News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Top golfers tee off in Sisters

Golf in Oregon is extra special — so say the game’s enthusiasts from across the country.

“It’s the landscape,” said Tye Butler from Dallas, Texas, who with his family was vacationing — and golfing — at Black Butte Ranch. “If you’ve ever played golf in Ireland or Scotland, you’ll know what I mean.

“In Oregon, it’s even better,” he said. “I mean, you can play on the Pacific Ocean at one of the world’s most amazing courses (Bandon Dunes) in the morning and come over here and play next to snow-capped mountains in the afternoon.”

Butler gladly postponed his tee times when he visited Aspen Lakes last week, as the course was the setting for the 38th Annual OGA (Oregon Golf Association) Men’s Amateur Senior Championship. The 103 contestants are among the very best amateur golfers in a three-state region.

With more than 200 acclaimed public golf courses, designed by legends like Cupp, Palmer, Robert Graves, and McLay Kidd, Central Oregon is home to 30 ranked courses radiant in beauty, with views of the Cascade Mountains, pines, and ancient lava rock. Three of the courses are rated among Golf Digest’s top 100.

With such a plethora of great courses, OGA chose Aspen Lakes for this year’s tourney. The weather was nothing sort of spectacular and the club’s pro, Howie Pruitt, was thrilled with the quality of play and the course.

“This did nothing for our bottom line (OGA does not pay to play) but was highly rewarding for our reputation,” Pruitt said. “We are getting praise from virtually every player about the playing conditions and the quality of our course.”

He added: “And of course the economic benefit to Sisters is obvious.”

Many of the golfers, some traveling nearly 300 miles, lodged, dined, and partied in town or nearby. Many were here an entire week, including practice rounds.

Greg Chianello took home the title. He defeated Russell Humphrey one-up in Friday’s final to earn his first-ever victory in the event.

Chianello, from Portland, won five matches on his way to winning the competition, with the No. 21 seed checking off wins over No. 12 Scott Hval (two-up), No. 5 Pat O’Donnell (seven and six), No. 29 Mike Gleason (six and five) and No. 17 Jim Pliska (three and two).

Chianello took advantage of a pair of Humphrey bogeys on holes 1 and 5 for an early two-up advantage in the final for the Championship Bracket. Humphrey, the defending champion from Lodi, California, narrowed the lead after winning Hole No. 7, but faltered again on the next two holes and Chianello took a three-up advantage into the turn.

The second nine saw Humphrey win holes 10 and 14 to cut into the lead. The two players halved the remaining holes to finish with the one-up result.

Vancouver’s Tim O’Neal was the individual medalist in the stroke play qualifying, which took place Tuesday. He posted a three-under 69 to take the top spot in the match play bracket. Happy Valley’s Brian Leff won the Flight I final over Denny Taylor, (six and four). Also victorious at the four-day event were Jeff Crosier in Flight II, Carl Madore in Flight III, and Ralph Henderson in Flight IV.

Kevin Waddell from Portland Golf Club, with a four handicap, spoke analytically about the course.

“It’s a fun, but an irregular course,” not explaining the latter.

“Putting will be the decisive factor,” said Tom Dalton from Yakima, watching Humphrey bogey in the final round.

The fairways took a beating last summer, when temperatures hit the 100s and the club’s main water pump failed, taking a month to replace. Last week they were comparatively luxurious after months of restoration by the new grounds crew.

Senior players are those 50 or over. Last year’s tournament was played at Arrowhead Golf Club in Mollala. Aspen Lakes was also host for the OGA Junior Summer Series, July 14. Pruitt believes that Aspen Lakes is gaining in prestige in the Oregon golf world already flush with a reputation for top-shelf courses.


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