Oregon Stroke Play: Vijarro holds on

CRESWELL, Ore. (Aug. 10, 2008)--With the field cut to the top half of both the Senior and Open Divisions after 36-holes at Emerald Valley Golf Course, and players re-paired based on scores, leaders faced off against each other to determine the 56th Oregon Men's Stroke Play Champion. The course continued to live up to its motto of "protecting par since 1964" as no player in the field was able to post a sub-par 54-hole total. The Senior Division teed off first with Denny Taylor, 56 of Galdstone, Ore. taking a three-stroke lead over defending champion Patrick O'Donnell, 54, of Portland, Ore. and a five-stroke lead over Chris Maletis, 59, of Portland, Ore. who has won this event three times (1999, 2004 and 2005). At the end of the nine, all three were playing well with both O'Donnell and Maletis posting even par totals and Taylor losing 1-stroke but still maintaining a slight cushion.

For the rest of the round, O'Donnell maintained a steady pace of posting par. Maletis, on the other hand, caught fire at the end and posted three straight birdies on the closing holes finishing with the best round of the day at 2-under par 70. As the leader in the clubhouse a full 45-minutes before O'Donnell and Taylor would finish, he put the pressure on his competitors to finish strong. Taylor, however, was unable to maintain his lead and posted two more bogeys including a bogey on the par-3 17th hole to fall into a 3-way tie for the lead. "Obviously, I didn't play well enough," said Taylor. "There were some birdies to be had that didn't fall. I played very conservatively and had opportunities that went awry. It's the 17th hole that got me. I flew it long left and didn't get up and down and made bogey. That's where [Pat] O'Donnell was able to take advantage. He lipped out a birdie putt but made par. He made every putt he needed to make today." In the resulting playoff, Maletis tried to play a high fade but sent his drive deep into the trees. O'Donnell also ended up near the tree line, and both players had to punch bump-and-run shots to have any chance to win, especially since Taylor, who drove into the right rough had the best approach to the green, albeit in a rugged lie. Taylor missed the green and then followed with a bad chip and missed the par putt. Maletis was able to advance the ball from the trees to the bunker.

"I almost holed the bunker shot," said Maletis. "And then just missed the putt."

O'Donnell, on the other hand, was able to get up and down to make par and win the title. "I played pretty good," said O'Donnell. "I hit the ball pretty good and kept the ball somewhat in play. And I made some of the clutch putts that I had to!"

Interestingly, on a course that plays long and requires a great short game, O'Donnell added, "I can't normally say that its my putting that got me there." While the Senior Division leaders were playing incredible golf, the leaders in the Open Division were struggling. Andrew Vijarro, 18, of Bend, Ore. took a narrow one-stroke lead over an inexperienced newcomer Derek Robinson, 22 of Marcola, Ore. and a three-stroke cushion over Jordan Sweet of North Bend, Ore. The three were the only players to be under par after 36-holes. Sweet is a sophomore on the University of Oregon Men's Golf Team which Vijarro will join this coming year. Robinson had not played in Oregon Junior Golf or really played in high school, preferring to concentrate on other sports like basketball. He had played one year at Linfield College but was really unknown to many. He now attends Oregon State University but was not able to secure a walk-on spot on the golf team roster. Sweet fell out of contention early shooting 3-over par on the opening round and dropped to a tie for 5th place after shooting 80 for the day. Robinson, on the other hand, was able to tie for the lead early with a birdie on the third hole and after the opening nine, had a three stroke lead as Vijarro could only muster bogeys. But the closing nine would be a different story as Robinson took a double bogey on the long par-5 13th hole after hitting his drive into the trees. With just one hole to play, the players were tied, but again Robinson hit his ball into the trees with the only option to punch out to the fairway. His subsequent approach sailed the green while Vijarro applied significant pressure by sticking his approach to eight feet. For Robinson to have any chance, he would need to hole his chip. Unfortunately he executed the chip poorly and then two-putted for a triple bogey on the closing hole while Vijarro sank his first birdie of the day to seal the win finishing at even par for the tournament. "My driver was a little wayward today," said Vijarro. "But my irons were alright. It's my putter that really did me in. I would have turned at even if I would not have missed a few 5-footers. I knew if I hung in there the back's tough and eats people alive. Everyone knows the back nine at Emerald Valley is tough so I knew if I could go and shoot about par I'd be right back in it."

--Courtesy OGA

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