Brooks Newsom lines up a putt at last year’s Southern Oregon Golf Tournament. The Portland resident will look to defend his title and is aiming for his fourth overall SOGT men’s championship as play kicks off today at the 78th annual match-play event.

Newsom readies for title defense

Brooks Newsom doesn't go into every golf tournament as the best player, but he finishes a lot of them with that distinction.

If he does it this week in the 78th Southern Oregon Golf Tournament, thereby defending his men's division championship, he'll have nudged his way into even more elite company.

Only two players in the match-play tournament's long history have won as many as four titles in the marquee division. Eddie Simmons holds the record with six crowns, the last coming in 1949, and Dick Hanen had four, his final one coming in 1947.

Newsom is tied at three with Doug Olson, Tony Joyner and Bob Atkinson.

The tournament at Rogue Valley Country Club begins today with qualifying for local men. On Wednesday, women and out-of-town men qualify. Matches begin Thursday and continue through the championships Monday in all divisions — men's, junior-senior men's, senior men's and women's.

Newsom, who turns 38 today, wasn't aware of his historical standing until the end of last year's SOGT, when he defeated Glen Clark, 7 and 5, in the 36-hole title match.

"This is without a question my favorite golf tournament," says Newsom, a Portland resident who used to live in Medford. He and his wife have family here, and they annually turn the trip south into a reunion. "I love coming back to the Rogue Valley, and the support for this tournament is so fantastic."

That's why winning here is so special, as is being regarded as one of the tournament's most-storied champions.

"Every accumulating win means something," says Newsom. "I'd love to get as many as I can. With the game of golf, you never know. It's really hard to get through match play and win. But, yeah, I'm pretty happy with where I am, and I'd love to add another victory to that."

He plans on playing in the SOGT until he's physically incapable.

"I"ll have enough opportunities (to win again), that's for sure," says Newsom, who has played it 10 times. "It won't be for a lack of entering."

Although his record suggests otherwise, Newsom, who already has a couple of big wins under his belt this month, doesn't believe he's ever been the favorite entering the Southern Oregon.

And that may hold true this year with the inclusion of Rogue Valley Country Club champion Mike Barry, a junior at the University of San Diego, and a handful of others sporting handicaps better than or equal to Newsom's plus 1.

Barry set the competitive course record two weeks ago in winning the RVCC men's title. He shot a 10-under-par 62 in the first round and completed the three-day event at 17 under, 22 shots clear of a strong field.

"When someone's hitting it that good and that long," says Jim Wise, head professional at the club, "the game ceases to be as difficult as it is for those of us who hit it shorter and crooked. Mike will be hard to beat. His ball striking is very, very good, and I know he's excited to play in it."

Barry, a former state champion at North Medford High, made his debut in the tournament last year and was ousted in the second round.

"That just happens," says Wise. "There are a lot of guys in this tournament who can play. Match play is so different and unique in that respect. All you need is a guy to get hot for 11 or 12 holes and you're history."

Newsom knows about getting hot. He did so Aug. 10-12 in the Oregon Men's Stroke Play Championship, which brings together many of the best amateurs in the state. The playoff win represents his most prestigious Oregon Golf Association victory.

On Sunday, he claimed his fourth Rogue Valley Stroke Play title.

Newsom has succeeded despite playing the least amount of golf he can remember in a summer.

His approach for the state stroke play event, for example, was to hit a bucket or two of balls the night before, then see what swing he had when play began.

"I gave up in frustration," he says of the practice session.

But he discovered a swing thought that held up through the tournament.

Similarly, in the Rogue Valley this past weekend, his driver proved erratic, but he overcame it with strong iron play and won by three shots, shooting a pair of 1-under 71s at Centennial Golf Club.

"As far as the Southern Oregon," says Newsom, "you have time (to work into your game). If you have a bad hole, it doesn't really matter. I'll have enough rounds under my belt by the time we start getting to match play that it should be different. I should actually have a feel for what I'm doing."

He might need it.

In addition to Barry, who has a plus-3 handicap, the field has Jack Dukeminier (plus 3) and Chris Dukeminier (plus 1), both from Roseburg; and Chris (plus 3) and Nic Polski (plus 1), both from Eugene. Colin Tucker of Lake Oswego is another plus 1.

Except for Barry, all of the aforementioned finished well back of Newsom in the state stroke play tourney. Chris Polski placed fourth, four shots back.

It didn't take long for Newsom to get word of Barry's accomplishment in the RVCC championships.

"My father-in-law (Mike O'Grady) told me about some obnoxious numbers he was shooting," laughs Newsom. "One thing I can guarantee you is that I'm not shooting 62. Those numbers are very unfamiliar to me. Mike would have to be the favorite."

Seventeen under for three rounds, Newsom adds, "is just a tough score to fathom for amateur golf. You have to be playing at an exceptionally high level, and you have to be comfortable going that low."

Newsom might not be comfortable at those depths, but is at home in first place.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail

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