Golf: Two big-time tournaments come to Utah courses this week

Published: Saturday, July 7 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

It may just be the biggest week in Utah golf history.

Two important golf tournaments, which will be featured on national television, will both be played this week as the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship and the PGA's Web.com Tour's Utah Championship are contested in Midway and Sandy, respectively.

The Public Links tournament will be Utah's first-ever United States Golf Association event. The Publinks, as it's known for short, begins Monday at Soldier Hollow Golf Course in Midway with 156 golfers from all over the world and runs through Saturday when two golfers will battle in a 36-hole, match-play final.

Later in the week, Utah's biggest professional event, the Utah Championship, will be played Thursday through Sunday at Willow Creek Country Club in Sandy. The 72-hole, $550,000 tournament, which is presented by the Utah Sports Commission, is part of the PGA Tour's Web.com Tour, which just recently changed its name from the Nationwide Tour due of a switch in sponsorship.

The Utah Championship will feature several former PGA Tour golfers as well as stars of the future. This will mark the 14th straight year the PGA Tour's "Triple-A" tour has come to Utah and the 21st time in the past 23 years since John Daly won the initial tournament in Provo in 1990.

Usually the tournament has been played in late August or early September, but this year the PGA Tour decided to move it up to the second week of July. That didn't make those involved with bringing the Public Links event to Utah, happy, but they're all trying to make the best of it.

"We would have preferred not to have the tournaments the same week, but it's worked out," said Jim Harland, the General Chair of the APL Host Committee. "We're fortunate to have both events on the Golf Channel."

Harland explained that there won't be live coverage of the Public Links, but because the Golf Channel is in town for the Utah Championship, the Golf Channel will be able to publicize the Public Links and perhaps run some features.

Harland said one of the biggest problems with the competing tournaments has been getting enough volunteers, but he said they have 300 strong ready to help at Soldier Hollow.

About half the golfers came in for practice rounds Saturday, with the rest expected to see the course today.

"We're rarin' to go," said Solider Hollow pro Chris Newson, who was trying to contend with an afternoon thundershower Saturday. "All the feedback we've received so far has been positive."

Golfers from 42 states and six foreign countries will descend on Soldier Hollow's Gold Course, which will feature the longest hole in USGA history — the 540-yard par-4 No. 11 hole. The course will measure between 7,315 and 7,670 yards during the week.

Four Utah golfers will be in the Publinks field. Former State Amateur champion Dan Horner, recent Salt Lake City Amateur champion Nick Drost and Salt Lake's J.T. Timmons each qualified at the local qualifying last month at Glen Eagle Golf Course. aAd Ogden's Zac Blair, a BYU senior-to-be, is exempt because of his ranking in the world amateur standings. Former BYU golfer and Utah native Clay Ogden won the 2005 Public Links title.

One of the rewards for the winner is an invitation to next year's Masters. Also besides the Masters' invite, the Public Links champion will be exempt for the next 10 Public Links championships, an exemption from local qualifying for the next three U.S. Open championships, and an exemption from sectional qualifying for the next U.S. Amateur Championship.

Admission to the Public Links tournament is free and parking is available nearby. The players tee off beginning at 7 a.m. on Monday and Tuesday.

Most of the top players on the Web.com Tour will play in the Utah Championship, according to tournament director Mike Smith, with 22 of the top 25 money-winners committed to play.

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