The golf stars of tomorrow will be joined at next month's Envirocare Utah Classic by PGA Tour veteran Jay Don Blake, Utah Open champion Nick McKinlay, former PGA Tour winner David Gossett and Big Break II runner-up Don Donatello.
The four golfers have been extended sponsor's exemptions and were at the remodeled Willow Creek Country Club course Monday to play a few holes and talk about the upcoming tournament.
The Nationwide Tour will make its annual appearance in Utah on Sept. 8-11, giving local fans their best chance to see some of the nation's best golfers. Several of today's top golfers got their start on the Nationwide Tour, including former Utah Classic champions John Daly and Zach Johnson.
The 46-year-old Blake is playing the Nationwide Tour for the first time after spending 18 years as a PGA Tour regular. The St. George native lost his exempt status but has been impressed with what he has seen so far in his experience on the Nationwide Tour.
"I'm in awe watching these kids hit the ball on the range," he said. "They hit it as far or farther than guys on the (PGA) Tour."
Donatello played in one Nationwide event two years ago but hopes his opportunity next month will "jump-start his career." He finished second on the Golf Channel's Big Break II competition.
The 26-year-old Gossett is a former U.S. Amateur champion who won the John Deere Classic in 2001. He also is remembered for shooting a 59 in the 2000 PGA Tour qualifying school.
"I played the golf course for the first time and really enjoyed it," said Gossett. "The views here are fantastic. I'm looking forward to being here."
McKinlay earned a spot in the Utah Classic by winning the Utah Open last month at TalonsCove. The 29-year-old is a professional in St. George and is grateful for the opportunity to play against the Nationwide Tour players.
The Willow Creek Country Club has undergone a seven-month renovation that includes a new sprinkler system and several changes to the golf courses, including the addition of 23 new bunkers. Also, water hazards have been expanded at the 9th and 18th holes, and several tees have been modified.
For information on volunteering or obtaining tickets for the Envirocare Utah Classic, call 495-4653.