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Centennial readies for top junior tour players

First a stop-gap venue for the American Junior Golf Association, Centennial Golf Club has endeared itself to the AJGA and will host the national tour again July 11-14.

The AJGA is home to the top junior players in the country and stages more than 80 tournaments. Last year, it had an open date between events to the north and south, and Centennial was eager to accommodate.

It was the first time the AJGA stopped in Oregon since 2006.

Just how good are these players? Good enough to reshape the Centennial men's and women's record books during the 54-hole stroke-play format.

George Cunningham, not yet in high school, shot a final-round 64 from the back tees to break the men's record en route to winning the Boys Division (ages 12-18). It was a warm-up for the 15-year-old from Litchfield Park, Ariz., who later would play in the U.S. Amateur.

On the girls side, Elisabeth Bernabe, of Anaheim Hills, Calif., didn't win the girls tournament, but she made a hole-in-one in a practice round, then a day later set the women's course record during a junior-am, shooting 65 from the men's — yes, men's — tees.

"I kind of saw how the course was set up, the yardages and the greens rolling at a pretty good speed," said Vince Domenzain, general manager and director of golf at Centennial. "I was pretty much blown away by the scores, especially Cunningham. That was pretty amazing. It was definitely beyond what I thought they were going to shoot. They were very impressive, and so were all the other players behind them.

"It's gonna be great to follow those names and see them down the road. It's inevitable that several of these players will pop up on major-college teams or and they'll probably be on a tour somewhere. (The AJGA) has a pretty proven track record for that. They get some great experience in these events. The competition is definitely the pinnacle of junior golf."

Domenzain is hopeful the tournament will be an annual event. With more time to organize it this year, several major sponsors have been lined up and others are being sought. The local economy received a substantial boost from the inaugural event, he said.

The field of 144 boys and girls, which is 12 more than last year, will play two rounds, then cut to the top 50 percent and ties for the third and final round.

Local golfers have a chance to play alongside the kids in the junior-am July 11.

Anyone wishing to register for the junior-am or volunteer as medical support, spotters, water station attendants, scoring runners, etc., can call the Centennial pro shop at 541-773-4653 or visit www.ajga.org.


A HAND-ME-DOWN entry into the annual ACCESS golf tournament paid nice dividends for the winning team Monday at Rogue Valley Country Club.

RVCC head pro Jim Wise won a free team entry in a raffle and gave it to Barb Pinkham. Already on a team, Pinkham gave the entry to her daughter, Laura, a Medford native living in Bend.

Laura Pinkham put together a team of friends — Medford's Travis Brink and Brandon Crosier and Bend's Adam Huycke — for the four-person scramble, and they proceeded to run off with the low-gross title. The squad of big hitters was 15 under par, beating out a team captained by Neal Brown by three strokes.

Brown's team, which included Bob Foote, Jeff Blum and John LaVoie, was accorded the net championship with a score of 54.6.

"We'd never played before," said Pinkham. "I just got some friends together and we went out to have a good time. It actually was a lot of fun. We all played a big part in it."

The team began on the third hole and started slowly, making only two birdies in the first seven holes. Then it went 13 under over the next 11, including eagles at Nos. 12 and 16, both par 5s.

"To be honest," said Pinkham, "most of our birdies weren't short gimmies. We got on a run and were making some pretty good putts. A lot of times it was our fourth person who sank it. That happened quite a bit. The last person has a little more time to see the line."

On the 12th hole, Pinkham's drive was used, and Brink and Crosier each hit the green in two. Using Brink's approach, Pinkham made an uphill 15-footer for 3.

On No. 16, Huycke's first two shots put Brink in position for a 20-foot-plus eagle putt.

Perhaps fittingly, Crosier won the tournament putting contest.

The event is the largest annual fundraiser for ACCESS. It accounts for roughly 8 percent of the organization's development budget, according to Logan Bell, development manager.

At last count and with funds still coming in, the tournament raised more than $72,000. In eight years, it's brought in more than $680,000.


CEDAR LINKS WAS host to another benefit tournament last weekend, a Timber Products event that raises money for an employees assistance fund.

Four employees are undergoing cancer treatment, and they each received $1,100 from the 15-team tournament Saturday.

Dan Crisman started it five years ago after his wife, Gena, had a stem cell transplant to fight leukemia. The Crismans found out how difficult and expensive it is to deal with a severe illness and started the tournament to help others, as they were helped.

Gena Crisman is "five years out, healthy and doing great," said her husband.

Six months after her transplant, they went on a 12-state tour to play golf.

In the first year of the tournament, only one person needed funds. A couple years, no one did, and proceeds from the tournament went into a general fund.

"The bottom line is, it's about helping people," said Crisman, who retired three years ago after 25 years with the company.

He's an avid golfer who plays mostly at Cedar Links, where he's a course marshal.

The tournament grossed $8,000, bringing the five-year total to nearly $10,000 and aiding 15 to 20 families, said Crisman.

The first-place gross team of John Fountain, Mike Pepper, Curt Haines and Rodney Erickson shot 62.

The winning net team, with a score of 52, was made up of Mike Niedermeyer, Tony Okonek, Mike Evers and Lynn Campbell.

Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com