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Golf: Utah Championship has trade-off with new date

Published: Tuesday, July 26 2011 10:57 p.m. MDT

SANDY — Most everyone associated with the Nationwide Utah Championship golf tournament is thrilled that the event is being played this week at Willow Creek Country Club, right in the middle of golf season, rather than early September when it was played in past years.

However, like most things, the advantageous dates come with a tradeoff.

There won't be quite as many of the top money-winners coming to Utah as when it was later in the year and golfers were fighting to get into the Top 25.

The top three money-winners are skipping this week's tournament as are 10 of the top 25 money-winners. That probably isn't such a big deal in a Nationwide Tour event, where the average golf fan hasn't heard of the top players any way.

Troy Kelly, who ranks No. 4 on the money list and Kyle Reifers, who is No. 5, are the top two money winners playing in this week's tourney, which begins Thursday and runs through Sunday at Willow Creek.

According to tournament officials, another reason besides the timing for the lack of top players is probably location.

Last week's Nationwide Tour event was played in Ohio and next week it goes back to Nebraska, followed by tournaments in Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. The next time the Tour gets out west is in the middle of September for the Boise Open.

PGA WINNERS IN TOURNEY: Even though Matthew Goggin, Kyle Thompson and Erik Compton, the top-three money-winners are not in Utah this week, plenty of top players will be competing.

Several former PGA Tour winners are in the field, led by Carlos Franco, a four-time winner, who has earned more than $9 million on the PGA Tour.

Another 9 million-dollar man playing this week is Australian Peter Lonard, who won on the PGA Tour in 2005.

Other former PGA Tour winners in the Utah field this week are Brett Wetterich, Ted Purdy, Dicky Pride and Daniel Chopra.

AMATEURS RULE: Last week, an amateur, Harris English, won the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational in Columbus Ohio.

This is the tournament that allows a dozen top collegiate golfers in the field and is the same tournament that Daniel Summerhays won in 2007.

English, who plays for the University of Georgia, has 60 days to join the Tour and play the rest of the season or he can wait and play with an exemption in 2012. The latter is what Summerhays did when he attended BYU, as he played in the fall season for the Cougars before turning pro and joining the Nationwide Tour.

Earlier this year, another amateur who plays for Georgia, won a Nationwide event as Russell Henley won the Stadion Classic in Georgia.

MUSTACHE WEEK: Bryan DeCorso won the Nationwide Tour's annual mustache contest, edging out Clayton Rask and Jeff Brehaut.

The mustache tradition started five years ago with players, caddies, equipment reps and staff growing their facial hair for a month and the winner being determined during the week of the Utah Championship.

The winners were announced during a dinner out on the Willow Creek patio Tuesday evening.

NATIONWIDE NOTES: Two pro-ams will be played Wednesday, at 8 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. at Willow Creek . . . The first tee time Thursday will be at 7 a.m.. with the final tee time at 2 p.m. The field will be cut to the low 60 and ties after Friday's round . . . The winner of the tournament gets $99,000 . . . A series of thunderstorms rolled through Willow Creek Tuesday afternoon, forcing players off the course during the practice rounds . . . Six locals will be competing — Lehi's Tony Finau, West Jordan's Luke Swilor, St. George's Nick Killpack, Provo's Chris Moody, Draper's Matt Baird and Bountiful's Pete Stone . . . Three former Utah Championship winners are in the field — Wetterich (2004), Craig Kanada (2006) and Brendan Todd (2008) . . . The most popular name in the tournament this week is Lee, with five players going by that surname. There's Danny Lee, Richard T. Lee, Richard H. Lee, Seong Ho Lee and Won Joon Lee. Richard H. and Danny and both rank in the Top 25 at 23 and 24, respectively.

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