Lush conditions await talented field for city championships
Don’t be surprised if you see lots of low scores this weekend during the Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships at Centennial Golf Club.
Head golf professional Chris Daggitt said that due to the near constant smoky skies in the Rogue Valley, more moisture has stayed on the course than normal for this time of year.
In theory, that should allow players to attack the flags directly and benefit from the soft greens in the 36-hole, stroke-play event that begins Saturday.
“The course, overall, is in good shape; it’s just soft,” Daggitt said. “For us, (there are) unusually soft greens, which, for the better players, makes it a little easier to kind of go at the flags. Normally our greens are pretty firm and you’ve got to kind of bounce it in. Right now, you can fly it in and it hits and stops. I think you’ll see some really good scores from some of the better players.”
Organizers are hoping the smoke is tolerable during the weekend, but regardless, it hasn’t deterred players from entering the city championships, as the tournament is known.
The 2020 field was one of the largest fields in recent memory at only a handful of players shy of a full field of 168. As of Friday evening, the total for this year’s field was 159.
The women’s flight is the only one that currently has less entrants, said Daggitt, who also noted the field features more locals than in years past.
The women’s flight is headlined by Baylee Hammericksen, who shot an opening-round 66 last year en route to the title with a 12-stroke cushion on second place.
In April, the recent St. Mary’s High graduate shot a 64 while playing with the Crusaders at the Phoenix Tournament.
Hammericksen is set to begin her collegiate career at the University of Oregon in September.
Another prominent local player, Kiana Oshiro, is also in the field and figures to be a top challenger for Hammericksen. Oshiro won a state title during her prep career at Crater High, then went on to play on the LSU women’s golf team.
With one year of eligibility remaining, Oshiro announced in April she would be transferring to Oral Roberts for the 2021-22 season.
“Probably two of the best women golfers in the state, if not the two best. I mean, they’re right up there,” Daggitt said of the headliners. “The ladies field is pretty small, but with those two right there they should be competitive and it will at least be fun for those two to get out there and grind it out.”
All but one gross flight champion from last year’s RVSPC will return to defend their titles, Daggitt said, which is divided into the men’s championship and men’s open (49 and under), men’s senior championship and open (50-64), men’s super senior championship and open (65-74) and men’s legends (75 and older). Players 50 and older are also permitted to enter into the men’s regular flights.
The lone defending champion not returning is 2019 and 2020 men’s championship winner Kevin Geniza, who turned professional in February and opted to forgo his final year of eligibility with the University of Oregon men’s golf team. Geniza did, however, appear at Centennial a few weeks ago for the Sasquatch Open Pro-Am, where he claimed his first win as a pro with a combined 9-under across two rounds.
In the men’s championship flight, Mike Barry is “the one to watch” after he didn’t play in last year’s tournament, Daggitt said. Mark Wilson is returning after finishing runner-up in last year’s championship flight. Wilson has also won five of the last seven Centennial Golf Club championships. Jacob Gooding, the 2021 club champion, is also in the field.
Of 24 players entered into the championship flight, 18 have a handicap of 0 or below.
“That’s pretty competitive, so anybody could win it,” Daggitt said.
Other defending men’s winners include Jamie Burton in the open flight, Johnny Mansfield in the senior, Glen Clark in the super senior and Jon Paauwe in the legends.
The senior flight, in particular, appears to be strong, Daggitt said.
“It’s pretty impressive just looking at all the low handicaps we have across the board,” Daggitt said. “I think we’ll have quite a few scores under par with the soft greens. It will be interesting for sure. I think it will be the best scoring we’ve ever had because of the soft greens, which will make it fun for everybody.”
Centennial Golf Club, like most courses in Southern Oregon, has faced harsh elements this summer between the heat, wildfires and ensuing smoke. Overall, Daggitt said the course is in “fantastic” shape considering those factors, adding superintendent Matt Grove has done a “phenomenal job” in maintaining the course.
Tee times for the two-day tournament begin at 7 a.m. Saturday, with play wrapping up Sunday.
Reach reporter Will Denner at 541-776-4479 or firstname.lastname@example.org