Centennial set to host Amateur qualifier

Golfer Cameron Peck used to take a road less traveled to get to the U.S. Amateur Championship.

Now he'll take a road through Medford in hopes of reaching the same destination.

Peck, the hottest amateur in the region, will be among 32 players in the field Thursday when Centennial Golf Club hosts a sectional qualifier. It's one of two in the state; the other is at the Oregon Golf Association Course in Woodburn.

After 36 holes of stroke play, one player will advance to the 113th Amateur Aug. 12-18 in Brookline, Mass. Two alternate spots will also be awarded.

Tee times begin at 8 for the morning round and 1 for the afternoon. Spectators are welcome, and there is no admission cost.

Peck headlines a field that includes a couple top local players in Kevin Murphy and Daniel Engle. Another notable Medford player, Dylan Wu, is absent from the field and playing an American Junior Golf Association event in Yorba Linda, Calif.

Peck, of Olympia, Wash., captured the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Men's Amateur two weeks ago at Bandon Dunes, and Wu was one of his victims, losing on the 20th hole in the Round of 16.

"He's (Peck) the odds on favorite, for sure," said Brent Whittaker, director of tournament operations for the OGA. "He's having a really good summer. Coming off the PNGA, that was a really good field this year and it's always a really deep field. Those are pretty good wins."

Peck recently graduated from Texas A&M, where he was a three-time All-American. He captured the Washington State Men's Amateur this summer and, last week, made it to the Round of 16 in the U.S. Amateur Public Links.

For a couple years, Peck had an exemption to the U.S. Amateur, a route made possible by winning the 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur.

At Centennial, he'll try to earn a trip back on a course that is among the home tracks of Murphy and Engle.

Murphy graduated from Rogue River High this year and will next play for Oregon State. He, too, was in the PNGA Amateur, advancing to the Round of 16.

Engle concluded his junior year at Utah, where he was No. 2 in rounds played for the Utes in 2012-13 and was No. 3 in scoring with an average of 75.3 for 30 rounds.

Among other top players are Tim Tucker, a 45-year-old full-time caddie at Bandon Dunes who tied for the low qualifying score in the PNGA Amateur but lost medalist honors in a playoff; Tyler Falk, who was runner-up in the Oregon Am and plays for Northwest Christian University; and Montana Frame, who placed third in the Class 3A/2A/1A high school state tournament but was only three shots behind Wu and one behind Murphy.

Tucker and Frame will be paired with another local player, Will Street, who helped St. Mary's to the 3A/2A/1A prep title.

Oregon draws well enough to have two sectionals, said Whittaker. It aims for one in the Portland area and rotate's the other venue between the Willamette Valley, central Oregon and southern Oregon.

Because the qualifier is 36 holes, it's impossible to have a full field of 144 players at one site.

"I'm glad we got it," said Chris Daggitt, Centennial tournament coordinator. "It's a cool thing to have. It's cool to think a guy who is playing here is going to the U.S. Amateur."

The course will have a slightly different setup than usual, but it won't undergo a massive makeover.

The OGA is in charge of the setup.

"The only thing we'll do a little differently is we'll make the greens a little quicker," said Daggitt, noting they'll run at 12 or 12.5 on the Stimpmeter. "That's a little quicker than we normally have them. It's been so hot, I'm sure the course will be hard and fast. It won't play that long for these guys. If they keep it in the fairways, the ball will roll a lot."

The rough is thick, he said, and will penalize those trying to hit long irons out of it. Beyond the rough is hay, but it'll be dry and wispy enough it shouldn't greatly hinder players, provided they're able to find any balls that stray that far off line.

Play will be mostly from the back tees, stretching the course nearly to its limit.

"The great thing about Centennial," said Whittaker, "is that it naturally plays long and fast. It should be an easy setup for us because we can play it at that distance and not worry about it being considered too long."

From the tips, Centennial measures 7,309 yards.

The last time an Amateur sectional was held in the Rogue Valley was in 2008. Medford's Mike Barry shot the day's low score of 6 under, earning his second straight berth to the national tournament.

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

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