Bend golfer captures city championship in playoff
You expect to see white balls at a golf tournament.
When one of them is the moon, there is cause for concern.
The Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships turned into a frenzied game of speed golf before Bend's Brandon Taylor capitalized on a sensational bunker shot on the third playoff hole and defeated Rogue River's Kevin Murphy at Centennial Golf Club Sunday.
The playoff started with three players, including Medford 16-year-old Dylan Wu, after each finished 36 holes with 4-under-par 140s. Taylor shot 69 on Day 2, while Murphy and Wu matched their 70s from the day before.
Wu went out on the first playoff hole, No. 18, with a bogey against pars by his opponents. Taylor and Murphy each had par 3s on the second playoff hole, No. 14, before Taylor hit a 150-yard bunker shot to 3 feet at No. 15. After Murphy's 15-foot birdie effort sidestepped the cup, Taylor made his for victory.
"I misread that one," said Murphy. "I thought it was going to break more, but it was a little hard to see in the dark."
The last putt fell at 8:07 p.m.
In other divisions, Glenn Clark successfully defended his championship in the men's senior division with a 142. Dick Brekke captured the men's super seniors at 152, and Kathy Kolar won the women's with 157.
Competition for the men's title was thinned during Saturday's first round when three contenders — Mark Wilson, Brad Bills and Mike Barry — were disqualified for hitting from the wrong tees on the 11th hole. They realized their mistake only after teeing off on the next hole, which sealed their fate under United States Golf Association rules.
Taylor, 23, grew up in Corvallis and played 21/2 seasons at Oregon State. He now caddies at Tetherow Golf Club in Bend during spring and summer and in Southern California in winter.
His own caddie, Jesse Taylor — himself a Tetherow looper and no relation — played at Phoenix High and provided course knowledge.
"That was very helpful," said Brandon Taylor.
Murphy, Wu and Kelly Rasmussen played in the final group, while Taylor was in the threesome ahead of them. As others fell by the wayside, a three-man race developed.
All three played the front nine in 2 under and remained in step halfway through the back nine.
Taylor's round was like a bag of trail mix. It had a little bit of everything.
He eagled No. 5 when his 90-yard wedge found the cup. He got up and down from the sand for birdie at No. 13. He fell back with bogeys at No. 14 and 15, then chipped in on the par-5 16th for another eagle.
"We were walking up (No. 16) and I'd just made two bogeys," said Taylor. "So we said, we need an eagle."
He was just in front of the green in two.
"I didn't hit my tee shot very well," he said. "I was in the rough and just tried to scoot one up there. You pick your spot, figure trajectory and go from there."
He chipped in the day before for birdie, meaning he didn't touch his putter on that hole during the tournament.
A sand save at 17 was followed by a bogey at 18. Based on reports of how the group behind him was doing, he thought foible on the last hole cost him.
When Murphy and Wu hit their approaches close, Taylor took his spikes off and prepared to pack up.
But Wu's testy downhill birdie putt just missed, and Murphy's 6-footer up the hill — which followed a 390-yard drive with the wind onto a downslope and a nifty wedge shot — ran by on the left. Had it fallen, it would have won the tournament.
"I'm going to try not to think about it," said Murphy, 18. "You think about those putts and they can take ahold of you. I want to just forget about that. I putted great today. It's not a putt I'm going to make every time."
On the first playoff hole, Taylor was in the hay to the left of the 18th fairway, but muscled his approach to the middle of the green. Wu had 150 left and Murphy, after a 370-yard drive, had 95 yards in, and each hit the green.
Wu's three-putt eliminated him.
On the next playoff hole, Murphy got up and down from the sand and Taylor did likewise from the rough.
The players had been walking, but they now jumped in carts and scurried from shot to shot, racing darkness.
Taylor ended the drama with his brilliant shot from the trap and ensuing putt.
"It feels good, really good," he said.
The playoff was a rematch from the Southern Oregon Golf Championships last year, when Murphy defeated Taylor 1 up in the semifinals.
Vindication didn't cross Taylor's mind.
"No, you take it one shot at time and go from there," he said. "Even in match play, which that (a playoff) basically is, you still have to play the course. You still have to make birdies."
Both Murphy, the defending champion, and Taylor will be in the SOGC, which begins with qualifying Tuesday at Rogue Valley Country Club. Wu, meanwhile, will compete in the Junior Players Championship, an American Junior Golf Association event at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., this week.
Clark, too, will enter the SOGC, and he'll go in on a high note with his third overall city title. He won the men's division years ago.
Clark was 2 under at the turn and settled for a 74.
"The weekend was good, solid golf," he said. "On the back nine, we all struggled. I hit a lot of good shots and then hit some scratchy shots coming in, is what it amounted to. I don't know if it's feeling some pressure. I'd like to think not, but I think some of it was."
Steve Elam gave chase into the back nine and wound up first net. Ken Stringer was second gross with a 150.
Brekke unseated defending champion Bill Seymour by three shots. Seymour shot 155.
Kolar won the women's title by 11 shots over Christina Phelps.
Rogue Valley Stroke Play
SUPER SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP
GROSS — 1, Dick Brekke, 152; 2, Bill Seymour, 155; 3 (tie), Jon Paauwe, Duane Nelson, 158.
NET — 1, Denny Sweet, 127; 2 (tie), Larry Schmaltz, Jim Hatton, 135; 4, Jerry Hauck, 137.
GROSS — 1, Glen Clark, 142; 2, Ken Stringer, 150; 3, Lee Oltjenbruns, 151; 4, Robert Stassi, 152.
NET — 1, Steve Elam, 140; 2, Steve Boldish, 142; 3, Kevin Williams, 144; 4, Chris Littleton, 145.
GROSS — 1, Brandon Taylor, 140 (won on third playoff hole); 2 (tie), Kevin Murphy, Dylan Wu, 140; 4, Jacob West, 149; 5 (tie), Daniel Wozniak, Alfonso Powers, Will Street, J.T. Compher, 150.
MEN'S FIRST FLIGHT
GROSS — 1, Kevin Wu, 146; 2, John Kandaris, 151; 3, Marty Morlan, 154.
NET — 1, Russell Horn, 140; 2, Brian Edwards, 143; 3, Curtis Wagoner, 146.
GROSS — 1, Kathy Kolar, 157; 2, Christina Phelps, 168.
NET — 1, Sarah Clark, 147; 2, Judy Slater, 151.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email email@example.com