LEFT: Mike Barry, the defending Southern Oregon Golf Tournament men’s champion, hopes to capture one of two spots at the U.S. Amateur qualifier. BELOW LEFT: JT Compher, who lost to Mike Barry in last year’s SOGT, is among a handful of local players who will also tee up at Eagle Point Golf Club. - Jamie Lusch

Locals vie for trip to U.S. Amateur

Mike Barry has competed in a couple of U.S. Amateur qualifying tournaments and knows full well how much of a grind they can be.

Ross Jesswein welcomes the task.

The two Medford players will lead a half-dozen local players in the 36-hole test of skill and mental toughness Thursday at Eagle Point Golf Club.

Forty-one players will compete for two berths into the U.S. Amateur Aug. 18-24 at Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, N.C.

There are 101 qualifying sites that will determine the field of 312 players.

Other local players entered are J.T. Compher, Daniel Wozniak, Ben Wright and Hamilton Baehr.

Out-of-area players of note are Brooks Newsom, Chris Polski, Jack Dukeminier and Paul Peterson.

The first tee time of the morning round is 7, and the afternoon starting time is 12:30. Spectators are welcome but carts won't be issued.

Barry hasn't played much competitive golf since transferring last fall from the University of San Diego to Oregon State. He sat out the Beavers' spring season and isn't eligible to compete for them until the fall of 2009.

However, he shot a 62 at Rogue Valley Country Club a little over a month ago to tie Jason Allred's noncompetitive course record.

And last weekend, playing his own ball in a tournament for the first time since he left San Diego, Barry tied for 23rd in the Rosauers Open in Spokane, Wash. He fashioned a pair of 67s the final two days of the three-day event primarily for regional professionals. He didn't get in a practice round and opened with a 74.

Barry has competed in two U.S. Am qualifiers with only so-so results.

"I'm excited for it," he says. "I feel like I have a pretty good shot to make it this time just because of the way I've been playing the last couple of rounds. I'm hitting the ball really good and the putting's coming around. It was awesome to get those competitive juices flowing again. It was perfect timing the week before the U.S. Am qualifier. It was good to get out and play."

Barry hasn't played Eagle Point much since high school and knows the course won't look like it normally does. The tees will be all the way back, the rough will be up to 2 inches and the greens will be double cut, putting them at 11 or 12 on the Stimpmeter, according to Jeremy Dunkason, the course's general manager and director of golf.

All of that will add up to quite a grind, and Barry knows from previous experience it's beneficial to keep emotions in check against exacting hole locations and forboding hazards and bunkers.

"You've got to keep grinding away," he says. "That was kind of my weakness two years ago. I had a pretty good first round, then started off sketchy the first two holes of the second 18. I rode that train a ways instead of getting right back and making a few more birdies. I kind of stayed in that angry state of mind instead of grinding it out."

Jesswein, a 43-year-old former professional, likes the idea of 36 holes in one day. With a full-time job, he doesn't get to practice and play as often as many of the younger players.

"Maybe it's wishful thinking, but maybe it will favor someone who hasn't played as much," says Jesswein, a recruiter for Asante Health Systems. "I can play well and like I want to occasionally and feel very confident, but I have a hard time playing consistently. If you're playing well on a particular day, you can keep it going."

Jesswein's putting has been a bit shaky this year, he says, but otherwise his game has been adequate.

He tied for 15th place a couple weeks ago in the Oregon Golf Association Men's Mid-Amateur at Centennial. Last year in the same tournament at Eagle Point, he tied for 13th place.

The OGA will set the tees and pins today.

"You have to play very well just to shoot a respectable score," says Jesswein. "If regular players went out to play Eagle Point, they probably wouldn't recognize the course the way it's set up."

It speaks volumes for the 12-year-old Robert Trent Jones Jr. course to be selected for the qualifier, says Dunkason.

"It's an honor," he says. "It's also, I think, some of the best advertising a golf course can do. You have the results printed in a dozen different magazines and on news stations. It's very prestigious to have these kinds of events."

The par 5s will be the scoring holes, and much of the challenge will be in the par 4s, says Dunkason.

No. 2 is a par 4 that measures 456 yards from the tips, has a creek running across the fairway and a pond and bunker to the left of a green that slopes toward the hazard.

No. 3 is a par 3 that stretches to 204 yards and also has bunkers left and right and a pond right.

After last year's mid-am, winner Scott Hval, the lone player to break par, jokingly said he entertained thoughts of blowing up the third hole after playing it in 5 over for two rounds.

"You could very easily be 3 or 4 over after three holes out here if you're not careful," says Dunkason.

That said, there are some talented players in the field.

Newsom is a perennial favorite in late-summer tournaments here. He played well on an OGA team that competed in Peru this year and was also on the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Cup team.

Polski was second in the Northwest Open last year and represented the OGA in the Pacific Coast Amateur.

Jack Dukeminier had a 73.7 scoring average as a freshman on the University of Oregon team.

Peterson is an Oregon State teammate of Barry's.

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

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