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Hoffman shows just how tough seniors are

Some players got while the gettin' was good at the Rogue Valley Country Club championships last weekend.

They hastily left the seniors' division and sought refuge in the men's division.

"Some of the guys looked at that lineup and actually switched," said Jim Hoffman. "Their thinking was, they had a better chance in the men's. In the seniors, you're getting these 50-year-old veterans, and there are a lot of guys with 1 to 4 handicaps."

The 55-year-old Hoffman is a perfect example. He played in the final foursome for the fourth time in five years and won his second title in three years.

Hoffman shot a 2-over-par 218 in the three-day event. Senior runner-up Jerry Eklund's 221 was the next-best score, regardless of division.

Kevin Klabunde (227) in the men's, Bob Harrell (225) in the super seniors and Trina Jones (231) in the women's were other victors.

Hoffman entered with a 3 handicap but is now a 2.

A 20-year member of the club, he opened with a first-round 76 and trailed leaders Eklund and Dan Dixon by three shots. But a 69 on Saturday moved him into the final group for Sunday, then he and 36-hole leader Eklund waged a two-man battle.

"That was the key for me," Hoffman said of Day 2. "The second day was really good. That got me right back in the last group."

He and Eklund are good friends — they've played softball together for 13 years — and that contributed to an enjoyable final round, as did playing partners Marshall Holman (third at 223) and Dan Dixon (fourth at 229).

On Sunday, Hoffman played the first nine in even par, enabling him to make up a one-shot deficit and square what essentially became a match against Eklund going to the inward nine.

They played the original course, meaning the final leg was the inside nine at the 27-hole facility.

Hoffman was ever-steady the final two days, throwing shots into fairways and onto greens as routinely as if he were pitching pennies.

"I gave myself a lot of chances at birdies," he said, noting he made four against one bogey on Saturday.

Sunday was much the same for him, while Eklund was a tad wayward off the tee.

"But he's such a veteran, he was making par from everywhere," said Hoffman.

Their 11th hole, the par-4 second on the inside, was the swing hole. Hoffman made an 8-foot birdie with the hole heartlessly tucked in the front, while Eklund's approach left him long, left and dead.

"Five was not a bad score," said Hoffman of his opponent.

With a two-shot lead at the 12th, Hoffman made par and Eklund bogey after finding water off the tee.

Eklund rallied to make up two shots and trailed by one as the group went to the par-5 18th.

Hoffman played it safe, with driver, 5-wood and pitching wedge to reach the green and leave himself an easy two putts for par. Eklund, forced to be aggressive in a bid to make birdie to a back pin, hit his approach over the green.

"I've learned to make (my opponent) make birdie and not goof up in that situation," said Hoffman. "Make par or better but nothing worse; force him to come through and make a great shot. I've been in that situation before where I was aggressive and hit into the trees and made bogey. I told myself I'm not making that mistake again if all I need is a par."

Two putts would have done it, but he dropped in a 12-footer for birdie to put an exclamation point on a gratifying victory.

"I've been here 20 years," said Hoffman. "To me, it's a very, very important win. You're playing against the best guys at Rogue Valley, and they all want to win this thing. It's important to me. I cherish it."

Hoffman is entered in the Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships next weekend at Centennial Golf Club and is considering entering the Southern Oregon Golf Tournament a week later.


JOSH CREWS DIDN'T go as low as Hoffman, and he surely wasn't as consistent. But Crews' stick-to-it-iveness was unrivaled at RVCC.

The 20-handicapper followed one of his worst days ever (116) on Saturday with one of his best (84) in the men's division. That's a 32-shot swing in a 24-hour period.

Crews, 32, was at loss to explain either round.

"Just a bad day," he said of Saturday. "I don't know what a guy does to shoot a 116 because I've never done that in my life. Just stress, I guess. It's kind of embarrassing."

Sunday was sooo much better. And from the tips, no less.

"That's a real good score for me," said Crews, who figures his best round at RVCC was an 82 but didn't come from the back tees. "I just played a lot better. I played like I should play, I guess."

He made three birdies, including a chip-in on what would be No. 16 on the outside course and a 30-foot putt off the fringe on the tough fourth hole on the inside.

Together with his riding partner, Gil Pugliano, theirs was the "Comeback Cart."

Pugliano improved 18 strokes to an 88 on Sunday.

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