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NIKE TOUR MAKES ITS RETURN TO UTAH

The PGA Tour returns to Utah this week with its version of Triple-A baseball - the Nike Tour.

Just two weeks after the PGA Senior Tour visited Utah, the Nike Tour will come to Riverside Country Club for the 54-hole Utah Classic Friday through Sunday.The Nike Tour features players on their way up the golf ladder, like Triple-A players on their way to the majors. Top PGA golfers such as Jeff Maggert and Tom Lehman, got their starts on the Nike Tour. In fact, all four of the Utah Classic winners have gone on to play on the PGA Tour.

Of course, the 1990 winner, John Daly, has become one of the most famous golfers in the world for his long drives and off-the-course antics.

The 1991 winner, Ted Tryba, has become a tour regular and this year ranks 61st on the money list. The '92 winner, Jeff Woodland, has stayed on the big tour, although this year he is right on the top-125 cutoff line.

Last year's winner, Sean Murphy, qualified for this year's PGA Tour, but so far hasn't found enough success to be exempt for next year.

One of the players to watch this week will be Jim Carter, who won last week's Nike event in Albuquerque. Carter, who lived in Spanish Fork as a teenager, finished in a four-way tie for first at last year's Utah Classic, but was eliminated in a sudden-death playoff. He ranks No. 7 on the Nike money list.

Others among the top 10 Nike money-winners playing in Provo this week are Pat Bates, Scott Gump, Skip Kendall, Tommy Armour III, Bruce Vaughan, Sonny Skinner, Clark Burroughs and Tommy Tolles. Burroughs, who won the 1986 Utah Open.

Speaking of the Utah Open, this year's winner, Warren Schutte, will be playing at Riverside. The 22-year-old South African received a sponsor's exemption even before winning at Willow Creek.

Among the local golfers playing this week are Steve Schneiter, Kim Thompson, Spence Ahrend, Mike Borich, Roy Christensen, Chris Jones, Ryan Rhees, Doug Roberts, Glen Spencer and Milan Swilor. Also playing on his old home course will be ex-BYU golfer Eric Rustand and Ed Fryatt, who played at BYU before transferring to UNLV.

Fourteen golfers qualfied in Open qualifying Tuesday, including John Miller Jr.

The tournament continues Saturday and after a cut to the low 50 and ties, will conclude Sunday afternoon. The winner receives $31,500.