Kevin Klabunde hits out of the sand during the SOGT on Tuesday. - Jamie Lusch

Klabunde keeps on keepin' on

It's not an elected office and there's no obligation associated with being the reigning city golf champion.

Nevertheless, Kevin Klabunde didn't take lightly his duty.

Two days after winning the Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships for the fourth time, the 54-year-old Medford golfer posted the low round on the first day of qualifying for the Southern Oregon Golf Tournament Tuesday at Rogue Valley Country Club.

Competing in the men's regular division, Klabunde flirted with flag sticks the way the wind does weather vanes and carded a 4-under-par 68 on the club's Rogue, or outside, course.

"There's a little bit of responsibility there, I think, to play like you know what you're doing," he said, dispatching the suggestion he was fortified by the recent championship. "But there's no more of a feeling of confidence from having won the city."

His was among a smattering of familiar names atop the various leaderboards in men's, junior-senior men's and senior men's divisions.

Other top men's scorers were Kelly Owen (72), Scott Wise (73) and Ross Jesswein (74).

In the junior-senior men's, Glen Clark, perennially one of the tournament's best players never to have won a title, leads the medalist race with a 69. His only major hiccup came when he snapped his 7-iron while trying to hit next to a tree, resulting in double bogey.

Greg Miller and Brad Bills were next with 74s.

In the senior men's, Bob Harrell, Dan Dixon and David Boals all put up 73s, followed a shot back by Bob Dickey and Jerry Anderson.

Local men qualified Tuesday. Women and out-of-town men qualify today and take their shot at unseating the leaders.

Match play starts Thursday and runs through Monday.

Klabunde has won the men's title once and the junior-seniors twice, yet it's doubtful he's ever felt much better than he did Tuesday, when birdies were, well, sitting ducks.

"I hit the ball as good from tee to green as I have in a long, long time," he said. "It was a good, comfortable round. It was fun having a birdie putt on almost every hole."

To wit, he had five putts inside 12 feet for birdie on the front side alone — and didn't make any of them on the way to a 35.

On the back nine, he bogeyed the 12th after hitting his tee shot out of bounds on a hole that bends appreciably to the right.

"When I hit it, the line it was going on, I thought, was fine," he said.

Still, he made a 15-foot putt for a bogey that "felt like a birdie," he said, then reeled off three straight birdies, one of which was a 35-foot putt at No. 14.

On No. 16, the easiest par 5 on the property, he had a 6-iron into the green for his second shot but shoved it into a bunker, ultimately making a maddening par.

"That was really about the only swing that got me upset," he said. "I was just trying to get to the back of the green for an easy two-putt birdie, but I came out of my swing."

He didn't stay mad long because he sank a 11/2; foot putt at No. 17 for another birdie to strengthen his odds of being medalist a third time in his career.

Clark, in the junior-senior division for only the second year, was cruising along, striking the ball well and making most every putt he expected to to get to 4 under through 13.

At No. 14, the right-hander tried to keep it going on a hole that doglegs left.

"I'd been playing a little cut (left-to-right ball flight) all day long," he said. "So I said, you know what, I'm gonna cut it again. Normally I play a (right-to-left) draw there. I cut it perfectly "¦ perfectly behind a tree."

He scrunched down, choked down on the club and tried to whip the ball toward the green from 130 yards. However, the grip of his club hit the tree and snapped on impact.

"I'll never hit a cut there again," said Clark.

In the seniors, Harrell is trying to match Ed Godden's record for seven division titles. He was 1 under through 16, but a double bogey at No. 17 slowed his charge.

Dixon, who might challenge Clark for the best-not-to-have-won title — he's placed second three times as a senior and was runner-up once in the junior-senior — was steady throughout. He had two birdies and three bogeys.

Boals had three bogeys on the front, then caught fire on the back with three birdies on his last six holes.

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

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