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Utah Open organizers remain true to tradition

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Though the 1998 Utah Open is still a month away, officials are hoping for many happy returns for the 72nd edition of the state golf tournament.

Returns included for festivities, scheduled Aug. 18-23:- The Utah Open returning to Willow Creek Country Club for the 18th consecutive year.

- The Open returning to its single course, 54-hole format after last year's experiment with a two-course cross-over tournament.

- Recent World Golf Hall of Fame inductee Johnny Miller returning as the Open's honorary chairman.

- PGA standout Fuzzy Zoeller returning to Utah - he played in Miller's Champions Challenge earlier this year at Thanksgiving Pointe - to participate in a special 18-hole exhibition during Open week.

- Part-time PGA and Nike Tour members Steve Runge returning to defend his 1997 Utah Open title after last year's thrilling victory.

The 1998 Utah Open features a $27,000 first-place price and a $150,000 total purse. The Open proper runs from Aug. 21-23, with pro-ams and clinics scheduled the three days previous.

Open officials announced all the above details - and more, including Salt Lake City's Shriners Hospitals for Children-Intermountain as the primary charitable beneficiary - during a Friday morning news conference.

Miller will conduct a clinic and 18-hole exhibition at Willow Creek at 1 p.m. Aug. 19, while Zoeller will conduct his exhibition the day before at 8 a.m.

Touring professions from 31 states and five countries are expected to participate in the 1998 Open, including a half-dozen pros from this summer's U.S. Open. Headlining the U.S. Open participants is Mark Carnevale, who also won the 1990 Utah Open.