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Barry opts to play in city championship

What looked to be a wide open city golf championship closed considerably Thursday when Mike Barry put his name on the entry list in the men's division.

Barry, who competed in the U.S. Amateur early this week in Tulsa, Okla., originally planned to take the weekend off in advance of next week's Southern Oregon Golf Tournament.

But an eleventh-hour call from an official of the Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships to check on Barry's status was enough to entice the 22-year-old Oregon State student to make the drive from Corvallis a tad early.

The tournament, with a full field of 162 players in all divisions, is Saturday and Sunday at Centennial Golf Club. Tee times range from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days.

Barry tied for 61st place in qualifying at the U.S. Amateur. He was in a playoff on Wednesday for a match-play berth but came up short.

A former state champion for North Medford High, Barry placed second to his high school coach, Kevin Klabunde, in last year's city tourney. A week later, he defeated Klabunde in the finals of the Southern Oregon.

When it appeared Barry and four-time winner Brooks Newsom of Portland — who has a family commitment — weren't playing, new contenders were discussed as threats to Klabunde's reign.

Glen Clark shot a 64 in senior play Tuesday, setting the course record from those tees.

Daniel Engle, who will walk-on to Oregon State's golf team this fall, lowered the course record from the purple tees to 65 a month ago.

Rick Dimick, whom Clark considers the best ball-striker in the valley, is back after placing third last year, and Brad Bills and J.T. Compher are distinguished challengers.

Now, the picture has changed.

"I definitely think Mike will be up there," says Chris Daggitt, tournament coordinator. "It'll be fun. It's a really strong field, which is exciting. The course is going to be tough and the greens will be quick. We'll see who lasts."

In other divisions, Ken Peterson (senior), Bob Harrell (super senior) and Stephanie Johns (women) return to defend.

Last year, Klabunde rallied on the final three holes and shot a 3-over-par 147 to beat Barry, who bogeyed the final three holes, by a stroke.

It was Klabunde's fourth city stroke-play title. He isn't prepared to predict a fifth this weekend.

Even though he won the Rogue Valley Country Club men's championship a couple weeks ago, he had to overcome a first-round 84 to do so.

"That was one of the worst rounds I've had in 10 years," he says, adding that his game has "really been kind of up and down."

"I'd love to go in there and play well," he says of Centennial, "but last year was really the first year I played decent on that course. I always shot 76, 78 and got a little irritated with myself. I just had to quit making excuses and go out and score. Luckily, I was able to do it last year. We'll go out and see this year."

Klabunde expects big things from Engle, who set the Class 4A scoring record in winning state last spring with consecutive 67s. Those were the best scoring rounds of his career until the recent 65.

"I hadn't had a round out here like that," says Engle, who works at the club and shot the score in preparation for U.S. Amateur sectional qualifying. "I don't play that much when I'm out here, but I was practicing a lot during that stretch."

At 18, this will be his first city championship.

"It'll be a lot of fun," he says. "I know a lot of the local guys. It should be fun to play with a lot of the good players in this area."

Clark, in his first year as a member at Centennial, says his bogey-free 64 was the product of tweaking his grip and alignment by teacher Ed Fisher.

"I've been working on it the last couple weeks, and Tuesday I started hitting some pretty good shots," says Clark. "I'm still erratic on occasion; once in a while a foul ball goes out there. But he (Fisher) was a lot of help."

On the women's side, Johns will use the tournament as a tune-up for the Southern Oregon. She won the city by 20 strokes last year, setting the course record on Day 1 with a 68 and following it with a 69.

She was a first-team all-Big Sky Conference player as a junior for Portland State this past school year and has, for the most part, taken a break from play this summer.

"I played really well last year, and I'm not going to put pressure on myself to do the same thing," she says. "I want to go out and do well because I like the course and I like the tournament. But I'm not going to put some ridiculous numbers in my head."

Tee times for Saturday are at www.centennialgolfclub.com.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com