said Holman.

After halving the 16th, Holman appeared destined for victory on the 17th when Breeze's drive rolled through the fairway toward a cluster of trees on the left side of the hole.

Once again, however, Breeze found the kind of luck a player needs if he's to contend for the championship as his approach shot was miraculously unimpeded and he cozied a 120-yard wedge shot within 4 feet to eventually claim the hole and square the match heading to the 18th.

He comes up with an absolutely magic shot, just a magnificent shot from a spot where he could have been dead behind a tree, said Holman.

Breeze rolled in an 8-footer to send the match to a 19th hole, where Holman hooked his tee shot into a cluster of trees on the left side and needed two shots to punch out. Breeze played it safe from there, winning the hole and the match with a par 5 on a day when he wasn't at his best but still survived.

Everytime I've played bad here I've gotten beaten and deservedly so, said Breeze, who won last week's city championship. Today I got by. It didn't look like I was going to for a long time, but I got by.

Failing to advance in the championship flight were former champions Kevin Klabunde and Brad Bills, while David Boals kept alive his chances of repeating as junior-senior champion and Carmen Akins and Mary Ellen Plankenhorn advanced in the senior women's division.

Tom Deatherage, who had the lowest qualifying score with a 69 on Wednesday, dropped a 5-and-4 match to Gary Loeb in the junior-senior division.

Friday's Results

REGULAR MEN

Championship Flight

B. Newsom, Colombia Edgewater, d. B. Barr, RVCC, 5 and 4; D. Gorman, Plateau Club, d. M. Finnell, The Hideaway, 2 and 1; A. Browne, RVCC, d. J. Mansfield, Birch Hills, 7 and 6; D. Mayer, RVCC, d. F. Englund, The Reserve, 2 up; R. Dimick, Stoneridge, d. M. Binegar, Pleasant Valley, 4 and 3; G. Sterton, San Juan, d. K. Klabunde, RVCC, 4 and 3; B. Breeze, RVCC, d. M. Holman, 19th; A. Rayburn, RVCC, d. F. Clugage, Pastiempo, 4 and 3; G. Clark, RVCC, d. L. Miller, Reams, 2 up; M. Spiegel, Harding Park, d. M. Morlan, RVCC, 2 and 1; J. Willhoite, Desert Willow, d. B. Bills, Stoneridge, — and 2; BJ Boeck, Heron Lakes, d. P. Cardin, Eagle Point, 5 and 4; M. Ryan, Rooster Run, d. J. Anderson, RVCC, — up; T. Dixon, RVCC, d. S. Hansen, RVCC, — up; N. Nieto, RVCC, d. D. Engle, Oak Knoll, 5 and 4; T. Croft, Cedar Links, d. J. Wise, RVCC, 22nd.

First Flight

E. Ford, RVCC, d. J. Sessions, Deerwood, 2 and 1; R. Moore, Cedar Links, d. J. Christensen, RVCC, 4 and 3; S. Lewis, Cals Caddyshack, d. J. Paladino, Eagle Point, 2 up; S. O'Grady, The Reserve Vinyards, d. S. Reed, RVCC, 7 and 6; M. Wilson, Medford, d. R. Lillesve, Rivers Edge, — and 2; J. Barry, RVCC, d. J. Parrish, RVCC, — up; K. Dixon, RVCC, d. C. Campbell, Cedar Links, 2 and 1; B. Foote, RVCC, d. J. Cox, RVCC, — up; M. Galante, RVCC, d. P. Rathbun, Oakway Golf Club, — up; K. Schneider, Oswego Lake, d. R. Warner, RVCC, 7 and 5; T. Stark, Portland, d. R. Dyer, RVCC, 4 and 3; J. Ausland, Grants Pass, d. T. Boersma, Grants Pass, — up; B. Brutke, RVCC, d. G. Loomis, University Golf Club, — up; S. Garcelon, Podders Club, d. G. Findley, Bayonet, 2 up; M. Parsons, Eagle Point, d. B. Kim, Cedar Links, 10 and 8; R. Hawkins, Grants Pass, d. D. Luther, Colombia Edgewater, 4 and 2.

Second Flight

D. Culbertson, Cedar Links, d. D. Riggs, Cedar Links, — up; D. Westbrook, Cedar Links, d. T. Brink, RVCC, — up; J. Rossknect, Grants Pass, d. S. Grove, Stewart Meadows, 4 and 3; M. Decker, Whitney Oaks, d. B. Gard, West Seattle, 4 and 5; R. Neff, Eagle Point, d. A. Mitchell, Roseburg, 2 and 1; B. Maxwell, Grants Pass, d. S. Cordeiro, Stewart Meadows, 5 and 4; K. Rhodes, Windsor, d. J. Barry, RVCC, — and 2; E. Doolen, Corvallis, d. M. Munden, Encinitas, 4 and 2.

Third Flight

C. Cota, RVCC, d. R. Farino, Windsor, 19th; D. Schweitzer, Spring Hill, d. J. Stark, Newcastle, — up; C. Adderson, RVCC, d. Matt Smith, Eagle Point, 2 up; K. Clugage, Tilden Park, d. D. Moreland, Tournament Players Club, 5 up; A. Satterfield, RVCC, d. B. Galpern, RVCC, 4 and 3; T. Trower, Stewart Meadows, d. R. Wallis, Cedar Links, 19th; H. Munn, Cedar Links, d. J. Adair, Carnoustie, — and 2; S. Ekwall, Cedar Links, d. RJ Glover, Eagle Point, — up.

Fourth Flight

C. Lallo, Cedar Links, d. B. Pederson, Cedar Links, — and 2; K. Tucker, Overlake, d. T. Willis, Eagle Point, — and 2; J. Morris, Battle Lake, d. D. Mataczynski, Lake Oswego, 2 up; T. Heim, Quail Point, d. D. Lillesve, Rivers Edge, 4 and 2.

Sixth Flight

S. Lytle, RVCC, d. M. Tucker, 2 and 1; T. Gallagher, Portland, d. J. Hunter, Medford, 4 and 3; J. Steward, Windsor, d. L. Knight, Battle Creek, — up; J. Stormo, Lake Oswego, d. D. O'Connor, RVCC, 20th; C. Preston, RVCC, d. R. Hauck, Willamette Valley, — up; S. Sherbourne, RVCC, d. C. Moser, Cedar Links, — up; E. Foster, Stoneridge, d. T. Hamlin, RVCC, — up; JA Anderson, Quail Point, d. J. Brekke, Cedar Links, — and 2.

JUNIOR-SENIOR

Championship Flight

G. Loeb, Tuscon National, d. T. Deatherage, Bend, 5 and 4; M. Morrow, Awbrey Glen, d. F. Gilleland, Overlake, 5 and 4; D. Boals, RVCC, d. S. Louis, Reserve at Spanss Park, — and 2; G. Miller, RVCC, d. C. Wetle, Eugene, 19th; J. Audia, Brokentop, d. K. Owen, RVCC, — up; K. Rasmussen, RVCC, d. V. Schneider, Oswego Lake, 4 and 2; C. Galpern, RVCC, d. P. Moore, Cedar Links, — up; M. McCann, Arrowhead, d. R. Stassi Jr, RVCC, — up.

First Flight

D. Ward, Overlake, d. S. Skinner, Arrowhead, 4 and 3; G. Lukas, Pumpkin Ridge, d. R. McCabe, SCGA, 2 and 1; B. Dickey, RVCC, d. B. Adolph, RVCC, 4 and 3; D. Orr, RVCC, d. D. Smith, RVCC, — and 2; J. Jessel, Eagle Ridge, d. D. Potter, Oregon Golf Club, 10 and 8; T. Decker, Diamond Oaks, d. S. Boldish, RVCC, — up; J. Eklund, RVCC, d. B. Brigham, RVCC, 2 and 1; P. Chitwood, RVCC, d. D. Street, RVCC, 2 up.

Second Flight

G. Wood, Franklin Canyon, d. B. Crenshaw, Arrowhead, 2 and 1; D. Hartley, Santiam, d. J. Quast, Eagle Point, 2 up; N. Veronneau, RVCC, d. G. Kilroy, Meadow Lark, 19th; B. Sullivan, RVCC, d. C. Kenney, RVCC, — and 2; B. Heilman, Overlake, d. W. Van Wey, 19th; M. Bottjer, Eagle Point, d. D. Koch, Grants Pass, — and 2; S. Mayfield, Grants Pass, d. G. Glass, RVCC, — up; S. Wood, Dayton Valley, d. W. Wagner, East Morland, 2 and 1.

Fourth Flight

T. Mort, RVCC, d. R. Dent, Cedar Links, 2 up; T. Mustard, Eagle Point, d. J. Brittain, RVCC, 2 up; B. DeForest, Oak Knoll, d. E. Murphy, Cedar Links, — and 2; D. Edgren, Santa Teresa, d. S. Watkins, RVCC, — up; D. Hellweg, Temeku Hill, d. K. Timmins, OGA, — up; J. Tomlin, Coos Bay, d. G. Lathrop, Eagle Point, 4 and 3; J. Botsford, RVCC, d. Joel Riley, Paso Robles, — up; K. Phipps, Rock Creek, d. M. O'Grady, RVCC, — and 1.

SENIOR MEN

Championship Flight

J. Cochrane, RVCC, d. B. Orrico, Aldarra Club, 7 and 5; D. Dixon, RVCC, d. G. Mack, Colombia Edgewater, — and 2; Jim Smith, RVCC, d. D. Rose, Eugene, 2 and 1; Justin Smith, RVCC, d. D. Brekke, RVCC, 19th; T. Anderson, RVCC, d. M. Austin, Cedar Links, — and 2; J. Dunkin, RVCC, d. J. Peat, Club at Morningside, 19th; B. Maentz, RVCC, d. J. Johnson, RVCC, 19th; T. Hamlin, RVCC, d. J. Humphrey, RVCC, 2 and 1.

First Flight

B. Harrell, RVCC, d. B. McDonald, Tacoma, 2 and 1; B. Fraser, RVCC, d. S. Weaver, 19th; J. Quincy, RVCC, d. P. Akerman, Quail Point, 2 and 1; B. Shevlin, RVCC, d. K. Bailey, RVCC, — up; A Schneider, RVCC, d. H. Light, Tualitin, 4 and 3; R. Loyd, RVCC, d. D. Melville, RVCC, 4 and 3; B. Hanson, RVCC, d. L. Garvin, RVCC, 5 and 4; TA Watson, Diamondback, d. R. Primasing, Cedar Links, — up.

Fourth Flight

D. Sorenson, Waverly, d. M. Jantzer, RVCC, 6 and 4; D. Leary, Middlefield, d. A. Wihtol, Eagle Point, 2 and 1; J. Kruesi, RVCC, d. G. Bonner, RVCC, 20th; D. Entinger, RVCC, d. J. Bailey, Mount Graham, 5 and 4.

Fifth Flight

J. Jensen, RVCC, d. M. Connor, Oak Knoll, 19th; B. Bassett, Shadow Hills, d. H. Phearson, Reams, 6 and 4; G. Redden, RVCC, d. W. Towe, Napa, 4 and 3; B. Saulnier, Great Eagle, d. R. Perry, Riverview, 21st.

Sixth Flight

R. White, RVCC, d. B. Doolen, RVCC, 2 and 1; P. Amorde, Eagle Point, d. R. Colwell, White Eagle, — and 2; E. Hinge, Roseville, d. L. Boeck, RVCC, 6 and 4; J. Cox, RVCC, d. F. Johnson, RVCC, 20th.

Seventh Flight

G. Striepeke, Contra Costa, d. T. Darland, RVCC, — up; B. Crews, RVCC, d. T. Kaylor, Oak Knoll, 4 and 3; B. Sevcik, RVCC, d. K. Gilmore, Mallard Creek, — up; P. Puljan, Riverview, d. E. Seltzler, RVCC, 2 and 1.

Eighth Flight

R. Dow, RVCC, d. T. Barry, RVCC, 2 up; T. Hitzelberger, RVCC, d. J. Anhorn, RVCC, 2 up; M. Kirkpatrick, RVCC, d. D. Mansfield, Brentwood, — and 2; M. Brown, Oregon City, d. J. Barry, Cedar Links, 2 and 1.

Ninth Flight

L. Burns, RVCC, d. T. Hughes, Illahe Hills, 4 and 3; M. Parsons, Stewart Meadows, d. T. Decker, Whitney Oaks, — up; J. Root, Roseburg, d. T. Click, Cedar Links, 2 and 1; J. Bramwell, RVCC, d. J. Teays, Great Eagle, 19th.

10th Flight

J. Huston, RVCC, d. R. Weinhold, RVCC, 2 and 1; C. Mickelson, Eagle Point, d. B. Watrus, Lake Tamarisk, 5 and 4; R. Lillesve, RVCC, d. G. Bendickson, RVCC, — up; S. Milne, Bellevue, d. W. Hicks, RVCC, — and 2.

11th Flight

B. DuMilieu, RVCC, d. J. Herbert, Issaquah, 4 up; B. Reed, RVCC, d. L. Bennett, Cedar Links, 10 and 8; R. Van Vleet, d. B. Deatherage, RVCC, 2 and 1; B. Hutchins, RVCC, d. J. Kilroy, RVCC, 5 and 4.

SENIOR WOMEN

Championship Flight

C. Akins, Cedar Links, d. K. Louis, Reserve at Spanss Park, 6 and 5; K. McMurtrey, RVCC, d. C. Dunlap, RVCC, 6 and 5; J. Hughes, RVCC, d. G. Jantzer, 5 and 4; S. Anderson, RVCC, d. N. Gish, Cedar Links, 2 up; M. Plankenhorn, RVCC, d. J. Stark, RVCC, 7 and 6; K. Van Sant, RVCC, d. V. Moffatt, Grants Pass, — up; N. Breitenstein, Bend, d. P. Faurote, Bear Creek, 4 and 2; B. Loyd, RVCC, d. D. Cordell, RVCC, — up.

Second Flight

P. Cracraft, RVCC, d. B. Barry, RVCC, — up; J. Entinger, RVCC, d. Y. Schlafke, RVCC, 5 and 3; J. Korepta, RVCC, d. A. Petrich, Twin Lakes, — and 2; C. Jones, RVCC, d. C. Edwards, RVCC, 5 and 4; J. Simms, RVCC, d. M. Gillette, RVCC, 5 up; P. Humphrey, RVCC, d. L. Basgen, RVCC, — and 2; P. Turnipseed, RVCC, d. M. Kilroy, RVCC, 5 and 3; M. Botsford, RVCC, d. L. Weinhold, RVCC, 5 and 4.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail