When John Miller Jr. finished school at Cottonwood High last year, it was generally assumed that he would follow in his famous father's footsteps and attend BYU.
Although he didn't come out of high school with the same credentials as his dad, young Miller would have been welcomed with open arms by BYU Coach Karl Tucker, whose team was suffering through its lowest ebb since before the first Johnny Miller came to Provo.Instead, young Miller surprised a lot of folks and went west to San Jose State after first committing to Arizona State. He finally made it to Provo last week, where he ended up with the lowest score of the six Spartan golfers in the Cougar Classic. While relaxing in the Riverside Country Club clubhouse after one of his rounds, he didn't express any regrets about not attending BYU and explained his decision.
"Everybody expected me to come here, and it was almost like I didn't have a choice," he said. "I have nothing personal against the school. I think they have a great program and a great coach in Karl Tucker. But one of the main things I wanted was to be able to play golf year-round."
It wasn't like he wanted to get away from his family, either. The Millers moved from Salt Lake back to Napa last year, so young Miller is less than two hours from home.
Miller has "started" all year for the Spartans, missing just two of their 10 tournaments. His best finish was sixth place at Las Vegas.
"I'm still getting used to college golf and am feeling more and more comfortable."
As for San Jose, Miller didn't exactly sound enthused, saying, "It's OK - it's a change of pace. But my game has definitely improved since I've been there."
In fact, there have been rumors that Miller might transfer back to Utah and attend either BYU or Utah. But Miller wasn't making any comment about that.
"He's doing fine," said SJS Coach Dick Schwendinger. "He's a good player and for a freshman he's doing remarkably well. Who knows what his future is?"
Miller has an idea of what he would like his future to be. Even though he may always be compared with his father, Miller wants to follow in his footsteps.
"I'd like to be on the tour someday," he said.
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ADD MILLER: So what's it like being Johnny Miller Jr.?
"You know there's always extra people looking at you," he said. "But there are a lot of advantages too - like getting tips from the greatest players in the world. I can get any equipment I want, and I can go anyplace and play anywhere if my dad just makes a phone call."
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REGIONALS FOR GOLF: After years of deciding the field for the NCAA tournament by committee, the NCAA coaches agreed to decide the issue on the golf course.
Instead of selecting approximately three teams from 10 regions around the country, there will be three regionals played to determine the 30 teams that make it. Also, the total field will be cut from 183 to a more manageable 156 with most of the individual golfers being cut out.
The Western Regional will be played May 25-27 in El Paso. BYU and Weber State have clinched spots from Regional VII along with UTEP, New Mexico and Nevada-Reno. Utah may have wrapped up the final spot by nipping San Diego State by one shot at the WAC tournament.
The top nine teams in the 16-team tournament will advance to the NCAA tournament in Edmund, Okla., June 7-10.
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VEGAS DOWN, NOT OUT: The closest the regular PGA Tour comes to Utah is the Las Vegas Invitational, which was played last week. When the event first started six years ago, it was quite a big deal as the first million-dollar tournament on the PGA Tour. With all the money offered, it was no wonder that all the top players flocked to play in it. Top players such as Greg Norman, Fuzzy Zoeller and Curtis Strange were among the initial winners.
But now it has turned into just another tournament. In this year's event completed last Sunday, just seven of the top 20 money-winners were present. One complaint is that it's a five-day event. And the purse dropped from nearly $1.4 to $1.25 million this year after a major sponsor dropped out.
Tournament organizers feel the tournament will be better off next year when it moves to a more favorable fall date.
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MONEY-WINNERS: The latest PGA money list shows six players with local ties in the top 125 and another just out of it. Mike Reid leads the way with $152,352, good for 36th place. Johnny Miller stands in 84th, Provo resident Dan Forsman is 93rd, St. George's Jay Don Blake is 103rd, Keith Clearwater is 113th, Pat McGowan is 125th and Bobby Clampett is 126th. Remember, finishing in the top 125 guarantees a golfer his PGA card for another year.