Later this evening, probably just around sunset, a local professional golfer will be awarded a $1,500 check for winning the City Parks Open golf tournament.
Whoever pockets that check will certainly be very pleased to take the money and make good use of it. But he'll probably go home lamenting that the check wasn't for more.There is growing frustration among local club professionals, who have proven over the years that they can compete with club pros from all over the country. They are getting frustrated because of the lack of money they play for. More and more, top pros such as Jimmy Blair, Bob Betley and Mike Malaska are looking at out-of-state tournaments to play in rather than local events.
As Malaska says, "It's a matter of money. You look at the schedule of other tournaments (out of state) and if the money's there, that's where you go."
To see the problem in the lack of increases in local prize money, you only have to make a few comparisons.
In 1970, the first year the City Parks went to its present 36-hole format, away from match play, the first prize was $1,000. At the same time, the average first prize on the PGA Tour was around $20,000 while the Utah Open winner received $2,000.
Nowadays the average winning prize on the PGA Tour is around $135,000, nearly seven times what it was in 1970. The Utah Open now pays $20,000, 10 times more than it did in 1970!
"It's nice to win the money, but $5,000 today was like $1,500 20 years ago," says Malaska, who won the $1,500 City Parks first prize two years ago.
Last year's City Parks winner, Lynn Landgren, feels the same as Malaska.
"This is a great tournament and other than the Utah Open, it's the one tournament I'd like to win," says Landgren. "But it's becoming an also-ran tournament because of the money."
Landgren points out that the tournaments in Vernal and Price are the highest paying despite the fact that the economies of both areas are depressed. Vernal, which once paid the winner as much as $4,000, paid the winner $2,400 this year. The Price tournament paid $1,800 for first this year.
Landgren says the people in the smaller towns do a better job of finding money to put up.
"You've just got to go out and hustle the money, that's all," said Landgren. "We should be able to do that in an area as big as Salt Lake."
The City Parks isn't the only local tournament that has a problem with money. Other tournaments along the Wasatch Front, such as the Provo Open, the Wasatch Open and the Sizzler Open have been in the $1,000-to-$1,500 first-prize range for several years. But apparently it's not that easy to come up with extra money.
"It's tough to get a sponsor to put up the money," said Dick Kramer, the longtime pro at Bonneville. He said he tried to get $5,000 from Coca-Cola, the City Parks prime sponsor, but it would only put up the $3,500 it had in the past.
Kramer points out that the city is good enough to "donate" two of its courses for two days and says that the City Parks entry fee has stayed at $100, considerably less than the $300 of the Utah Open or the Price and Vernal tourneys, which are between $150 and $200.
Still the competition is getting greater with more up-and-coming pros such as Steve Schneiter and Jeff Green taking away some of the top money from the usual winners. But the people who run the tournaments are making the money they need and aren't motivated to find more money to play for.
Yet Malaska feels if there was more money at stake then the interest of the media as well as the public would pick up.
"The way it's going, these tournaments are becoming nothing more than glorified pro-ams," he said.
STRAY SHOTS: The Junior Americas Cup will be played this week at the Ogden Country Club. Seventeen four-man teams from the Western United States and Mexico and Canada will be competing Tuesday through Thursday. Utah's foursome consists of Joseph Summerhays, David Summerhays, Scott Brockbank and Will Huish . . . Utah's four-man team, which leaves this week for the Pacific Coast Amateur in Denver included University of Utah golfers Devin Dehlin and Matt Johnson, along with "veterans" Todd Barker and Kurt Bosen. In 1983, Bosen won the event . . . State Amateur winner Bruce Brockbank, Jon Baker and Brad Sutterfield are playing in the Western Amateur in Benton Harbor, Mich. this week . . . The second annual YMCA Golf For Kids Classic will be played this week at the Salt Lake City golf courses. On Thursday, six Pro-Celebrity teams will compete and the main event, open to anyone, will be Saturday and Sunday. Several prizes will be awarded and to enter one must pay $3.