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Medalist Johns tries to find winner's circle

Stephanie Johns has made two attempts at winning the Southern Oregon Golf Tournament.

If her third try isn't successful this week, she may have the moniker of best player never to claim the women's division title.

"I would love to go out and win it this year," Johns said Wednesday after shooting a 3-under-par 70 for medalist honors in qualifying for the 80th annual event at Rogue Valley Country Club. "Who knows where I'll be next year. I'll be finished with school, and I don't know if I'll be here to play in it. I'd love to go out and take it this year."

Johns isn't setting her sights on a professional career, but she's not ruling it out, either. Depending on the economy, it might be the best job option available to the Portland State senior.

Johns' tally was the best women's score by seven shots on a day when players in the women's and senior women's divisions and most out-of-towners qualified.

The tournament turns to match play today and continues through Monday, when all championships will be decided.

Amanda Nealy, herself a two-time champion, qualified with a 77. She was followed by Linda Johnson and Kelly Loeb with 78s and Aubrie Street with an 80.

In the senior women's division, Bogey Loyd shot 84 and is medalist. Judy Johnson tallied 86 and Joan Dickerson 87.

Chris Polski, a 3-handicap player from Eugene, shot 68 to tie Brooks Newsom, who qualified Tuesday, for medalist honors in the men's division. They will play off for the trophy Friday.

Other top scores Wednesday in the men's division were 71 by John Warner and 72 by Casey King.

In the senior division, Stein Swenson turned in a 76.

Johns, a former Ashland High standout, now fills that role on the PSU women's golf team. In her first year of competition — she transferred from the University of Nevada — Johns was selected to the all-Big Sky Conference team.

She's set the course record the past two summers at Centennial Golf Club during the city championships and has generally distinguished herself as a top-flight player.

The SOGT crown has eluded her, however, and she doesn't seem as befuddled by that as others.

"I mean, honestly, I'm more of a stroke-play player than match-play player," said Johns. "I don't have a lot of experience with it. College is all stroke play. The last two years, it's been more like trying to figure out how to play my opponent. We'll see how it goes this year."

In her debut two years ago, Johns was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Calista Crenshaw, 5 and 4.

Last year, Trina Jones dispatched Johns in the semifinals. Jones rallied from two holes down with five to play and triumphed with an 8-foot make on No. 18.

Jones, runner-up the year before, went on to defeat Loeb for the crown.

Johns' goal this time around is to not pay attention to and play shots based on what her opponent is doing.

"I get rattled and pay attention to the other person's game, and that's not what you should be doing," said Johns, who will have friends and former high school teammates Stephanie and Elaina Graham caddie for her and keep the mood light. "They'll help me keep more in focus."

Johns was zeroed in on Wednesday. She was 4 under on the front nine, then started the back side with a birdie.

"I thought, 'Oh, I'm on a roll. This is great,'" said Johns.

Then she took a double bogey on the par-5 12th, erasing the euphoria. She snap-hooked her drive into a tree line, punched out, then hit a 180-yard 5-iron into a greenside bunker. She got out, only to three-putt.

"On the back, my driver wasn't hitting the fairways," she said. "I hit the back nine and was just saving pars."

She played in a group that included Jones, who, as the defending champion, didn't have to qualify and is seeded No. 1 in the bracket. She was runner-up two years ago to Johnson.

If medalist Johns and Jones keep winning, they'll meet in the finals.

Polski, 22, is in his third SOGT and plans to turn pro eventually.

He'd like to have hardware from here, first.

"It's a really good tournament, it's prestigious," he said. "It goes back 80 years and has a long history. It's always fun to win those kinds of tournaments, but you try to win every tournament, whether it's your club championship, the Southern Oregon or the U.S. Amateur."

Polski wasn't close to medalist consideration through 15 holes. Then he birdied the last three.

He had it to 3 under through eight, then gave a couple back with three-putts.

"The last three or four holes, you can really make hay on," said Polski. "You hit a tough stretch, then you can kind of get it back. It's out there. You can definitely score, but I think the course was playing a little tougher than in years past."

Swirling wind played a part in toughening the course, he said.

Other medalists who held up from Day 1 of qualifying Tuesday are Brad Bills (71) in junior-senior men's and George Mack Sr. (69) in senior men's.

Southern Oregon Golf Tournament

Second Day Qualifying

At Rogue Valley Country Club

MENS REGULAR

Rick Abel 79, Jon Ausland 84, Justin Azevedo 80, Andy Badia 87, Kyle Bleser 77, Travis Boersma 83, Richard Buchler 89, Jeremy Burrows 86, Daryn Clark 87, Nic Corbett 104, Garrett Doolen 82, Greg Findley 74, Kyle Freeman 87, Brooks Gard 84, Jerom Gilbert 83, Don Gorman 77, Rob Graves 97, Rob Hauck 99, Ryan Hawkins 75, Marc Henderson 82, David Hoff 84, Darrel Hunt 89, Perry Hunt 84, Greg Jones 92, Tom Jones 87, Casey King 72, Lynn Knight 101, Geoff Loomis 75, Rick Lozano 88, Dolf May 76, Michael McCaslin 82, Matt Morris 117, Mike Munden 90, Sonny O'Grady 89, James Parsley 89, Erik Pedersen 79, Chris Polski 68, Nic Polski 75, David Raff 93, J.C. Riter 76, Jon Robinson 83, Ryan Schaefer 79, Michael Schmidt 99, Tommy Smith 75, Mike Spiegel 73, Scott Sterton 92, John Warner 71, Brent Willits 88.

JUNIOR-SENIOR MEN

Kevin Aguirre 91, Troy Alexander 84, Todd Andres 84, Steve Ausland 85, Jason Bouzus 89, Chuck Carnese 96, Bill Crenshaw 84, Mike Diehl 99, Erick Doolen 79, Chet Gonczeruk 81, Brad Heilman 77, Mike Hite 97, Tim Hornecker 86, Joe Jessel 79, David Kaplan 81, Glenn Kilroy 92, Scott Knight 93, Gary Loeb 87, Andy Luther 86, Jim Mansfield 82, Scott Mayfield, Rick McCabe 84, Alex Merkner 80, Chris Miller 106, 83, Pete Nikolich 90, Brian Odell 79, Brent Orrico 88, Roger Peck 94, Tom Powley 83, Gregg Rupert 99, Mike Snyder 99, Matt Sorenson 78, Mitch Sorenson 90, Gary Sterton 85, Scott Swendiman 90, Bob Tennant 86, Doug Ward 79.

SENIOR MEN

Mike Arant 100, John Barker 87, Larry Brown 91, Lael Collins 95, John Dickerson 101, Mark Fawver 84, Ken Gilmore 101, Jerry Hanson 97, Rick Hassmann 88, Jim Hauck 93, Pat Iribarren 93, Dean Keller 97, Gary Mann 86, Dave Mansfield 95, Bruce McDonald 94, Michael Miller 82, Scott Milne 103, Gibb Mitchell 101, Richard Mitchell 96, Ward Moyer 88, Terry Newsom 81, Larry Nilson 82, Warren Parke 92, George Parsons 106, Ralph Perry 90, Howard Phearson 89, Ken Phipps 92, Steven Polus 97, Bob Pond 85, Eldon Powley 99, Joe Riter 84, John Root 102, Dodd Samuel 83, Dick Sorenson 91, Stein Swenson 76, Terry Tallis 88, Jody Thomason 96, Wendall Towe 93, Ron Van Vleet 103, Warren Wagner 84, Steven Welch 84, David Williams 92, Gregg Willits 83.

SENIOR WOMEN

Becky Barry 109, Linda Basgen 100, Chrissy Bayless 94, Carolyn Collins 117, Karen Cox 93, Paula Cracraft 97, Janis Crenshaw 91, Carolyn Crews 122, Janice Davis 90, Joan Dickerson 87, Cathy Dunlap 90, Coral Edwards 98, Nancy Gish 102, Rosemary Harrington 93, Stephanie Heilman 106, Jan Hughes 94, Judy Johnson 86, Gail Jones 93, Maggie Kilroy 99, Bogey Loyd 84, Teri Mayer 96, Marianne Metzger 88, Nancy McDonald 96, Vicki Mitchell 104, Barbara Oldfield 95, Barb Pinkham 91, Linda Pons 92, Janet Stark 96, Deb Stuart 89, Peggy Tomlins 97, Pam Turnipseed 99.

WOMEN

Tracie Armitage 87, Jen Ausland 86, Michele Belieu 96, Tina Blum 100, Karen Buchler 92, Makenna Clark 104, Kimberly Coffey 94, Leslie Gainey 96, Kelly Hegeman 94, Wynter Hite 105, Lori Humphrey 83, Molly Hylton 86, Stephanie Johns 70, Linda Johnson 78, Heidi Kaplan 93, Cris Kohler 101, Kelly Loeb 78, Nikki Mack 81, Mo McFaddin 88, Amanda Nealy 77, Kathy Pauck 83, Claudia Robbs 84, Barb Stormo 102, Cathy Trower 103, Patti Ward 106, Toni Winters 105.

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