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Friendly finals set for S.O. Golf Championships

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Boasting five former division champions and three others with championship ties of their own at the Southern Oregon Golf Championships, the women’s championship flight was sure to be a minefield this weekend.

And that’s what made things especially gratifying Sunday for defending champion Johnna Nealy and up-and-comer Baylee Hammericksen after each survived the gauntlet and secured their spot in today’s championship final in the 91st year of the event at Rogue Valley Country Club.

Nealy was able to use a birdie on the 19th hole to edge 2013 women’s champion Terry Levis and cap a sweltering round here in Medford, while Hammericksen held off two-time women’s champion Trina Jones (2008 and 2018) for a 4-and-2 triumph.

“The competition is extremely tough this year,” said Nealy, “so I’m very grateful to be in the final. I’ve had a couple tough matches, obviously Terry and Genna (Mettler) yesterday, so I’m happy.”

Nealy knows a thing or two about being the young upstart at the SOGC, a la Hammericksen. Nealy broke through on the heels of her older sister Amanda’s second women’s title with her own crown in 2001. She added titles in 2006 and, after a playing hiatus, again in 2019.

“It will be a good match,” said Nealy of facing the St. Mary’s High senior. “She has the all-around game. She has the length, she has the iron play, she has the short game and she plays like a seasoned veteran, which is amazing for someone her age, so I have to rise to the occasion and play well tomorrow, but I think I can do it.”

The women’s final has been reduced to 18 holes this year from the traditional 36 holes, and will commence at 2:20 p.m.

“It’s only 18 holes so that’s kind of nice,” said Nealy, “but it also leads to a sense of urgency to get going right away.”

A fast start Sunday wasn’t in the cards Sunday for Hammericksen, who had her bid for a third straight Class 4A/3A/2A/1A state championship denied by the COVID-19 pandemic this past spring.

With her younger sister Riley serving as caddie, Hammericksen stepped up and sent her tee shot out of bounds.

“I think at that point I was kind of steering the ball and it went OB,” said Hammericksen. “I looked at Riley and went to hit the provisional and was just like, I’m just going to swing. I didn’t even think about it and I crushed it right on the green so it was like, huh, awesome. After that I kind of stuck with that mentality and tried not to overthink it.”

A 25-foot birdie putt on the second hole pushed the match to all square, Hammericksen went 1 up on the third hole and then essentially matched Jones from there in a round that proved challenging throughout the day.

“I didn’t go as low technically score-wise as I did yesterday and in previous days and I felt like I had to work a lot harder,” she said. “Trina’s a very good player, a very decorated player, so there was no just winning holes, you had to earn every hole. That aspect is a lot more challenging.”

Case in point was on the fifth hole when Jones chipped in for birdie and was rightfully exuberant. The only problem was that Hammericksen didn’t flinch and drained a 4-foot putt for birdie to offset the potential momentum-changer.

“That was huge for me to show that I can keep up,” said Hammericksen. “Even though I hit the ball further than she does, she always has an opportunity for birdie. Every single hole she’s constantly giving herself opportunities, she has a great short game. She was hitting crazy awesome shots and it just keeps you on your toes because she’s always right there.”

Sunday’s effort, combined with her recent runaway win in the Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships, lend a lot of hope for Hammericksen as she looks to claim her first-ever SOGC title.

“My first time playing this was two years ago and I lost in the quarterfinals against Jessica Young in 22 holes,” said Hammericksen, “so the fact that I was able to come through today against not just anybody but against Trina Jones, an incredible player, was really exciting and gives you a lot of confidence going into the next match.”

On the men’s side, the SOGC will crown a first-time champion today when Medford’s Josh Wu and longtime friend Kevin Geniza square off in the 36-hole championship flight final. The first 18 holes begin at 10:20 a.m., with the second 18 holes (as needed) starting at 2:40 p.m.

Also securing spots in today’s championship finals were Todd Couch and Greg Findley in the men’s junior-senior flight and Bob Dickey and Glen Clark in the men’s super senior flight.

Couch won 2 and 1 over Jim Mansfield, while Findley was a 4-and-3 winner over Eric Linerud. Couch and Findley will join Wu and Geniza in the only 36-hole championship finals to be played this year.

Dickey edged Smith on the 19th hole in a battle of friends that dates back to their Medford High and Hoover Elementary school days, while Clark won 1 up over Greg Miller.

Men’s senior finalists Kevin Klabunde and Marty Morlan and legendary finalists Mike Simmons and Al Raduski had the day off Sunday but face 18-hole championships today.

Wu was able to oust 2015 SOGC champion Chris Polski with an impressive 5-and-4 victory in Sunday’s semifinals to become the first member of his family to reach the SOGC finals, while Geniza won 2 and 1 over medalist Bryce Wortman.

The two players, plus Josh’s twin brother Jeremy, grew up playing on the junior circuit together and their friendship has continued as Josh Wu went on to play for the Air Force Academy, Jeremy Wu at Valparaiso and Geniza for Oregon.

The Wu twins’ older brother Dylan currently is one of the leading money winners on the Korn Ferry Tour.

“The Wus have been my best friends since we were really young in junior golf and I always come down and stay with them whenever I come to Medford and play,” said Geniza, who won the city championships last year and is making his SOGC debut this year. “Josh is just a great guy and a really good player. I’m expecting a really good match tomorrow, I’m excited for it.”

Added Josh Wu: “Obviously the picture perfect scenario would’ve been Jeremy and I on the opposite bracket meeting in the finals but we still have that duo with him on the bag and to play KG as we call him, he’s a good friend and we grew up playing against each other so it’s great. I feel really humbled to have this opportunity.”

Both players got off to strong starts Sunday, with Geniza rolling in a 70-foot eagle putt on the first hole and then steadily keeping the pressure on Wortman until he sealed the deal when he got up and down from the bunker on the 17th hole for par.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been down in a match during this tournament,” said Geniza, “so that was big to just go up first and build on that momentum.”

The opposite has been true of Wu, who has had to rally in all of his matches thus far before winning handily in each round. He set out to start better Sunday and accomplished just that, going 3 up through four holes. That lead was trimmed to one before Wu capitalized on consecutive bogeys by Polski on the ninth and 10th holes of the day to regain a three-hole cushion.

For his round, Wu had five birdies and only one bogey.

“It was closer than that (5 and 4) in my opinion because in my head it’s never over until it’s over,” said Wu, who was given special leave from Luke Air Force Base in Arizona to compete this weekend. “The worst thing you can possibly do is get a lead and then take your foot off the gas pedal, so I made sure I didn’t.”

SOUTHERN OREGON GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS

Sunday’s Results

MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT

Kevin Geniza def. Bryce Wortman 2 & 1, Josh Wu def. Chris Polski 5 & 4

MEN’S FIRST FLIGHT

Joey Rossknecht def. Matt Preston 6 & 5, Mayson Tibbs def. Tyler Franke 5 & 4

MEN’S SECOND FLIGHT

Nicholas Daggitt def. Jeremiah Paladino 1 up, Benjamin Purtzer def. Kyle Oldfield 1 up

MEN’S THIRD FLIGHT

Scott Weiland def. Chris Wood 1 up, Ryan Kantor def. Jeremy Henson 3 up

MEN’S FOURTH FLIGHT

Morgan Hawkins def. Kos Ray 1 up, Chase Schumacher def. Brandon Chun 3 & 2

MEN’S FIFTH FLIGHT

Jeremy Ross def. Charlie Walker 1 up, Andrew Curiel IV def. Patrick McCormick 3 & 2

MEN’S SIXTH FLIGHT

Jordan Anderson def. Connor Couch 5 & 3, Anthony Marquez def. Nicholas Jones 6 & 5

MEN’S SEVENTH FLIGHT

Henry Jones def. Aouriri Heykel 1 up, Collin Krueger def. Shawn Shumate 5 & 4

JUNIOR-SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT

Todd Couch def. Jim Mansfield 2 & 1, Greg Findley def. Eric Linerud 4 & 3

JUNIOR-SENIOR FIRST FLIGHT

Steve Taormino def. Todd Dixon 4 & 3, Mike Snowden def. Jake Rockwell 1 up

JUNIOR-SENIOR SECOND FLIGHT

Larry Miller def. James Russell 1 up, Jeff Morgan def. Todd Ostenson 1 up

JUNIOR-SENIOR THIRD FLIGHT

Kevin Jones def. Ralph Wallis 19th, Benny Shapiro def. Joe Davis 1 up

JUNIOR-SENIOR FOURTH FLIGHT

Ron Stranahan def. Kevin Primerano 2 & 1, Mike Walker def. Chris DuFour 20th

JUNIOR-SENIOR FIFTH FLIGHT

Josh Godfrey def. Jad Dickson 3 & 2, Frank Baracao def. Dean Kinney 7 & 5

SUPER SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT

Bob Dickey def. Terry Smith 19th, Glen Clark def. Greg Miller 1 up

SUPER SENIOR FIRST FLIGHT

David Orr def. Marshall Holman 1 up, Glenn Hartzheim def. David George 1 up

SUPER SENIOR SECOND FLIGHT

Patrick Daggitt def. John Leuthold 2 & 1, Kelly Brown def. Bill Wells 21st

SUPER SENIOR THIRD FLIGHT

Larry Butler def. Willie Milimuka 2 & 1, Steve Ballback def. Chuck Kenney 2 & 1

SUPER SENIOR FOURTH FLIGHT

John Zupan def. Scott Mayfield 3 & 2, Ken Weist def. Gary Bates 1 up

SUPER SENIOR FIFTH FLIGHT

Steven Skinner def. John Burtis 3 & 2, Roger Peck def. Eugene Miller 2 & 1

SUPER SENIOR SIXTH FLIGHT

Thomas Michaels def. Alex Romanowsky 4 & 3, Steve Warrington def. Scott Swendiman 20th

SUPER SENIOR SEVENTH FLIGHT

Henry Burgoyne def. Steven Simonsen 1 up, Steve Polus def. Lael Collins 2 & 1

WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT

Johnna Nealy def. Terry Levis 19th, Baylee Hammericksen def. Trina Jones 4 & 2

WOMEN’S FIRST FLIGHT

Stephanie Johns def. Linda Johnson 4 & 2, Payton Canon def. Kirsten Reed 8 & 7

WOMEN’S SECOND FLIGHT

Toni Watkins def. Sue Hunter 1 up, Leslie Gainey def. Melinda Heiner 1 up

WOMEN’S THIRD FLIGHT

Barb Pinkham def. Jane Conrad 2 & 1, Deb Stuart def. Dana Carrigan 1 up

WOMEN’S FOURTH FLIGHT

Jan Hughes def. Julie Schamanek 5 & 3, Macy Aguirre def. Darla Allen 7 & 5

WOMEN’S FIFTH FLIGHT

Judy Brown def. Deanna St. Martin 6 & 5, Shelli Bates def. Molly Mettler 3 & 2

Have a story idea? Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Johnna Nealy, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Chris Polski, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Bryce Wortman, right, and Josh Wu. Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Trina Jones, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Terry Levis, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Kevin Geniza, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Baylee Hammericksen, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Baylee Hammericksen, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Terry Levis, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Terry Levis, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Josh Wu, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Chris Polski, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Josh Wu, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Trina Jones, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Chris Polski, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Bryce Wortman, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta
Josh Wu, Southern Oregon Golf Championship. Photo by Denise Baratta