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Teenage sensation to play in AJGA tourney

Monica Vaughn was supposed to play catch-up this summer.

A ruptured appendix robbed the young golfer of much of her course time a year ago, so she had some making up to do.

"It was kinda like, I needed to get it together," said Vaughn, 15, of Reedsport. "So I worked harder to catch up, and I guess it paid off."

Her game of catch-up turned into leapfrog as she jumped past everyone and did a number on the history books.

Vaughn's talent will be on display Tuesday through Thursday in an American Junior Golf Association tournament at Centennial Golf Club. A field of 132 boys and girls will represent 12 states; only 13 are from Oregon.

The AJGA, which attracts the top teenage players in the country, has more than 80 events nationwide this summer, but this is the only one in Oregon and the first one in the state in four years.

Vaughn is ready for it. She went from placing second as a freshman in the high school Class 4A/3A/2A/1A state tournament to rattling the foundation of Oregon women's golf.

In mid-June, she became the youngest to win the Oregon Women's Amateur. That tournament's only been around for, oh, 101 years. She followed that with a victory in the Oregon Junior Amateur, making her only the third player to win the Am and Junior titles the same year. The other two, Mary Budke and Carole Jo Kabler, are in the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Hall of Fame.

"It's really cool to be recognized along with them," said Vaughn.

Kabler, in fact, was no stranger to Medford golf. The Sutherlin player was 16 and the national junior champion when she captured the Southern Oregon Golf Championship in 1955. She defended her title in '56, then became a multiple winner on the LPGA Tour.

Whether that's a path Vaughn follows is anyone's guess, but she's off to a good start.

Also in June, Vaughn captured the Oregon Public Links crown, and last weekend she placed second by one shot in the Oregon Women's Stroke Play Championships.

Mind you, most of those fields are made up of collegians and accomplished amateurs.

"This has definitely been a defining summer for me," Vaughn said by phone at mid-week from Meridian, Idaho, where she was in the midst of winning yet another title, the PNGA Junior Girls Amateur Championship, in rather spectacular fashion. "Before, I (played golf) for fun. It was competitive, of course, but this year I worked really hard and this is what we wanted to happen.

"We didn't think it would happen this big, but I definitely wanted to advance further."

Vaughn plays out of Forest Hills Country Club. She ramped up her workload by going to different courses with practice facilities more advanced than her home course.

Her full swing was fine, she said, but her wedges, short game and putting were put through the wringer.

She and her family — her father coaches her — knew they were on the right path by the conclusion of the state amateur.

"I never thought I would have done that," said Vaughn. "We kinda just signed me up for the tournament because we thought it would be a good time for some experience. After that it was like, 'Wow, she can really do this.'

"It was an amazing confidence boost. At first, I couldn't even believe it. It took awhile for it to sink in."

The Vaughns then started lining up bigger tournaments, and she has proven equal to the tasks.

In the state stroke play event at Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis last Sunday, two lip-out bogeys prevented her from another monumental win.

Kendra Little, the 2008 champion and a senior-to-be at Oregon, shot 4 under par in the 36-hole final round to beat Vaughn by a stroke. Among those behind Vaughn was Lara Tennant, the defending champion.

After that grueling day, Vaughn and her mother, Renee, flew to Idaho for the PNGA Junior, no doubt dreading a 7:30 a.m. tee time the next morning. Not to worry. Without a practice round on a course she'd never seen, Vaughn fired a career-best, 5-under 67 and was medalist by four strokes.

In the 16-player match play championship bracket, she breezed through her first three opponents, then faced local favorite Cali Hipp in the finals Thursday.

Hipp won the first hole with a par, giving Vaughn her first deficit of the week. It didn't last long, as Vaughn rolled in a 25-foot eagle putt on the 456-yard second hole to square the match. She then birdied four more holes to take a 3-up lead at the turn and triumphed, 3 and 2.

Vaughn played Centennial a couple years ago and will get in a practice round Monday.

But she's not making any predictions.

"I'm not expecting to win or anything," she said. "I'll just go up there, try to have fun, do the best I can and see what happens."

When pressed, she admitted winning would, indeed, "help me have fun."

Clearly, this has been a summer of fun.

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QUAIL POINT HAS taken another step in establishing itself as a family and kid-oriented golf facility. It already has the new putting course, and this past week has seen the completion of another project that allows play on the regulation course, only at much shorter distances.

It's ideal for seniors who don't get around as well as they used to or for young players who might be between the putt-putt and regulation stage.

Called the PGA Family Course, markers have been put in the fairways of each hole to designate tee areas.

The black markers are Level 1 and play a total of 945 yards.

The gold markers are Level 2 and make for a 1,872-yard course.

The regular course, meanwhile, is 3,034 yards from the blue tees.

As an example, the first hole at Quail Point is 401 yards, but the Level 1 marker plays 110 yards and the Level 2 plays 200 yards.

An entire group could play the family tees, or Mom and Dad could play the regulation course while the youngsters play the family course. Kids play for free when accompanied by an adult.

The idea stems from the Play Golf America program and was initiated at Quail Point by its management company, OB Sports. OB has other facilities with family courses, including Tetherow in Bend.