He may not play in the Senior PGA tournament here in August, but Jack Nicklaus will definitely be playing golf in Utah this year. So will John Daly . . . and Laura Davies . . . and Hale Irwin . . . and Fuzzy Zoeller . . . and Gary Player . . . and Johnny Miller, as well as a host of other top-name golfers.
What kind of event includes this hodge-podge of big-name Senior, PGA and LPGA golfers in the same tournament?It's the Champions Challenge, a $550,000 event, which will be played at Thanksgiving Point Golf Course June 22-23.
The tournament is the brainchild of Miller, who promised a big tournament at the Thanksgiving Point course he designed, last year when it opened.
Eight two-person teams will compete in an 18-hole scramble on Tuesday, June 23.
The teams are Jack Nicklaus-Michael Nicklaus, John Daly-Laura Davies, Fuzzy Zoeller-Craig Stadler, Gary Player-Wayne Player, Billy Casper-Bobby Casper, Hale Irwin-Steve Irwin, Jim Furyk-Liselotte Neumann and Johnny Miller-partner to be determined.
That's right, Miller hasn't come up with a partner yet. He's hoping to get a big-name partner (perhaps he's holding out for Tiger Woods?) but may end up playing with one of his sons, who are all proficient golfers.
In fact, as he introduced his father at Wednesday's press conference, John Miller Jr., the director of golf at Thanksgiving Point, said, "I don't know, but you might want to ask one of your sons to play."
Miller arranged for most of the golfers to come and said the fact that most of them are under contract by Calloway Golf, as he is, has little to do with who was selected to play. Besides, who can complain about the field for the inaugural event?
In Irwin, you have the top player on the Senior Tour. Davies is one of the top women golfers and undoubtedly the most powerful. Daly is known as one of the longest hitters in golf and is a two-time British Open champ. Zoeller and Stadler are former Masters champs. And Nicklaus, of course, is arguably the greatest golfer ever to play the game.
"Ever since I played with Jack as a kid, we've had an unusually strong relationship," said Miller. "Actually Jack was not that hard for me to secure."
Part of the incentive for Nicklaus, Irwin, Player and Casper to come was the chance to play with their sons in a tournament.
"I feel good about the field and what we're trying to accomplish here," said Miller.
On Monday, June 22, a morning pro-am and afternoon amateur event will be played. The $550,000 purse will be on the line the following day. Tickets will go on sale at SmithTix April 28.
A portion of the proceeds will benefit First Tee, a program sponsored by the PGA Tour and World Golf Foundation to create affordable access to golf, especially for minority youth.
The inspiration for the tournament's title came from Johnny Miller's father, who referred to Johnny as "Champ" no matter how he played. The winner's trophy is a sculpture portraying a father teaching his son and daughter.
Miller doesn't know if the tournament will expand beyond this year's 16-person field but hopes the tournament catches on and rivals Peter Jacobsen's Fred Meyer Challenge, which is played in Portland every summer. Miller calls that tournament "the U.S. Open of outings" and hopes his tournament will be "close" to that tournament's success.
"Where this goes in the future, we don't know," said Miller. "Hopefully they'll be begging to come back and play here every year to be part of this."