Barry attempts rare repeat in city tournament

Mike Barry is in position to do something that hasn't been accomplished in more than a decade.

Whether his golf game is up to it remains to be seen.

Not since 2000, when Brad Bills successfully defended his title in the Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships, has the men's division of the city championships had a back-to-back winner.

Barry, the former Oregon State player who won his first RVSP crown in dominating fashion a year ago, will take aim at the elusive repeat when the two-day tournament unfolds Saturday at Centennial Golf Club.

The tournament has a full field of 164 players, with 24 in the men's championship flight.

Defending champions in other divisions are back as well, with Ken Stringer in the senior men's and Tracie Armitage in the women's. One winner from a year ago who won't return is Jon Paauwe in the super senior men's.

A year ago, and in his third crack at the city event, Barry tied the course record with a 64 in the first round, made an improbable double eagle in the second round and triumphed by eight shots over Diego Velasquez, a former OSU teammate who had been ranked No. 1 in the nation collegiately.

A similar effort this year will require improvement from his recent form, however.

Barry, 24, played quite a bit early in the summer, he says, with good results. To wit: In U.S. Open local qualifying, he tied for second place and advanced to sectional qualifying.

However, that's when things turned. He shot 74-75 in sectionals and tied for 28th.

Somewhere between the two qualifiers, he says, "I lost my game, and it carried over to the rest of the summer.

"It was weird for me. I've never had a bad spell of golf that lasted this long. I never get a lesson; I've always been able to kind of feel my way out of it. Most of the times it's worked out for me. But when you don't have a clue what you're doing, it can last longer than with most other players."

A couple of recent practice sessions have helped, he says. His weight transfer from the top of the swing down is better, and he's hitting more crisply through the ball.

"It's straightened out the ball flight a little bit, and that's always a good thing," says Barry. "I've been focusing mainly on my short game and putting. It doesn't really matter how I'm hitting it. If I can chip close and make putts, especially on the par 5s, I should be in decent shape."

Barry, who also is the defending champion in the Southern Oregon Golf Championships and produced a course-record 60 at Rogue Valley Country Club last fall despite hitting a ball out of bounds, isn't ready to roll over.

"I'm pretty sure I wasn't hitting the ball great last year going into the city, and it turned out OK," he says.

The presence of Velasquez didn't hurt.

"That definitely is what got me pumped up," says Barry.

Velasquez isn't back, but Barry expects a stiff challenge from Jimmy White, a former University of Oregon and Canadian Tour player. He'll be paired with White and Mark Wilson Jr. — who was third last year and has had a solid summer — in one of the last groups to go off Saturday.

"I always like playing with really good players," says Barry. "It's a treat to watch, and it also brings your game up a little bit. I think that's what happened last year."

Bills is going after his fifth men's division title. He's tied with Kevin Klabunde and Brooks Newsom for the most since the current format was adopted in 1989. Klabunde is in the senior men's and Newsom isn't entered.

The revolving door of champions could be testament to the quality of players the tournament attracts, says Chris Daggitt, Centennial tournament director.

"There are just strong fields every year," he says. "You have to go out there and shoot two good rounds. It's a tough tournament, especially with the wind coming up in the afternoon when the championship flight goes out."

The men's leaders will go off at 3:15 p.m. on Sunday.

There are 61 players in the men's, 60 in the senior men's, 28 in the super senior men's and 15 in the women's.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com

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