Ever since the PGA Senior Tour blew into Utah in 1982 with the inception of the Shootout at Jeremy Ranch, the annual tournament has provided many thrills and glimpses of golf's greatest players for local golf fans.

The tournament has gone through as many changes as Elizabeth Taylor has gone through husbands. After the "Shootout," it became the Showdown Classic, the US WEST Showdown Classic, the Franklin Quest Showdown, the Franklin Quest Championship, the Utah Showdown Presented by Smith's and finally the Novell Utah Showdown.

The tournament, which was played at Jeremy Ranch the first 11 years and at Park Meadows the last eight, has tottered on its last legs several times, only to be given a last-minute reprieve, most recently in 1998 when Novell stepped up to save it.

This week it will celebrate its 20th anniversary when 78 golfers compete Friday through Sunday at Park Meadows Country Club.

The purse has made an incredible climb from $150,000 with a $25,000 first-place check in 1982 to $1.5 million with a $225,000 winner's check to this year's champ.

To celebrate 20 years of the Senior PGA Tour in Utah, here are 20 memories of the Shootout/Showdown by the only media person to cover the tournament every year.


A big reason for the Senior Tour coming to Utah in the first place was Arnold Palmer.

Arnie was the premier attraction of the fledgling Senior Tour, and the fact that he had a brand-new course in Utah made it a natural for a Senior tournament.

Palmer was the big attraction that initial year and, at age 51, wasn't too many years removed from his glory days. However, in the first round Arnie had a horrible day and hacked his way around to a 79, which put him clear back in 45th place. Figuring I better get a comment from the "King," I chased him down in the parking lot for a couple of comments.

Now, in similar circumstances, I've had golfers refuse to talk and practically run over my toes as they squealed out of the parking lot. But this was no ordinary pro golfer. This was Arnie.

After he put his golf shoes in the trunk, he leaned against the car, sneaked a look at my press badge and said, "Well, Mike," as if he knew me from way back, and proceeded to describe his terrible round as nicely as if he'd shot a 69.

Unfortunately, Palmer never did have much success in the Senior event in Utah in four tries in the '80s, and after not playing here for a decade, four more times at Park Meadows when he returned in 1996.

However, one thing never changed about Palmer.

Whether he was dealing with fans or media, Arnie always displayed class. Pure class.

Do you believe in miracles?

The first thing I heard when I entered the press room that Friday in 1994 was that Bert Yancey had died on the driving range earlier that morning. The shocking news put a dark damper on the whole weekend and made golf seem pretty insignificant.

Still, the tournament went on and one of the main contenders turned out to be Tom Weiskopf, who happened to be one of Yancey's best friends on the Tour.

Weiskopf became a sentimental favorite to win because of his connection to Yancey, but with three holes left he was two shots behind Dave Stockton, the defending champion, who practically owned Park Meadows in the 1990s.

Then the unbelievable started happening.

Weiskopf rolled in an 80-foot putt over hill and dale for birdie at No. 16, followed with another another birdie at 17, and went to No. 18 a shot behind Stockton. At 18, Weiskopf sank a 25-footer for birdie to force a sudden-death playoff and on the first playoff hole, rolled in another long birdie putt to win. Afterward he looked skyward, and in his victory speech, a choked-up Weiskopf talked about he'd had some help from above that day.

Now, I've never been one to believe in any sort of divine intervention at sporting events. But after Weiskopf's miracle of '94, I became a believer, at least for a day.

The cloud and the crowd

In the early years, the crowds were huge, even on pro-am days. It was a novelty back then, having all these legends of golf in Utah, and each day tournament officials would provide daily attendance figures, upwards of 10,000 per day. While the numbers were probably inflated, there were definitely a lot of fans who came out to see the tournament, especially those years when players from the regular tour joined the seniors in a best-ball tournament from 1983 to 1986.

The biggest crowd I've ever seen at a golf event in Utah was in 1983 when Bob Goalby and Mike Reid teamed to defeat Billy Casper and Jim Nelford by one stroke. Reid was on fire that day, carrying Goalby on his shoulders and past the fading Casper-Nelford team, which had led most of the tournament.

As Goalby and Reid played the final hole, I remember looking over at the hillside alongside No. 18 and seeing it packed with fans. And just above them, I noticed one of the biggest, blackest clouds I've ever seen.

Reid and Goalby finished with a par and right behind them came Casper and Nelford, needing a birdie to tie. Suddenly the wind started howling, nearly blowing off Casper's hat as he stood in a bunker at 18. He needed to hole his shot to tie Goalby-Reid and I'll be darned if his shot didn't roll within two inches of the cup before stopping. It's a good thing, too, because they never could have held a playoff. Within minutes after Casper tapped in, the black cloud opened up and drenched thousands of fans as they scrambled to get off the course.

Slammin' Sam

The Senior Tour came 20 years too late for Sam Snead, one of the greatest golfers ever to play the game. Snead was on hand for the first "Shootout," where he was a big attraction and a pretty good player for a 70-year-old.

I first met Snead when I flew over to Denver for a Senior event that was being played a couple of weeks before the initial event in Utah. I wanted to do a story about him to run in advance of the tournament and found him sitting at a table with three other senior golfers. Warily I asked if I could talk to him for a story.

He paused a second, then motioned for me to sit down. He was gruff, just like I'd heard he'd be, but, as I wrote in my story, he was also "as sweet as your grandmother." Snead talked for several minutes about his career and the future of the Senior Tour.

Snead played in that '82 tournament and fared admirably, finishing in 13th place, despite a third-round 78. My most vivid memory of Snead, however, was watching him hold court in the locker room during a final-round rain delay, regaling his senior buddies with some of the dirtiest jokes I've ever heard.

Heavy hitters

Greg Norman . . . Curtis Strange . . . Ben Crenshaw . . . Fred Couples . . . Mark O'Meara.

Those were just a few of the big-name golfers who local fans were able to see when the tournament was a best-ball event, pairing golfers from the Senior Tour with golfers from the PGA Tour.

In those days, fans got a double dose of big-name golfers from each tour.

It was a great concept but died after the 1986 tournament, when Dr. Gerald Bagley and Lanny Nielsen were no longer involved.

Moody Orville

The year was 1989 and long putters were in vogue, so I set out to do a story on the popularity of those 50-inch monstrosities. I talked to several golfers, but needed to talk to Orville Moody, who was perhaps the most successful of the seniors using long putters at the time.

He agreed to talk to me so I waited patiently in the locker room while he ate some of the goodies locker rooms provide and hob-nobbed with fellow golfers. Finally, after a half hour or so, he started to head out the door and I asked if we could talk now. Moody said he didn't have time because he had to pick up someone in Park City. So I said something real smart like, "Hey, you had plenty of time to eat and talk to your buddies."

Not a good idea.

Moody chewed me out royally, and needless to say I didn't get my quotes about the long putter.

Local heroes

Nearly every year the tournament has given galleries a few local favorites to cheer for.

The first tournament featured Utah native Billy Johnston as well as local seniors Tommy Williams, George Schneiter, Ralph Emery and Lanny Nielsen.

In subsequent years, local pros such as Reid Goodliffe, Ken Cromwell and Jon Fister qualified for the tourney.

Two Senior Tour regulars from Utah, Salt Lake native Bruce Summerhays and former Ogdenite Bob Betley, played in the tournament several times and both came close to winning it once.

Starting in 1994, Summerhays became an instant local favorite and a legitimate threat to win every year. He always drew large galleries — of course, half the crowd was named Summerhays — but he rarely seemed to play well in Utah. His best finish was his second try, 1995, when he finished in a six-way tie, a stroke behind Tony Jacklin.

The other top finish by a local was Betley's runner-up finish in 1992, when he lost an eight-hole playoff to Orville Moody.

And many people will always claim 1982 winner Billy Casper as a local, since he lived with his family in Mapleton for most of the 1970s.

There goes Johnny

Johnny Miller, who also lived in Utah for several years, made his Senior Tour debut in 1997, three months after turning 50. He came into the tournament with low expectations after not playing much because of his television commentating obligations, but fans who didn't know better figured Johnny would play like the guy who won 24 tournaments, including the U.S. Open.

Miller proved he could hit it with everyone else with some majestic tee shots and crisp iron play. However, his putting was atrocious. He said he

putted "like Ray Charles" and claimed he probably set "a world record for lousiest putting on the Senior Tour."

Miller finished the tourney just one-under-par in a tie for 44th place, and after playing in just one more event later that year, his Senior Tour career was over.

The three faces of Lee

Lee Trevino has always been known as the "Merry Mex" because of his jovial style on and off the golf course. They aren't many golfers who are more fun to watch than Trevino.

That's Trevino, at least part of the time. Once I approached Trevino in the locker room after a good round and he couldn't have been nicer. He kept calling me "Babe," as he smoked his cigarette and politely answered questions for several minutes.

He wasn't always merry, however. One time, a local writer had done a story about two veterans who were coming to play in the tournament. Only problem was, those two had withdrawn and the writer wasn't aware of it before his story appeared. So the first thing Trevino did at his press conference was to call out the name of the poor writer, mispronouncing his first name, saying "Where's . . . " After the writer meekly raised his hand, Trevino proceeded to ridicule his mistake in front of all the writer's peers until he was thoroughly humiliated.

Then there was the time he lost the 1990 tournament by one stroke. He wouldn't come to the interview room, and as he headed for the parking lot, he waved off all questions, even from his buddy "Babe."

Tight around the collar

After leading the 1991 tournament since his opening-round 65 on Friday, all Charles Coody had to do to win Sunday afternoon was stay awake. He led by three shots with two holes left and a par-par finish or even a bogey-bogey finish would be good enough to win.

However, the former Masters champion suddenly transformed into a Sunday afternoon hacker. He scuffed a shot a few feet on 17 and ended up making double bogey. Then at No. 18, he hit a few more bad shots and topped it off with a three-putt for a triple-bogey. That handed a victory to Dale Douglass, who finished par-par and made up five shots in two holes.

Before Coody came Ben Smith, the ex-auto mechanic who dominated the 1988 tournament for two-and-a-half rounds before falling apart on the back-nine Sunday. Smith made bogeys on five of the final 10 holes, including a missed 14-inch par putt on No. 14 and shot a 76 to lose to Miller Barber by two shots.

Mr. X

During the 80s, if anyone owned Jeremy Ranch it was Miller Barber, the venerable Mr. X.

Barber finished second in the initial tournament behind Billy Casper, second in 1984 while teamed with Gil Morgan, then won it in 1985 with Ben Crenshaw in a sudden-death playoff.

Then in 1987, when the tournament returned to an individual event, Barber won again, edging Bruce Crampton by a shot. The following year, the pudgy man with a swing one writer described as "a roto-rooter impression" came back to defeat three golfers by two shots. That made three firsts and two seconds over a six-year period.

In '87 and '88 the scene in the press tent was almost identical. Before he could go into the interview room, the man who was a dead ringer for Mr. Bartles from those old Bartles and Jaymes commercials stopped to make a phone call to his home in Sherman, Texas. In his squeaky voice, Barber told his wife and sons all about his victory, sounding as excited as a kid on Christmas morning, before heading into the interview room.

King of Park Meadows

If Barber was the king of the 1980s and Jeremy Ranch, Dave Stockton was the king of the 1990s and Park Meadows.

Stockton won the tournament twice, in 1993 and 1997, and also finished second twice, in 1994 and 1995. Remarkably, Stockton went six years without an over-par round at Park Meadows — that's 21 straight under-par rounds — before shooting a 73 last year.

His most memorable performance was his first in 1993, when he shot rounds of 68 and 66 to take a two-shot lead. But in the final round, despite blustery conditions, Stockton left his rivals in the dust with a 9-under-par 63. That gave him a tournament-record 197 total, and a Senior Tour record nine-shot victory.

Doctor Gil

As well as Stockton and Barber played over the years, they never accomplished what Dr. Gil Morgan did on his first go-around at Park Meadows in 1998. In 54 holes, he never made a bogey — for the first time in his career, he said — with rounds of 66, 67 and 67.

Morgan was a quiet guy and not at all flamboyant, but he impressed the fans with his monstrous drives and precise putting. He almost won the Novell tournament the past two years also, finishing fifth in 1999 and second last year behing Doug Tewell. If he keeps coming back, Morgan could threaten Stockton's mark of 21 straight sub-par rounds.

Stormy weather

No matter which week the Senior tournament has been played in Utah, it has always seemed to attract rain. From the first tournament in 1982, which had a long final-day rain delay to last year when thunderstorms wiped out the Tuesday Celebrity Skins Game and caused a first-day delay, weather has played havoc with Utah's Senior tournaments.

In 19 years, the tournament has been affected by rain more than half of the time, with 10 tournaments delayed or substantially affected by either rain or lightning.

Actually, most of the weather problems came in the early years and recent years. From 1987 to 1995, the tournament had weather problems just twice, 1990 and 1992. In each of the past four years, however, rain has drenched Park Meadows.

Groundhog Day

In 1992, the weather was so bad that the final round was canceled, forcing the two second-round leaders, Orville Moody and Bob Betley, to play off.

It was after 6 p.m. and all but 100 fans or so had gone home when Moody and Betley began their playoff. Moody almost won on the first playoff hole, No. 18, but Betley rolled in a sharp-breaking par putt to stay alive.

The players then went to the par-3 17th and tied, then back to 18 and 17 and 18 as the players kept matching each other. To the players and fans it was like the movie "Groundhog Day" — the same thing over and over. At one point Moody said, "This is getting monotonous — let's play a different hole."

Finally, after more than an hour, on the eighth playoff hole, Moody rolled in a 25-foot putt to end the playoff.

Afterward, he called the victory his "saddest" because he knew how much a win would have meant to the non-exempt Betley, the hometown favorite.

Nice guys finish first

The old adage about nice guys finishing last didn't apply to this tournament.

You couldn't find nicer guys than the likes of Tom Shaw, Rives McBee or Dale Douglass, winners of the tournament for three years running 1989-91.

Other nice-guy winners included Tony Jacklin, the 1995 winner, along with the last three winners, Gil Morgan, Dave Eichelberger and Doug Tewell.

Billy Johnston, the former Utah Open champion and University of Utah golfer, who won the Super-seniors event at Jeremy Ranch in 1989, was another one of my favorites — a very nice man.

I only bring this up because a lot of the senior pros are grumpy old men, which makes the nice ones stand out.

Jack came back

Seventeen years after the course he designed opened, Jack Nicklaus finally played a round at Park Meadows at the 1999 Novell Utah Showdown.

Partly because of the Golden Bear's presence, the 1999 field was considered the best in tournament history and the first-day pairing of Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino was supposedly the first of its kind in years.

It wasn't the best of homecomings, however, for Jack, who was a bit ornery all week as he walked a tournament for the first time since getting a hip replacement earlier in the year. Like Palmer all those years earlier at Jeremy Ranch, Jack didn't fare very well in his first tournament round on his course, shooting a 3-over-par 75.

He improved the next two days with rounds of 69 and 70, but it still left him clear back in a tie for 53rd place.

The other Barber

The only constant for the tournament's first 13 years was the presence of Jerry Barber. He was no relation to Miller Barber; in fact, he was almost old enough to be his father.

From 1982 to 1994 the diminutive (5-foot-5) Barber played in every Senior event in Utah, usually finishing on the bottom half of the leaderboard. He was less known than most of his counterparts, but he was an amazing putter who routinely shot his age or better and was always interesting to talk to.

Although Barber looked like he would play the Senior Tour forever, in 1994 at the age of 78 he died suddenly from a stroke, less than two months after shooting a 70 at Park Meadows.

Dapper Doug

One of my personal thrills was finally getting to interview Doug Sanders, one of the golf heroes of my youth.

When I was 9 years old watching the Utah Open at the Salt Lake Country Club, Sanders nearly holed his tee shot at No. 10. After tapping in, he threw his golf ball in my direction and gained a fan for life.

However, in all those years as a senior golfer, Sanders never made it out to Utah. Finally, in 1999, when he was well past his prime and suffering from a neck injury that affected his game, he made it back to Utah. I found Sanders out on the putting green, wearing one of those gaudy outfits he was famous for — a pink and green-striped shirt, pink trousers and lavender shoes. And he couldn't have been more gracious as he shared his memories.

Alas, Sanders finished dead last, 43 strokes behind the winner, in his only senior appearance in Utah.

Close calls

Although it is one of a handful of Senior tournaments that has been around for 20 years, the Shootout/Showdown has been on shaky ground on several occasions.

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Once in the late 1980s, Senator Orrin Hatch had to use some influence to keep it afloat, and in the early 1990s, the tournament was rescued at the last minute by various sponsors as well as a group that calls itself the Friends of Utah Golf.

Three years ago, the tournament looked as dead as ever but hung on by a thread thanks to tournament director Bryan Naugle's connection to the PGA Tour. And then, out of the clear blue, it was suddenly saved by Novell, which signed a four-year deal.

Here's hoping the tournament doesn't go through a similar death knell after 2002 and that it will be around at least another 10 years.

E-mail: sor@desnews.com

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