The $100,000 University Hospital-Utah Open may have gotten itself a favorite Thursday when Keith Clearwater decided to enter the tournament after missing the cut at The International tournament in Colorado.
Clearwater, who won two tournaments and more than $320,000 on the PGA Tour last year, was to fly in Thursday evening and then tee off at 12:40 p.m. Friday. On Saturday he is scheduled to tee off at 9:20 a.m.The former BYU all-American, who makes his home in Orem, will be playing in his seventh straight Utah Open. Although he's never won it, he's been among the leaders several times. In 1985 he lost in a playoff to Mike Reid, in 1984, he tied for 4th and last year he fired a final-round 65 to finish three strokes behind in a tie for 6th.
Clearwater called tournament officials Thursday afternoon to say he was coming and said he'd try to bring "two or three" players with him. But by Thursday night, Willow Creek pro Mike Kahler hadn't been informed of any late entries, other than Brandel Chamblee who entered late Wednesday.
And that's just as well for the other 170 golfers entered. All they needed was a couple of players from the PGA Tour coming in to try and grab the $20,000 first prize. But Clearwater should be a welcome addition to a tourney that is lacking in big names despite having a ton of talent.
On Thursday, a lot of that talent was on display in the Corporate Pro-am. The pros were competing for a $1,000 first-prize and a chance to play for more money in a derby by finishing in the top six.
Hidden Valley assistant Mike Malaska was low man with a 6-under-par 66. Five players shot 68 to join Malaska in the derby. They included Brian Claar, Brian Fogt, Lynn Landgren, Craig McClellan and Mike LaBauve.
The pros joined a corporate sponsor and alternated shots in the five-hole derby. One team was eliminated on each hole. Malaska's team went out on the second hole.
Eventually Claar, a former PGA Rookie of the year, and Jim Welch won, edging Landgren and Pete Peterson on the fifth hole.
In the best ball competition, the team headed by pro Tom Lehman won with a score of 131. Amateurs included Carl Warwick, Dave Hale and Dave Manning.
Following Saturday's second round, a cut will be made with the low 50 pros and 10 amateurs qualifying for Sunday's final 18 holes.