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Stover's putter sizzles in career round

Cody Stover considers himself a streaky putter.

And never was it so evident as in the Rogue Valley Junior Invitational Sunday at Centennial Golf Club.

"When it gets on, it's on," says the 16-year-old golfer, who will be a junior at North Medford High. "And when it gets off, it's definitely off."

It was on in this Oregon Golf Association event as Stover made putts of at least 20 feet on four consecutive holes and rode that hot streak to a career round.

He shot a 1-under-par 71 to win the Junior Boys Division for ages 16 and 17 by two shots over Ryan Melnychuck, an Illinois Valley player who won the previous day at Quail Point.

Stover got the flat stick going early, "and it continued throughout the round," he says. "Some of them were for pars, but it was definitely the putting."

The round was his career best by a whopping four shots and was a departure from his play for the North Medford varsity in the spring, when he battled back and elbow injuries. His best prep round was an 84 in a Southwest Conference match at Eugene Country Club.

So where did this round come from?

"I have no idea," says Stover. "Good vibes I guess."

He'd broken 80 only a half-dozen times. This time, he almost cracked 70.

And perhaps most remarkable is he did it with triple and double bogeys, the latter coming on the last hole as he tried to hold it together.

"I was playing with a kid from Portland, and he was really funny," says Stover of Jimmy Buell, who was sixth with a 76. "I wasn't thinking about my score until the final hole. He was joking around about the whole round. I have to give him some credit for keeping me loose."

On No. 18, a long par 4, Stover hit a nice drive down the middle and had 180 yards in. But he chunked his 5-iron, then chipped onto the green about 60 feet from the hole. His first putt was dead on but short. He then missed the 3-footer and took a 6.

"It got in my head and I started thinking about the score a little too much," he says. "I was just thinking my best round is 75 and I was like, 'Whoa!' I'm 3 under walking down the fairway on the last hole. I could break 70."

That didn't happen, but a lot of good things did.

Stover began with birdies on three of the first six holes — Nos. 2, 4 and 6. Then he tripled No. 7 when his tee shot found tall grass on the left. Instead of punching out, he tried to get it on the green and barely advanced the ball. Then he punched out, chipped up and three-putted.

"I'm still even at that point, so I'm pretty happy," he says. "I just had to regroup and put that hole behind me."

That didn't take long as he birdied the next two to finish the front in 2-under 34.

He sandwiched birdies on 12 and 14 around a bogey at No. 13, and otherwise played par golf on the back until the 18th.

In the past, when Stover has broken scoring barriers, he's found it easier to do again. First 90, then 80, now par.

"Once you get that score," he says, "it feels like, mentally, when you step out here again, you can do it again because you've already done it. It will help in the future because I know I'm capable."

A couple other local players had notable efforts.

Dylan Wu won the Intermediate Boys (12-13) with a 76. It's his third win in four tournaments in the division he joined only late last July.

Sunshine Powers, the reigning Southwest Conference champion from North Medford, won the Girls (15-17) with a 75. Reese Fisher, the son of Medford teaching pro Ed Fisher, claimed the Pee Wee Boys (8-11) with a nine-hole score of even-par 36.

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CENTENNIAL GOLF CLUB has made a splash in Golf World magazine by being ranked in the top 10 in a Readers' Choice Awards poll that, in part, rates the overall value of public golf courses in the United States. There are also private- and resort-course categories.

Centennial is tied for fifth on the list that appears in the June 8 edition of the magazine. Readers evaluate courses in a number of areas and assign points, ranging from 10 (extremely positive) to 1 (extremely negative).

Centennial's average rank was 9.15, tying it with Harding Park in San Francisco.

Bethpage State Park, site of next week's U.S. Open in Farmingdale, N.Y., is No. 3 with a 9.46 rating.

Independence in Midlothian, Va., is first (9.75), followed by Stevinson (Calif.) Ranch (9.46).

Voters are entered into a sweepstakes for which golf packages are awarded. The contest runs through July.

To participate, go to www.golfworldreaderschoice.com.

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STEPHANIE JOHNS has had what she considers a nondescript spring.

And this after she earned first-team all-conference honors on Portland State's women's golf team and after she earned the first alternate spot in a qualifier for the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship.

Johns, the former Ashland standout, is completing her junior year at PSU and will return home for the summer intent on competing in the Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships (as the defending champion) and the 80th annual Southern Oregon Golf Tournament.

She'll have one or two other big U.S. Golf Association events along the way but isn't in a rush to get back to the course.

In addition to completing her college season and the Public Links qualifier, she placed 26th in a U.S. Women's Open qualifier.

"I practiced for the two qualifiers, but right now I'm kind of taking a break from the season," she says. "You get so far behind in school, and right now it's time to catch up. Once I'm down in Southern Oregon, I'll be playing a lot more. I'm just trying to get through this year."

Johns expects to graduate next June with a degree in business management.

She led the Vikings with a 77.68 scoring average over the fall and spring terms and was No. 3 in the Big Sky Conference. She led the Vikings in five of nine tournaments and won the Bulldog and Eagle Invitational at Post Falls, Idaho, in September.

"I had a really good fall season and a little rougher of a spring," says Johns. "As a team, we didn't play as good as we wanted to in the spring."

In the Public Links qualifier, she shot an 81 at Heron Lakes in Portland, missing out by two shots. There were only nine players in it, and two 17-year-olds, including Class 6A champion Sharon Shinn of West Linn, qualified with 79s.

"Gosh, it was pretty low-key," says Johns. None of her PSU teammates entered "because it was in the middle of everything."

She could get into the championship June 22 at Red Tail Golf Club in Devens, Mass., should one of the teens drop out.

Johns performed better in the Women's Open qualifier at the Oregon Golf Association Course in Woodburn. She shot an 8-over 80 against stiff competition. It took a 74 to qualify.

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