All-City golf tourney in kids' firm grip

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WALLA WALLA - The young lions are clearly in charge of the Walla Walla All-City Championships golf tournament, which is on tap this coming weekend and will be contested for the 61st time in as many trips around the sun.

Because five times in the last six years, the coveted crown has been claimed by kids barely old enough to shave and still too young to buy their first cold brew.

And not by default, either, because the winning scores in recent years have been eye-popping, to say the least.

Drew Reinland, a Wa-Hi senior-to-be at the time, won last year's championship with a sizzling 6-under-par score of 138 for his first All-City title. He negotiated the Walla Walla Country Club's par-72 layout with a 4-under-par 68 and followed up with a 2-under 70 the next day at Veterans Memorial Golf Course.

However, Reinland, who will go into this year's tourney as one of the clear favorites after finishing up a splendid prep career and signing to play golf at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, didn't run away from the entire field in 2009.

Rob Broadhead, who won back-to-back All-City championships in 2007 and '08, finished just one shot behind Reinland. Broadhead, who figures to be another of this year's top All-City contenders, graduated from Wa-Hi in 2007.

That very same summer, Broadhead won his first All-City title when he scorched the two local courses with a 69-66-135, which was nine shots better than par and eight better than whoever finished second.

It wasn't quite as easy for the former Blue Devil in 2008, however. Broadhead beat another recent Wa-Hi graduate, Ryan Goude, in a sudden-death playoff after the two had shot identical 2-under-par 142 totals during 36 holes of regulation play

Goude, who is still looking for his first All-City crown, will also be among the favorites in this year's field.

One player who won't be is Max Reinland, Drew's older brother, who captured All-City titles in 2004, prior to his senior year at Wa-Hi, and again in 2006. Reinland has since turned professional and is no longer eligible to compete in the tournament.

Reinland shot rounds of 69 at the country club and 67 at Memorial for an 8-under 136 to win by five shots over Gregg Corn in 2004. And in 2006, he fired rounds of 69 and 71 for a 4-under 140 and was a three-shot winner over Mike Mitchell.

Corn, 57, is the only interloper in this recent All-City youth movement. He won the 2005 championship by beating Max Reinland in a sudden-death playoff. Corn sank a birdie putt on the second extra hole to win it after he and Reinland had matched even-par 144 scores for 36 holes of regulation play.

Corn, who won the 1999 All-City title as well, is also entered this year, and his track record suggests he can't be overlooked.

Other former champions who could wind up in this year's field - all of the entries are not yet in - include Eric Kimball (2003), Devin Kaylor (2002), Ron Smith (2001), Dwight Maddess (1988, 1984, 1975), Carl Stritzel (1979), Bill Fleenor (1977), Jim Beard (1973, 1971, 1970, 1969, 1966) and Mike Dunham (1961).

Beard, with five championships to his credit, is tied for second on the all-time list with the late Ed Fiddes, who won the very first All-City in 1950 and was also the champion in 1952, 1955, 1959 and 1963.

Jeff Thomas, who is the general manager at the country club, is far-and-away the All-City king with 13 titles dating back to his first championship in 1982. Thomas moved to Walla Walla after a stint on the Asian professional tour in the late 1970s. He regained his amateur status and began a 19-year run of All-City domination.

Thomas turned pro again in 2001 when he reached senior status and qualified for a couple of Champions Tour tournaments. Although he no longer competes professionally, Thomas has chosen not to petition for amateur status again and is therefore ineligible for the All-City tourney.

The tournament begins Saturday at Memorial and concludes Sunday at the country club. This is a departure from recent years when the first round has been played at the club and the final 18 holes at Vets.

And it remains to be seen if one of the Valley's more seasoned golfers can put a halt to this recent domination by the kids or if one of the young lions celebrates another successful hunt.

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