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Tommy Smith secures place in SOGC men’s junior-senior finals

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R.O. Gamez, Chris Polski set for men’s championship match

After a 20-year hiatus, Tommy Smith is back in the finals of the Southern Oregon Golf Championships.

This time, however, Smith, a three-time men’s regular champion, will be in the men’s junior-senior championship vying for the title against Michael Stieler, after both were victorious Sunday in their semifinals matches played on the Chandler Egan Course at Rogue Valley Country Club.

Smith overcame a difficult day from the tee, but was able to scramble, get up and down and salvage several holes with a number of gutsy putts in a win over Greg Findley, 1 up — a reunion of sorts for the two former high school teammates who grew up in Medford.

“I may have hit two good shots all day,” Smith said. “I just made a ton of putts.”

Among the most consequential were on the 15th green, where Smith sank a birdie putt, on a slight downhill that found just the right speed to sneak into the hole. Findley, however, would knot the match back at all square after a well-placed tee shot on the par-3 15th, while Smith settled for bogey after chipping onto the green.

While Stieler clinched his match on the 16th against Bryan White, 3 and 2, Smith and Findley moved onto the par-3 17th, where Findley chipped onto the green with his second shot and missed a putt to tie the hole with Smith.

Smith was then able to maintain his 1 up advantage on the 18th hole to clinch his spot in the finals.

“He putted well and I didn’t, and that was the difference,” Findley said. “We had a great match, he’s a great player ... It was fun. We had a great time.”

Smith went on to play at University of Oregon and Findley at UC Santa Barbara after high school, but the two hadn’t played together for a long time.

“It’s like, whatever it’s been, 30 years, haven’t passed,” Findley said. “We were junior golfers battling it out again.”

“It’s great, and Greg is such a nice guy, too,” added Smith. “I mean, that’s what’s fun about this tournament is you get to see people you haven’t seen in a long time and play. Me and Greg haven’t played together in quite a while.”

Smith, who won the SOGC in 1989, 1999 and 2000, earned the second seed in the men’s-junior senior and defeated Geoff Loomis, Johnny Mansfield, Russell Horn and Findley to reach the finals. The match against Mansfield, in particular, was a battle as Smith made a putt on the 18th to force a playoff, where Smith won two holes later. Ahead of today’s 36-hole finals, Smith’s focus is simple.

“I got to hit the ball better,” Smith said. “I didn’t have any rhythm today. I’ll get it worked out. Tomorrow is a whole ‘nother day.”

While the men’s junior-senior group wrapped up on the 18th, both men’s regular semifinals matches were all square heading to the final hole. R.O. Gamez was able to defeat Joey Rossknecht after landing a chip shot within inches of the hole.

But the other match between Ethan DeVore and Chris Polski needed playoffs to decide a winner after DeVore recovered with a shot from the 16th fairway that landed above the 18th green. A downhill chip and putt later from DeVore, Polski missed what would’ve been a match-winning putt.

On the playoff hole, both players reached the green in two, but Polski won the hole with two putts to DeVore’s three.

The women’s championship will pit the top two overall seeds, Payton Canon and Johnna Nealy against each other. Nealy, a three-time champion, has now qualified for four straight finals. Canon, in her third appearance at the tournament, is seeking her first SOGC title. The two faced off in the semifinals in 2019.

“I think she’s matured a lot as a golfer,” Nealy said of Canon after both won their quarterfinals matches Saturday. “She’s swinging the ball great (and) she’s playing well.”

In the men’s senior, No. 1 Kevin Klabunde will face No. 2 Craig Knips as Klabunde aims to capture his 12th overall SOGC title across several divisions. On Sunday, Klabunde defeated Marty Morlan, 1 up, while Knips took down John Justin on the 19th hole in a playoff.

Both the men’s super senior and legends semifinals were decided Saturday. In the super senior, No. 1 Bob Dickey and No. 2 Glen Clark will vie for the title Monday, while the men’s legends finals will pit No. 4 Bob Maentz against No. 2 Bob Dixon.

Tournament scoring can be followed on golfgenius.com with the sign-in code SOGC2021.

SOUTHERN OREGON GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS

Sunday results as of press time

Men’s Championship Flight

R.O Gamez def. Joey Rossknecht 1 up, Chris Polski def. Ethan DeVore 19th

Men’s 1st Flight

Gerry Snyder def. Edward Smith 1 up, Jacob Henderson def. Jonathon Purtzer 1 up

Men’s 2nd Flight

Corey Marineau def. Chase Schumacher 5&4, Taylor Klemp def. Chris Wood 5&4

Men’s 3rd Flight

Scott Weiland def. Jeshua Buchanan 1 up, Ryan Mitchell def. Christian Espiritu 4&3

Men’s 4th Flight

Jordan Anderson def. Cruz Kilborn 3&2, Jeremiah Paladino def. Kos Ray 3&2

Men’s 5th Flight

Dalton Pfau def. Levi Daily 1 up, Jeremy Henson def. Jason Hanlin 3&2

Men’s 6th Flight

Timothy Wiedrich def. Charles Walker 4&3, Jim Bennett def. Jake Valentine 2&1

Men’s 7th Flight

Brian Findlay def. Kevin Biggs 19th, Travis Sanders def. Jimmy Ulrey 19th

Men’s 8th Flight

Christopher Ellis def. Dominic David 3&2, Jordan Jenkins def. Immanuel Byrne 1 up

Men’s 9th Flight

Matthew Miller def. Collin Krueger 4&2, Patrick McCormick def. Gordon Casey 5&3

Jr/Sr Championship Flight

Michael Stieler def. Bryan White 3&2, Tommy Smith def. Greg Findley 1 up

Jr/Sr 1st Flight

Justin Wise def. Morgan Hawkins 2&1, Scott Wise def. Matt Eschenbacher 19th

Jr/Sr 2nd Flight

James Russell def. Erik Pedersen 1 up, Michael O’Connell def. Ian Powers 2 up

Jr/Sr 3rd Flight

Eric Engelbach def. Eric Bruhn 19th, Justin Azevedo def. Dennis Richards 1 up

Jr/Sr 4th Flight

Kevin Jones def. Mike Walker 1 up, Ryan Kantor def. Steve Tollefson 1 up

Jr/Sr 5th Flight

Alex Clark def. Derron Moreland 4&3, Brooks Gard def. Ron Stranahan 5&4

Jr/Sr 6th Flight

Robin Blanks def. Jeremy Payne 1 up, Joe Davis def. Jim Retzlaff 1 up

Jr/Sr 7th Flight

Chris Dufour def Heykel Aouriri 1 up, Josh Godfrey def. John Candy 2 up

Jr/Sr 8th Flight

Russ Wilson def. Kevin Primerano 1 up, Jason Rowan def. Michael Burrill 2 up

Jr/Sr 9th Flight

Jack Adams def. Tim Price 1 up, Jad Dickson def. Jim Stormo 1 up

Senior Championship Flight

Kevin Klabunde def. Marty Morlan 1 up, Craig Knips def. John Justin 19th

Senior 1st Flight

Kevin Dixon def. Terry Wolf 1 up, Bret Mackay def. Rick Dollarhide 1 up

Senior 2nd Flight

David Kaplan def. Tom Pepple 1 up, Scott Moore def. Joel Jessel 19th

Senior 3rd Flight

Chris Littleton def. Richard Warner 2&1, Gary Loeb def. Joe Bowles 1 up

Senior 4th Flight

Rich Mettler def. John DeMario 1 up, Todd Raduski def. Bruce Mendelson 6&3

Senior 5th Flight

Jim Palazzolo def. Carl Wolfe 1 up, Larry Conkings def. Joe Oravec 3&2

Senior 6th Flight

Kevin Tucker def. Ron Pierce 1 up, Philip Heiner def. Michael Slavenski 1 up

Senior 7th Flight

Dwight Shriver def. Tim Powers 1 up, Greg Wojtal def. Scott Sterton 1 up

Women’s Championship Flight

Payton Canon def. Terry Levis 1 up, Johnna Nealy def. Kelly Loeb 3&2

Women’s 1st Flight

Kirsten Reed def. Carolyn Turner 7&6, Stephanie Johns def. Toni Watkins 6&4

Women’s 2nd Flight

Susie Hammitt def. Maureen McFadden 3&2, Lindsey Crosier def. Deborah Martin 1 up

Women’s 3rd Flight

Michele Orrico def. Katie O’Brien 3&2, Jan Hughes def. Mindy Ferris 5&4

Women’s 4th Flight

Julie Schamanek def. Jade Greene 1 up, Barbara Stormo def. Colleen Holbert 19th

Women’s 5th Flight

Darla Allen def. Fawn Miller 2 up, Shelli Bates def. Macy Aguirre 1 up

Larry Stauth Jr. / for the Mail Tribune Tommy Smith watches his fairway shot head for the green at the Southern Oregon Golf Championship at Rogue Valley Country Club on Sunday.
Larry Stauth Jr. / for the Mail Tribune Tommy Smith, right, along with semifinals opponent Greg Findley, watches his drive shot head down the fairway at the Southern Oregon Golf Championship at Rogue Valley Country Club on Sunday.
Larry Stauth Jr. / for the Mail Tribune Tommy Smith chips onto the green at the Southern Oregon Golf Championship at Rogue Valley Country Club on Sunday.
Larry Stauth Jr. / for the Mail Tribune Michael Stieler hits out of the bunker at the Southern Oregon Golf Championship at Rogue Valley Country Club on Sunday.
Larry Stauth Jr. / for the Mail Tribune Bryan White drives off the tee at the Southern Oregon Golf Championship at Rogue Valley Country Club on Sunday.
Larry Stauth Jr. / for the Mail Tribune Bryan White drives at the Southern Oregon Golf Championship at Rogue Valley Country Club on Sunday.