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Klabunde claims third different SOGC crown

Kevin Klabunde accomplished something only two others have done in the 80-year history of the Southern Oregon Golf Championships on Monday.

In his first year of eligibility, the 55 year old fended off Chris Littleton, 2 and 1, in the 36-hole match play event to claim the senior men's division crown, becoming one of just three to have won all three men's divisions.

In the women's division, Stephanie Johns topped defending champion Trina Jones, 2 and 1. Brad Bills defeated Jerry Eklund, 7 and 6, in the junior/senior men's event and Bogey Loyd staved off Janice Davis, 3 and 2, in the senior women.

Klabunde won the men's division (ages 16 and up) in 2001, the junior/seniors (ages 40 and up) in 1996 and again in 1998.

The others to win all three were Ed Godden and George Mack.

"It's a real thrill to be in that elite company," said Klabunde. "Since I won the regulars (men's division) in 2001, I thought I'd just play regulars until I'm 55 and this has been a goal of mine for eight years. I'm very proud of that."

"I wanted to take advantage of my relative youth," he joked.

Klabunde seemed to draw the line after Littleton came within two on the 27th hole, and whenever Klabunde got himself into trouble, he made a recovery shot to maintain the two-hole lead.

The smooth-swinging Littleton seemed to have the advantage on the 34th when he kept his tee shot in the fairway and Klabunde hooked his behind some trees on the left.

But Littleton's shot from the fairway came up short of the uphill green and Klabunde, hitting from the rough and with pine trees obstructing his view, powered a shot from about 170 yards out onto the plateau of the hill, just shy of the fringe.

"I was trying to hook that drive and I over-hooked it a little bit and was fortunate enough to have an open enough shot," said Klabunde. "It's the second match in a row where I thought I hit a perfect shot and came up short."

The two would tie on the hole, putting the pressure on Littleton to win the remaining two holes.

But Klabunde made it tough for Littleton when his tee shot landed 10 feet from the hole on the par 3 and Littleton's landed left off the green. Littleton's chip came up short, giving the match to Klabunde.

"Chris is a great gentleman and he played very well," said Klabunde. "I was just fortunate enough to come out on top."

It was the fourth overall win for Klabunde in the SOGT, but for Johns, the experience of her first crown was "a good time."

"I don't really like to play that serious of golf," said Johns. "I'm kinda just out here having a good time.

"I was just trying to keep myself pumped up and keep the adrenaline going, you know, and make as good of shots as I could. I mean 36 holes is a lot of holes to play so I just tried to keep it going."

Johns needed almost all 36 holes to find a way to dethrone Jones.

Johns led by two heading into the final 18 holes, but nine holes later she found herself all square with Jones.

But Johns quickly moved back up by three. After Jones hit a clutch putt on the 34th hole to stay alive, Johns was still able to secure the victory after a nice pitch out of the sand landed her five feet from the hole and Jones wasn't able to sink her birdie putt.

In the senior women's division, Davis' putt on the 34th hole curled out and Loyd secured the victory.

Bills took a commanding 6-up lead with nine holes remaining and Eklund couldn't rally back.

Reach reporter Warren Blenkush at 776-4480, or e-mail wblenkush@mailtribune.com

Kevin Klabunde leans forward as he drains a long birdie putt on the 10th hole during the Southern Oregon Golf Championships. - Jamie Lusch