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Murphy, Wu meet in finals of PNGA

From the start, Dylan Wu wanted to play his friend and Rogue Valley cohort, Kevin Murphy, in the finals of the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Junior Boys Amateur Championship at Sunriver.

And when Murphy, of Rogue River, lost the last three holes of his semifinal match against Andrew Whalen, of Ephrata, Wash., Thursday at the Meadows Course to drop into a playoff, Wu stepped in.

The Medford 15-year-old, who had earlier defeated his opponent in 16 holes, took Murphy's bag and caddied in the playoffs. It took only one hole for Murphy, 17, to prevail, as he hit his approach shot to 2 feet for a birdie and the victory.

Murphy and Wu will meet in the 36-hole championship match today. The first 18 holes begin at 7 a.m., and the second 18 starts at noon.

The tournament began Monday with 144 players from throughout the Northwest. Murphy was second and Wu tied for fourth after two stroke-play qualifying rounds. The top 32 players advanced to match play, and Murphy and Wu each won four matches over two days to get to the championship.

After Wu won his semifinal match 3 and 2 over Nigel Lett, of Tigard, he went to the putting green while waiting for Murphy to finish.

"He was 3 up with three to play," said Wu, whose family has a home at Sunriver and entertained Murphy as a guest all week. "I was just practicing. I thought he'd come in easily. But I was putting for a long time, and he still hadn't come in. I saw that he lost the last three holes. He looked down, and I just wanted to caddie for him and give him some advice."

Wu encouraged Murphy to have confidence in his swing, aim at spots and trust his game.

On the playoff hole, the No. 1 hole on the course, Murphy split the fairway while Whalen found a bunker. Murphy then stuffed his 98-yard lob wedge.

"It might have helped, actually," Murphy said of Wu's influence. "He helped calm me down a little bit."

Wu conceded that Whalen might have been an easier finals opponent, but that mattered little.

"From the beginning, I just wanted us (him and Murphy) to get on separate sides of the bracket," said Wu, "and hopefully play in the final."

Murphy, whose medal score of 2-under-par 140 for two rounds earned him the second seed, opened match play with a 6-and-4 triumph over Joseph Baldeck III, of Clarkston, Wash. He then beat Joe Fryer, of Mukilteo, Wash., 2 and 1, and Sulman Raza, of Eugene, 3 and 2 to get to the semis.

"The only match I really played great in was against Sulman," said Murphy. "I had it to 6 under at one point. Other than that, it wasn't that great. I was right around par most of the time."

Wu rode a solid driver all week in defeating first Billy Pollock, of Eugene, 5 and 3, then downing Nicholas Mandell, of Kennewick, Wash., 2 and 1, and Chris Babcock, of Shoreline, Wash., 3 and 1 to reach the semifinals.

His win over Lett — who knocked off medalist Kelly Campbell, of Auburn, Wash., along the way — was highlighted by an eagle-2 on the 290-yard fifth hole, where he drove the green and made a 10-foot putt.

"I've been hitting the ball well," said Wu. "I have confidence for tomorrow. I think it'll be a good match."

Murphy and Wu were the dominant players in the Class 3A/2A/1A District 6 this past high school season. Murphy won the district title over Wu, but Wu went on to lead St. Mary's to the state championship.

They've competed often against each other but never in match play.

"I think it's awesome," Murphy said of the finals pairing with Wu. "It's great that Southern Oregon has kind of come out on top so far in this tournament."

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com