Centennial to host college tournament

There haven't been any college golf tournaments in the Rogue Valley, and for a very good reason: There aren't any college teams within a couple hours drive.

That will change Sunday and Monday, however, when Centennial Golf Club hosts the George Fox Invitational, a four-team men's tournament that may open the door for similar events in the future.

George Fox, whose coach, Matt Beck, visits Medford regularly on business and has played Centennial a couple of times, is located in Newberg. It will host Pacific University of Forest Grove, Willamette University of Salem and Northwest Christian College of Eugene in the tournament that kicks off the teams' spring seasons.

Several other schools considered attending but were unable to organize it in time.

Pacific has two Southern Oregon players on its roster in freshmen Ben Wright of Ashland and Parrish Evans of Illinois Valley.

Play is at 10:30 a.m. Sunday and 9 a.m. Monday. Spectators are welcome.

The prospect of nicer weather here than is typical for the northern part of the state and the chance to play a quality course moved Beck to set up the tournament.

"I just think Medford is a great place to hold a tournament," says Beck, who has charge of the Bruins' first-year program when he's not working as a technical representative for a printing ink company. "Hopefully, we'll get a break in the weather, but it's a great course, a very dry course year around, and it's challenging. It has great greens and the traps are well-placed."

When he first played Centennial, Beck says he was lulled into a comfort zone over the first two holes — a short par 4 with lots of landing room for tee shots and a par 5 that is not averse to giving up pars. Then he got to the third hole, the No. 1 handicap hole, and his round became more taxing.

"It's gonna keep you on your toes," says Beck.

He'll poll the other coaches afterward and determine if it's worth it to continue to make the trip here.

There will be 10 tee times set aside for them. They'll have a buffer of a couple of open tee times at both ends of their block of time to provide room within open play.

"It's really a small group for us," says Chris Daggitt, Centennial tournament director. "But it will be nice to get players out here of that quality. That's what's cool about it, just a lot of college kids that you don't see in this area. Everybody here is excited for it."

The college players will tee off from essentially the purple tees, which normally play to 6,900 yards but will be bumped up another 100 yards or so. A couple holes will be moved to the tips — notably the longest hole, the 603-yard 16th, and some of the shorter par 4s.

"We're always looking for the high caliber of golfer to come here," says Vince Domenzain, Centennial director of golf. "It should be a pretty good test for them. The other thing is, we'll get some kids from different areas and get a little exposure that way. Hopefully, they'll go to their hometowns and tell their friends they enjoyed their experience here. That's never a bad thing."

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com

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