Johnna Nealy nets fourth SOGC crown
A familiar theme emerged Monday among the majority of Southern Oregon Golf Championships title winners — nearly all of them had won the tournament multiple times over and etched another space in the record book with their names next to it.
Twenty years after claiming her first title, Johnna Nealy won a fourth women’s championship with a win over top seed Payton Canon, 3 and 2, after taking command of the match nearing the end of the front nine and trusting her steady, consistent swing to finish the match.
“It feels great,” Nealy said. “Payton is an incredible competitor, she played well today and I knew it was going to be a really good match.”
It was part of a busy Monday at Rogue Valley Country Club that also saw Michael Stieler win the men’s junior-senior; Kevin Klabunde win the men’s senior for his 12th SOGC title overall; Glen Clark claim his fourth title across three divisions with a win in the men’s super senior; and Dan Dixon net his second overall title after winning the legends championship.
For Nealy, the 18-hole round played on the Chandler Egan Course didn’t start off as planned. She settled for a double bogey on the first hole, then watched as Canon drained a birdie putt on the second to take a quick 2 up lead in the 92nd annual event.
“I didn’t get a good start,” Nealy said. “I started off with a double, so I said, ‘OK ... start over and buckle down.’ I started to really putt well and play well on our front side.”
The Nos. 6 and 7 holes were where Nealy began to make a push, including the latter when she rolled in a 10-foot putt after chipping out of a bunker. The two headed to the back nine all square.
In almost mirror images of one another, Nealy and Canon traded wins on the 11th and 12th holes, respectively, after watching the other lip out what would’ve been a hole-tying putt.
With Canon seemingly regaining some momentum after evening the match by winning the 12th hole, Nealy fought back by winning two straight holes, then dropping her tee shot within seven feet of the par-3 15th hole flagstick. Canon narrowly missed a birdie putt, but with a 2 up lead and three holes left, Nealy knew she was close to claiming a fourth title.
“I definitely had a lot of momentum going into 15, the par 3,” Nealy said. “And then I stuck it to seven feet and I was like, ‘OK, now I just need to stay where I’m at and I’ll win this.’”
With a crowd of spectators gathered around the 16th green, Nealy read the right line on a downhill putt that seemed destined for the hole but hit the flagstick and rolled out. Still, it was enough to win the hole and the match.
“I wanted to make it,” Nealy said, “because I wanted to birdie and solidify the win.”
Canon, who’s entering her senior year with the Oregon Tech women’s golf team, spent the earlier portion of the day as caddie for her college teammate Kirsten Reed as she played in the women’s first flight finals against Stephanie Johns. Reed, a South Medford High alumna, also served as Canon’s caddie throughout the week. The two have a quick turnaround as Oregon Tech opens its fall season Sept. 13 at the UBC Gail Moore Intercollegiate in Bellingham, Washington.
As soon as Kevin Klabunde clinched his match against Craig Knips on the 15th hole, 5 and 4, people were quick to remind him that he’d reached a dozen SOGC championships, between the men’s senior, junior-senior and super senior divisions.
But he needed no reminder of the feat as he moved one title closer to George Mack’s 15 titles. Mack, of Portland, advanced to the men’s legends semifinals before losing to Bob Maentz, 2 and 1.
“It’s a motivator, sure it is,” Klabunde said of Mack’s titles.
Klabunde, who also won the 2020 men’s senior, entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed and defeated Dale Voelz, Marty Morlan and Knips en route to the title.
In Klabunde’s opinion, he was playing “great golf” against Morlan in the semifinals Sunday by making three straight birdies to start the match. But Monday, he said he was moreso hanging on than taking command of the match.
“I played match play golf more than stroke play golf, and I know better than to do that,” Klabunde said.
Klabunde led Knips 1 up heading to the back nine and added to the lead on the 10th hole, before saving a par putt on the 11th and gaining an extra hole on the 12th to go 3 up.
“When you’re 3 up with six (holes) to go, that’s a big hill to climb,” Klabunde said.
Not much separated Stieler and Tommy Smith through the first 18 holes of the 36-hole final, so when they returned to tee off the final 18 holes all square, the two fist-bumped and Smith said, “Let’s do this again.”
Ultimately, it was Stieler outlasting Smith, 2 and 1, in a match he led by as many as four holes on the back nine.
Smith cut that lead in half heading to the final two holes, before Stieler clinched the win — his first SOGC title — on the 17th.
Men’s super senior
In a rematch of the 2020 final, which Ashland’s Bob Dickey won over Clark on the 19th hole, Clark came back to claim the men’s super senior title.
Clark led 2 up going to the back nine and was able to keep the distance in what was ultimately a 3-and-2 win.
The victory was Clark’s first championship in the super senior division. He also won the men’s junior-senior in 2008, before winning the men’s senior title in 2014 and 2017.
Dixon was consistent across three rounds of the eight-man championship flight as he won all three of his matches by the same margin, 2 and 1, including Monday’s final against Maentz.
The top half of the bracket was topsy-turvy after Mack, as the No. 8 seed, knocked off No. 1 Larry Garvin in the quarterfinals, before Maentz knocked off Mack to reach the finals alongside Dixon, who topped Jim Hatton in the semifinals.
Dixon also won the 2014 men’s super senior.
SOUTHERN OREGON GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS
MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT
Chris Polski def. R.O. Gamez 3&2
MEN’S FIRST FLIGHT
Gerry Snyder def. Jacob Henderson 4&3
MEN’S SECOND FLIGHT
Taylor Klemp def. Corey Marineau 1 up
MEN’S THIRD FLIGHT
Ryan Mitchell def. Scott Weiland 3&1
MEN’S FOURTH FLIGHT
Jordan Anderson def. Jeremiah Paladino 2&1
MEN’S FIFTH FLIGHT
Jeremy Henson def. Dalton Pfau 3&2
MEN’S SIXTH FLIGHT
Jim Bennett def. Timothy Wiedrich 2&1
MEN’S SEVENTH FLIGHT
Brian Findlay def. Travis Sanders 2&1
MEN’S EIGHTH FLIGHT
Jordan Jenkins def. Christopher Ellis 1 up
MEN’S NINTH FLIGHT
Matthew Miller def. Patrick McCormick 20th
JUNIOR-SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT
Michael Stieler def. Tommy Smith 2&1
JUNIOR-SENIOR FIRST FLIGHT
Scott Wise def. Justin Wise 2 up
JUNIOR-SENIOR SECOND FLIGHT
James Russell def. Michael O’Connell 1 up
JUNIOR-SENIOR THIRD FLIGHT
Justin Azevedo def. Eric Engelbach 1 up
JUNIOR-SENIOR FOURTH FLIGHT
Ryan Kantor def. Kevin Jones 4&3
JUNIOR-SENIOR FIFTH FLIGHT
Brooks Gard def. Alex Clark 1 up
JUNIOR-SENIOR SIXTH FLIGHT
Robin Blanks def. Joe Davis 19th
JUNIOR-SENIOR SEVENTH FLIGHT
Chris Dufour def. Josh Godfrey 1 up
JUNIOR-SENIOR EIGHTH FLIGHT
Russ Wilson def. Jason Rowan 2 up
JUNIOR-SENIOR NINTH FLIGHT
Jad Dickson def. Jack Adams 6&5
SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT
Kevin Klabunde def. Craig Knips 5&4
SENIOR FIRST FLIGHT
Kevin Dixon def. Bret Mackay 1 up
SENIOR SECOND FLIGHT
David Kaplan def. Scott Moore 4&3
SENIOR THIRD FLIGHT
Chris Littleton def. Gary Loeb 3&2
SENIOR FOURTH FLIGHT
Todd Raduski def. Rich Mettler 1 up
SENIOR FIFTH FLIGHT
Jim Palazzolo def. Larry Conkings 19th
SENIOR SIXTH FLIGHT
Kevin Tucker def. Philip Heiner 2 up
SENIOR SEVENTH FLIGHT
Dwight Shriver def. Greg Wojtal 3&2
SUPER SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT
Glen Clark def. Bob Dickey 3&2
SUPER SENIOR FIRST FLIGHT
Robert Stassi def. Doug Ward 2&1
SUPER SENIOR SECOND FLIGHT
Scott Tuttle def. Gregory Miller 1 up
SUPER SENIOR THIRD FLIGHT
Bruce Hart def. Mike Armitage 2&1
SUPER SENIOR FOURTH FLIGHT
Mark Wilson def. Karl Olson 19th
SUPER SENIOR FIFTH FLIGHT
Bill Allen def. John Liston 1 up
SUPER SENIOR SIXTH FLIGHT
Scott Swendiman def. Rick Widlund 2&1
SUPER SENIOR SEVENTH FLIGHT
Dave Allen def. Ross Cooley 7&6
SUPER SENIOR EIGHTH FLIGHT
Chuck Kenney def. Roger Peck 1 up
SUPER SENIOR NINTH FLIGHT
Darrell Hunt def. John Rowan 3&2
LEGENDS CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT
Dan Dixon def. Bob Maentz 2&1
LEGENDS FIRST FLIGHT
Larry Garvin def. Richard Brekke 1 up
LEGENDS SECOND FLIGHT
Bruce Wood def. Gordon Empey 2&1
LEGENDS THIRD FLIGHT
Michael Goldman def. Jim Hauck 1 up
LEGENDS FOURTH FLIGHT
Lael Collins def. Cliff Barnett 2&1
LEGENDS FIFTH FLIGHT
Dar Wolber def. Dwight Samuel 1 up
WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT
Johnna Nealy def. Payton Canon 3&2
WOMEN’S FIRST FLIGHT
Stephanie Johns def. Kirsten Reed 1 up
WOMEN’S SECOND FLIGHT
Susie Hammitt def. Lindsey Crosier 5&4
WOMEN’S THIRD FLIGHT
Michele Orrico def. Jan Hughes 3&2
WOMEN’S FOURTH FLIGHT
Julie Schamanek def. Barbara Stormo 1 up
WOMEN’S FIFTH FLIGHT
Darla Allen def. Shelli Bates 2 up
Reach reporter Will Denner at 541-776-4479 or firstname.lastname@example.org