Loeb, Cordell earn emotional wins at SOGC
Kelly Loeb's putter fell to the ground around 6:50 p.m. Monday and the tears of joy followed soon thereafter after what had to be the most adventurous 38 holes of her golfing career.
She had just done the improbable, and simply couldn't hold anything back under the backdrop of a sinking sun after claiming her first women's championship flight title in the 81st annual Southern Oregon Golf Championships.
"I worked so hard for this," said Loeb, wiping away tears while maintaining a broad smile after her triumph on hole No. 2 at Rogue Valley Country Club. "This tournament eight years ago is what put the fire in me because I wanted to win it and it was awesome playing here. I've won first flight, I've won second flight, I've been runner-up and it took everything I had to try and stay in that championship flight and I did. I worked really hard on my game this year, really hard."
Her first women's regular championship certainly didn't come easy thanks to a determined effort by two-time champion Amanda Nealy. Although Loeb led 1-up through the first 18 holes of the 36-hole match, Nealy turned it on after the break and completely altered the landscape by taking a 4-hole lead after the 10th hole on the second 18.
The roller-coaster match then took another about-face, with Loeb simply not willing to go down without a fight.
"I just said, 'OK, let's just start making shots ... one shot at a time,'" said Loeb.
By the time the match reached the 36th hole, Loeb had regained her 1-up advantage and just had to deny Nealy one last time.
But with nothing worthwhile coming easily, Nealy scrambled back with a clutch 2-foot putt for par to win the hole and extend the match.
Such a situation wasn't new to Loeb, and the memory of her 2008 loss in the championship to Trina Jones was as fresh in the head of the Tucson, Ariz., resident as the day she walked off the 38th hole in defeat.
Both players matched pressure-packed shots on the 37th hole, No. 1 on the RVCC setup, to force a second extra hole.
On the fateful 38th, however, Nealy had honors and pulled a driver low and left into a cluster of trees outlining the par-4 hole.
"As soon as she hit in the trees I was like, 'OK, door open,'" said Loeb. "I just said, 'Come on, nice and easy and nothing but the middle of the fairway,' and I hit it great."
The picture-perfect tee shot settled deep and in the absolute middle of the fairway for an 85-yard approach shot.
Nealy had to contend with tree limbs and a blocked path, but skimmed a nice shot across the fairway that just caught too much roll and wound up in the front edge of the right-side bunker.
Both players rolled their approaches to the back of the green after the landing surface simply had gotten dried out and was slick as glass. Loeb's initial effort from a slight ridge in the thicker grass above the hole settled about 31/2 feet left of the hole. Nealy's much-needed fourth shot didn't have enough legs and finished about 2 feet from the cup.
Given a chance at victory, Loeb lined up her putt and deftly drained it to set in motion a series that involved a fallen putter, two hands clasped to her face in amazement and a celebratory hug from husband and caddie, Gary.
"I lost on this hole two years ago and I got my victory back on this hole," said Kelly Loeb. "Now I love this hole."
Emotional conclusions weren't saved for just the regular women's bracket. In the senior women's final, Debbie Cordell outlasted defending champion Bogey Loyd to win 1-up on the 18th hole.
The women had come to their final hole of regulation play with their match all square, but Loyd had the misfortune of having one of her shots result in an unplayable lie and Cordell was able to do just enough to secure her first championship flight trophy.
"I tried not to screw up but I did anyway," said Cordell, who found herself needing to take relief from a cart path curb near the 18th green, "but it was OK because unfortunately she had a bad hole. We each had good holes and we each gave a couple away that we shouldn't have today. It was a great match."
"Bogey hit some marvelous shots," added Cordell. "She's a great opponent. I felt bad with that (unplayable lie on 18) because we all had shots end up like that today."
While the win was certainly gratifying, it also capped an emotional week here in Medford for Cordell. Her 88-year-old mother Vivian passed away last Monday.
"I'm probably going to get pretty emotional here soon," warned Cordell amid a host of well-wishers.
Southern Oregon Championships
CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT — Kelly Loeb d. Amanda Nealy 38th.
FIRST FLIGHT — Karen Buchler d. Tracie Armitage 21st.
SECOND FLIGHT — Makenna Clark d. Hannah Barr 20th.
THIRD FLIGHT — Cathy Trower d. Barb Stormo 5 and 4.
CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT — Debbie Cordell d. Bogey Loyd 1-up.
FIRST FLIGHT — V Moffatt d. Janis Crenshaw 20th.
SECOND FLIGHT — Gail Jones d. Peggy Tomlins 5 and 3.
THIRD FLIGHT — Alice Petrich d. Sandy Darland 3 and 2.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org