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Barber to hang up spikes after 2001 Showdown

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PARK CITY — Miller Barber, who, along with Dave Stockton, has had more success at the Senior PGA Tour event in Utah than any other player, is about to hang up the golf spikes.

Barber, who won three times in Utah, in 1985, '87 and '88 at Jeremy Ranch, said he is retiring next year, and his final tournament will be the Novell Utah Showdown next August.

"Next year will be my last full year. I'll be 70 years old," said the man they call Mr. X in his distinctive squeaky, high-pitched voice. "I've been at this since '59 — I think that's long enough."

While Bruce Summerhays has earned the nickname "ironman" for playing in nearly every Senior tournament over the past five years, Barber may be the ultimate ironman. With 690 events on the regular tour and 539 events on the Senior Tour, Barber has played in more tournaments than any other professional golfer.

"That's something — thank goodness I've stayed alive that long," he said.

SENIOR ROOTS: Barber was one of the Senior Tour's originals, along with Don January, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead and Billy Casper. Although he likes how the Senior Tour has grown, he laments that it didn't turn out like it was originally conceived.

"We made one bad decision when we started," he said. "This was mainly meant for players who had played the (PGA) Tour, as a reward for all the sacrifices made over the years in being away from their families. It was never meant to be for every Tom, Dick and Harry to qualify for it."

Barber also said a lot of the fun has left the Senior Tour.

"It was meant to be a golf and social thing, but now it's all golf, which is a shame," he said. "It's gotten too serious. When we first started we had a lot of laughs and giggles. Now it's strictly blood and guts."

Barber believes the Senior Tour will continue to be successful for a long time, but only if the marquee players back it.

"It will be successful if the good players will support it," he said. "The good players have to support it — the Watsons, Kites and Crenshaws. Fuzzy Zoeller will be a big addition in a year or two. But otherwise it will fall on its face."

BETLEY'S BACK: Bob Betley is back in town this week.

The former Ogden resident, who lives near Bear Lake on the Utah-Idaho border, is playing his second tournament since playing in Park City a year ago, which was his only tournament last year.

Betley, who won in Boston in 1993 and lost a playoff at Jeremy Ranch in 1992, has been plagued with injuries for the past several years, which has limited his playing to almost nothing.

The 60-year-old Betley has endured five surgeries on his shoulders: one on the left and four on the right. He said he's played only about a dozen rounds of golf this year, and they weren't even full rounds.

"I'm so afraid of hitting too many balls," said Betley. "I have to save myself. I'm not standing up there and freewheeling it. I'm kind of guiding it around the golf course."

Betley was good enough to shoot an even-par 72 in the opening round, but he knows that means nothing at Park Meadows, where 50 others shot par or better.

NEW LOCATION: Betley is grateful to tournament director Bryan Naugle for giving him a sponsor's exemption this week, and he says the Showdown is among the best-run tournaments on the Senior Tour.

"It's absolutely a first-class situation. They don't get any better than this," he said.

Still, Betley would like to see the tournament move to a more central location where more fans could come out and where the tournament could be played later in the year, in conjunction with other western Senior events.

Along with Mike Reid, Betley is involved with a new golf development between Lehi and the town of Eagle Mountain called The Ranches. Betley has been trying to get different parties together to create a TPC Club there, which might help solidify the Senior PGA tournament in Utah in the future.

E-mail: sor@desnews.com