Kim Titus, from Gig Harbor, Wash., hits a bunker shot on the eighth hole during qualifying in the women’s division of the Southern Oregon Golf Tournament Wednesday at Rogue Valley Country Club. Titus turned in an 8-over-par round of 81.Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Ranallo goes low

Course knowledge is supposed to mean a little something along the tricky, undulating greens of Rogue Valley Country Club.

Danielle Ranallo had virtually none of it. It turns out she didn't need it.

The Portland State University sophomore-to-be required just 32 putts and sank four birdies en route to a 1-under-par 72 to emerge as women's medalist during qualifying action of the Southern Oregon Golf Tournament Wednesday.

A couple of young guns from Eugene, meanwhile, took control of men's qualifying, which featured out-of-town golfers Wednesday. Chris Polski shot a sizzling 7-under-par 65, and Jack Dukeminier fired a 68 to trump the 70 that Medford's Bret Breeze shot a day earlier in the men's regular division.

Paul Johnson shot a 68 Wednesday to win medalist honors in the junior-senior division, while Terry Newsom had a 70 to lead the senior division.

Match play in all categories begins today and continues through Monday at RVCC.

"I jokingly told a friend that I would probably be the medalist, but I didn't really believe it," Ranallo said. "I didn't know the course hardly at all. I played it for the first time the other day but only made it through six holes because everything was backed up."

Despite her lack of familiarity with the course, Ranallo mastered the layout like a professional. Her only real hiccup came on the 18th hole when an approach from 125 yards flew the green and led to one of her three bogeys.

"On some of the holes I was just guessing where to go, but my strength has always been my putter, and it helped me out today," Ranallo, 18, said. "I was pretty steady all the way around."

Ranallo, a 2006 graduate of West Linn High, was especially efficient on the back side of the No. 1 course. She stuffed her tee shot within 3 feet of the cup on the par-3 13th for a birdie, sank a 15-foot putt for another birdie on the 15th hole and followed with yet another birdie on the 16th.

But it was her drives — an area where she struggled during the college season — that separated her from the rest of the pack. Ranallo has spent most of the summer working on her swing after it caused problems during the college season.

"It's so much easier to score when you're not struggling off the tee," she said. "I've played a lot of practice rounds just working on my ball striking. It was definitely in sync today."

Ranallo has played golf for only the past five years. She focused on soccer and basketball while growing up in the Portland area, but after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament and fracturing her femur in her right leg in junior high, she took up golf.

She played all summer prior to her freshman year at West Linn and emerged as its No. 1 player. Three years later, she earned a scholarship to Portland State.

Former two-time runner-up Linda Johnson had the second-best qualifying score among women with a 1-over 74. Stephanie Johns, who will join Ranallo at Portland State next month, fired a 76, and former two-time champion Amanda Nealy, Kim Titus and Julie Johnson all carded 81s.

Linda Johnson was pleased after beating her qualifying score from last year by three strokes.

"My sand wedge was working well today," said Linda Johnson, the tournament runner-up in 1987 and '88 and a semifinalist last year. "I stuffed quite a few shots in there close."

Johnson was 1-under after eight holes before bogeying the ninth and 10th holes with three-putts.

"Take away my three three-putts and I would have been a couple strokes under par," she said. "But that's golf. Every round, something could have been done better."

Polski's round had few flaws, however. The 2005 Sheldon High graduate knocked in eight birdies and suffered just one bogey — he three-putted the ninth green — in his best tournament round of the summer.

"I drove the ball well all day, hit a lot of approach shots inside 10 feet and made the putts," shrugged Polski, who attended College of the Desert in Palm Desert, Calif., this year.

Polski dazzled onlookers when he sank a 30-foot, sidehill birdie putt on the seventh hole. But the rest of his putts were struck from much closer to the cup.

The 20-year-old Polski already has had a solid summer. He took third at the Oregon Publinx at Sand Pines in Florence, claimed fourth at the Oregon Stroke Play Championships at Emerald Valley in Creswell and bagged sixth place at the Royal Oaks Invitational in Vancouver, Wash.

But none of his rounds has been quite as solid as the one he logged Wednesday.

"I haven't really found my game yet, to be honest," Polski said. "But today was pretty close."

Dukeminier, who teamed with Polski in leading Sheldon to the 2005 state high school title, didn't miss a putt inside 10 feet Wednesday.

"I didn't hit it that well but I chipped and putted really well," Dukeminier, 18, said.

Rounding out the top scorers in the regular men's division Wednesday were Ryan Hawkins, who fired a 1-under 71, and Ryan Schaefer and J.C. Riter, who shot even-par 72s.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail

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