COOS BAY — Cody Stoeffel barely made it into the championship flight of the Southwest Oregon Amateur at Coos Golf Club, but he left Sunday with the biggest prize.
Stoeffel, who was seeded 15th out of 16 golfers in the bracket, won four matches over two days to take the title, capping his run with a birdie-filled 4 and 3 win over Jimmy Kelley in the championship match Sunday afternoon.
“Jimmy is a stud,” Stoeffel said. “I knew I had to come out and play good.”
He did just that, with seven birdies in the 15 holes of the championship match, the last a conceded 2 ½-foot putt on the final hole to seal the title.
The championship battle was between two caddies at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, but the tournament was a mix of caddies, Coos Golf Club members, other South Coast golfers and some players from out of town.
Greg Harless won the first flight, for players who reached the championship flight but lost their first matches. Kevin Snyder won the second flight, for the 16 players who didn’t reach the championship flight. Rich Edwards took the title in the third flight, for those who lost their first match in the second flight.
The tournament made a return after a 15-year absence and the players were already looking forward to next year, when Coos Golf Club owner Andre Liloc and pro Alden Peterson hope to expand the field considerably.
“It was a lot of fun,” Liloc said. “Everybody was excited. I think the competition was super cool. You could tell when guys lost, they took it bad. It shows it meant something to them.”
Peterson and Liloc would love to see twice as many golfers in 2020.
“That’s what it’s about, creating energy and building something positive here,” Liloc said.
Stoeffel has been a regular at Coos Golf Club for the weekly Muni Madness game on Tuesdays, which draws a number of the resort caddies. But that is a par-3 competition and he hasn’t played the whole course often.
He was one of three players to shoot 78 in qualifying, making the cut to the championship bracket on the number, and said he didn’t expect to do well in the matches, but then he kept winning.
“I got comfortable with the course, once I figured out what shots I needed to hit and what clubs to hit off the tee,” he said.
The result was a series of wins, including beating Harless 2 and 1 in the first round, his closest match. He beat Shane Morehead (quarterfinals), Corey Marineau (semifinals) and Kelley by matching 4 and 3 scores.
“I got my butt beat,” said Kelley, who shot par for the championship round, but couldn’t match Stoeffel’s birdie spree. “Having to hit it inside 3 feet every hole didn’t help.
“I wish I could have put up a better fight.”
Kelley, the No. 9 seed, said he putted great during his two matches Saturday, including a 1-up quarterfinal win over medalist Jason Humphrey. He beat Phil Shoaf 1-up in the semifinals (Shoaf beat Marineau in the third-place match).
Unlike Stoeffel, who has been a caddie at Bandon Dunes for about five years, Kelley has only been at the resort four months, having come to the South Coast from Kentucky.
His first complete round at Coos Golf Club was his practice round for the tournament, but he fell in love with the layout over the three days of the tournament.
“I enjoyed every bit of it,” he said. “It’s a neat course.”
Harless, a regular at Bandon Crossings, bounced back from his loss to Stoeffel to win all three of his matches in the first flight, beating Andrew Kimbell 5 and 3 in the championship match.
“It’s been a blast,” he said. “I love this course. I need to come out here more often — it’s so much fun.
“I hope this tournament becomes big again.”
Snyder was apologetic about being in the second flight instead of the championship flight — he shot a 79 on Friday to miss the championship bracket by a stroke.
One of the top players among the caddies at Bandon Dunes, he rolled through his four matches in the second flight, never making it past the 15th hole and beating Andrew Simpson 7 and 6 in the championship match.
“I didn’t play well in the qualifier,” Snyder said. “I found my groove the second day and today.”
He said playing five rounds in three days was fun, but exhausting.
“I’m usually watching other people play,” he said of his life as a caddie.
Like the others, he was glad to see the tournament return.
“I’ve been wanting to play in tournaments (on the South Coast),” he said. “They just haven’t had many.”
Simpson, a state pole vault champion at Marshfield High School back when he was a student, has become a better golfer over the years since school and had an amazing run, considering it was his first tournament.
Edwards, who won the third flight, first played in the old Southwest Oregon Amateur in 1986 and continued playing it until the early 2000s, coming down from his home in Siletz near Newport every year.
He beat Bobby Cox 4 and 3 in the flight championship.
“I’m glad it’s back,” he said of the tournament, adding that he hopes to convince a number of friends to take part next year.
Peterson said the tournament had a good mix of players, and that several club members came out to help as spotters or watch. Many of them, he hopes, will put their hat in the ring next year as the tournament grows.
“It gives guys a tournament to look forward to,” he said.