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Skins Game primarily about fun

PROVO -- Bruce Summerhays says it was all his daughter/caddy Carrie's fault. After all, she refused to help him line up a crucial five-foot putt on the final hole of the Novell Provo Open Skins Game Monday. As a result Summerhays saw $11,000 slip away as his putt slid past the hole.

Of course, it was all in good fun, which is exactly the point of the annual Skins Game that has been played at the Reserve at East Bay Golf Course since 1994. Some folks even wondered if Summerhays, who has made nearly $4 million in five years on the Senior PGA Tour, intentionally missed the short putt so he and his fellow professionals wouldn't have to go back and play the final hole over again to determine a winner. Hey, it was only $11,000 was on the line, mere pocket change for these guys, right?Summerhays teamed with former BYU star and U.S. Open champion Johnny Miller in a best ball format against Provo's Mike Reid and St. George's Jay Don Blake to kick off this week's Novell Provo Open. The senior golfers replaced Dan Forsman and Keith Clearwater, who had played in the previous five Skins Games when the players competed as individuals.

Just like in the earlier contests, the competitors joked among themselves and bantered with the gallery and tried not to take things too seriously, even if Reid admitted being much more nervous than when he plays a regular Tour event.

Reid and Blake ended up the overall winners thanks to Summerhays' final-hole three-putt as they won $15,000 in the nine-hole round, while theSummerhays/Miller team pocketed $10,000.

Blake and Summerhays were the most impressive players as Miller called Blake's performance "as good as you can play," while Summerhays wowed the crowd with his long drives, including a 300-yard-plus monster on the final hole and birdie putts, the final miss notwithstanding.

Summerhays birdied the second hole with a 5-footer and also picked up a $9,000 skin on the 7th hole by rolling in an 18-foot putt before Blake missed a 6-footer to tie. After the two teams tied on the par-3 8th hole, they went to the 9th hole with $11,000 riding on the hole.

When Miller hooked both his drive and approach shots, it was pretty much up to Summerhays, who smashed the enormous drive on the par-5 hole. His approach landed 12 feet short of the hole, while Reid and Blake were both more than 30 feet away.

After they missed their putts, Summerhays had the chance to win it all with his eagle putt, but the ball rolled past the hole and kept going, leaving him with a tricky 5-footer coing back. He asked his daughter to read it for him, but she waved him off and told him he was on his own as the gallery chuckled.

"It was good to end it right there, making it or missing it," said Summerhays, who had sunk a long putt on the same green in 1993 to win the Provo Open for a mere $4,000.

Before they teed off on the hole, the announcer said, "If they tie, they'll come back and play it again," to which Miller replied, "Maybe you are, but I'm not."

Miller clearly looked rusty, hitting his drives crooked and not coming close on his putts. But he acknowledged he rarely has time to play these days and comes into these type of events "from a TV point of view" rather than as a golfer.

Summerhays flew into Utah from the Boone Valley Classic in Missouri, where he tied for fifth after leading going into the final round. His game is sharp and each of the other pros marvelled at how much he has improved in recent years.

"I'm a better player than I used to be," said the 55-year-old. "I'm hitting it farther than ever and I'm getting a little better all the time. Hopefully by the time I'm 60 I'll be real good."

Afterward each of the golfers had a chance to talk about the current state of their golf careers.

Blake says he's "more motivated" than he's been in several years, perhaps because he recently turned 40 and has a new wife and a baby daughter that turns one this month.

"There's a lot of money to be made out there, but these young kids are hitting it so far that if you mope along, you're to get passed," he said. "But I feel I can still compete and play with those guys. I'm trying to set some new goals and get some wins down the road."

Reid turns 45 later this month and is "thinking about" a future on the Senior PGA Tour, although he's "not counting the days yet." He's overcome some nagging injuries in recent years and feels good about his game.

"I love my job and I want to keep doing it," he said. "I know every year might be the last one. My game's been slowly on the upswing and I feel a lot more at ease. Short of winning a major, I've done everything in golf and I feel I have nothing to lose."

Miller is going in several different directions, spending most of his time commentating on NBC broadcasts and designing golf courses. Later this month he'll be back in Utah for his "Champions Challenge" at Thanksgiving Point and next month he's moving his home from Napa to Pebble Beach, Calif.

He'd love to watch his sons, Andy and Scott, at this week's NCAA tournament in Minnesota, but instead he'll be in Mississippi, covering the U.S. Women's Open.

SKINS NOTES: Miller and Summerhays donated their $10,000 prize to the BYU golf program for which Miller's three sons and Summerhays' daughter play. Tournament sponsors matched the amount . . . The weather turned out nicer than expected, but the gallery was among the smallest of the Skins Games at East Bay . . . The Provo Open, which is worth $8,000 to the winner, begins Friday and runs through Sunday. The amateur portion of the tournament will be Wednesday and Thursday.