King of the course
Daniel Engle ran into some tough luck and even tougher competition Monday in his bid for a first-ever men's championship in the Southern Oregon Golf Championships at Rogue Valley Country Club.
Facing a two-hole deficit to start the second 18 holes of his 36-hole match play final, Engle's tee shot sailed left into a cluster of trees and, despite the efforts of around 40 faithful searchers, was never to be seen again.
Suddenly the recent Phoenix High graduate was 3 down after only one swing of his afternoon round and never really recovered from that point, eventually losing 4 and 3 to Casey King of Blue River.
"It wasn't a good drive but I expected to find it," said Engle, 18, of the missing tee shot. "I expected to be able to punch it out there and have a shot at the green at least."
"But that was one shot," he added. "I had a lot of opportunities early on in the first 18 and then this final 18 I just kinda blew a couple on that front nine. Casey played well, too, though."
For only his first time in the 80th annual event, King was simply magnificent in closing out Engle. The 19-year-old Oregon State sophomore rarely found himself anywhere outside the fairway and showed amazing touch around the green.
"I had a game plan all week and it was just to hit fairways and hit greens," said King. "I'm a good enough putter where I'm going to make some putts, I'm bound to. I really just stuck to that today, just like any other match."
Whenever Engle appeared to have an advantage to cut into his deficit, King was typically able to close the door with some remarkably clutch efforts.
On the fifth hole of the second 18 — 23rd overall — King smoothly drained a 20-foot uphill putt for birdie when Engle was sitting only 3 feet from the hole for his birdie opportunity. Instead of a realistic chance at moving to only 2 down, the incoming OSU freshman suddenly found all the pressure on his shoulders.
"You try not to think about it but you've got a short one for birdie and then once he makes it, it's like now I've got to make this to halve the hole and it becomes that much harder," said Engle, who calmly sank his putt as well.
That scenario played out again on the next hole, with King momentarily breaking from character to find himself behind a tree on the par-4 sixth hole as Engle sat safely in the fairway. Undaunted, King sent a towering approach shot over the tree and just between the green and a front right bunker. He softly chipped to around 8 feet below the hole, waited for Engle to two-putt for par and then rolled in his own par putt to maintain his lead.
"The putter, that was the difference," said King. "I was rolling the putter today. It's really hard to beat a guy when he's making putts, especially when he's capping you with 15 foot putts for par. It wears on you."
King's lead increased to 4 up on the match's 26th hole with a 7-foot birdie putt, and then 5 up thanks to a beautiful mid-iron draw in his approach to the 412-yard, par-4 12th hole on the inside course. After Engle's 20-foot effort for birdie fell under the hole, King was able to tap in his 3-footer for a birdie and five-hole lead with only six to go.
With his back to the wall, Engle made a last-ditch effort with an approach shot within inches of the cup for a gimme birdie on the par-4 13th to cut one hole off King's lead. Engle's deficit fell to 3 down with four to go on the ensuing hole when King pulled his par putt to the left.
"He wasn't on his 'A' game, so to speak, but he really grinded it out down the stretch," King said of Engle.
But just as the energy was getting back into Engle's traveling crew of supporters, it all went away moments later when his tee shot sailed well right of the green on the par-3, 212-yard 15th hole. King's tee shot wasn't much better, but his was pulled to the left of the green and in no danger of settling beyond the out-of-bounds markers on the right.
Both players hit provisional tee shots, but only Engle would need his after finding his golf ball settled beyond the OB stakes on a concrete pad near a rock pile.
"I can't say I hit that shot very often, but it is what it is I guess," Engle said later. "It happens."
After King's soft pitch put him in prime position to save par, Engle essentially had to drain his chip shot to hope to extend the match. The ball dropped and rolled to the right of the cup and Engle instantly walked across the green to concede the hole and match to his counterpart.
"It's a little disappointing to get this far in the finals, beat Mike (Barry) and kinda pull off that upset and then not be able to pull out the win," said Engle. "It's OK, though. Second place is good. A lot of guys never even get close to that so I can't be too upset."
For King it was the perfect end to a fun reunion weekend with his former McKenzie High boys basketball coach — and current Phoenix coach — Glenn Johannes. King said that Glenn and Michelle Johannes, the membership director at RVCC, had pleaded with him to play the SOGC and he finally agreed to take them up on his offer. Glenn and Michelle split time on the bag as King's caddie, with Michelle bringing home the winner on Monday.
Casey King d. Daniel Engle 4 up.
Tommy Smith d. Ryan Hawkins 19th.
Jon Robinson d. Thomas Avalon 3 and 2.
David Hoff d. Kelly Owen 2 up.
Mike Nieto d. Aaron Rayburn 4 and 3.
Andy Baida d. Bryan Brutke 1 up.
Eric Ford d. Jason Cox 2 and 1.
Garrett Doolen d. Scott Weiland 6 and 5.
Chris Adderson d. Steve Ferriera 1 up.
Scott Reed d. Glenn Johannes 1 up.
Richard Buchler d. Thomas Hamlin 5 and 4.
Jim Stormo d. Nic Corbett 1 up.
Brad Bills d. Jerry Eklund 7 and 6.
Glen Clark d. David Kaplan 3 and 2.
Gary Loeb d. Glenn Kilroy 4 and 3.
Brent Orrico d. Scott Swendiman 3 and 1.
Steve Ausland d. Doug Hartley 1 up.
Steve Watkins d. Pete Nikolich 2 and 1.
Jim Palazzolo d. Rich Warner 1 up.
Tim Mort d. Kevin Aguirre 3 and 1.
Mitch Sorenson d. Steve Ekwall 1 up.
Derek Davis d. Mike Confer 2 and 1.
Kevin Klabunde d. Chris Littleton 2 and 1.
John Dunkin d. Jerry Cochrane 1 up.
Rick Hassmann d. Jim Garrison 5 and 4.
Larry Brown d. Dan Leary 2 and 1.
Bob Crews d. Howard Phearson 1 up.
Al Schneider d. Dennis Ramsden 1 up.
Jim Stough d. John Barker 2 and 1.
Lloyd Thompson d. Eldon Powley 5 and 4.
Pat Iribarren d. John Anhorn 1 up.
Bob Reed d. George Parsons 1 up.
Ken Gilmore d. Dan Kosmatka 1 up.
Bob Hutchins d. John Watt 5 and 4.
Stephanie Johns d. Trina Jones 2 and 1.
Jen Ausland d. Claudia Robbs 19th.
Kellly Hegeman d. Wynter Hite 5 up.
Toni Winters d. Makenna Clark 19th.
Bogey Loyd d. Janice Davis 3 and 2.
Marianne Metzger d. Chrissy Bayless 4 and 3.
Janet Stark d. Paula Cracraft 1 up.
Pam Turnipseed d. Becky Barry 1 up.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail email@example.com