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Provo Open tees off Friday minus defending champ

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PROVO — Defending champion Nick Killpack will not defend his title this week in the 73rd Provo Open at East Bay Golf Course because of his brother's wedding in St. George. However, one of Killpack's best friends and fellow competitors on the National Golf Tour, former Utah Open champion Clay Ogden, will play.

And Ogden is the favorite.

"I'm excited. I've been the runner-up several times here and it's too bad Nick can't make it. I'd like to compete with him," said Ogden, who missed several cuts on the National Golf Tour this spring but has bounced back since late May.

"I'm ready and my game has come around," said Ogden.

Another tournament favorite was revealed on Wednesday as Tony Finau, a two-time winner on the National Golf Tour and star of the Golf Channel's Big Break two seasons ago, became a late entry. Finau, a former Utah State Amateur champion known for his length off the tee, has been the leading money winner on that mini tour most of this spring.

Other top challengers include Chris Moody and Dustin Pimm. The 54-hole event begins Friday and concludes Sunday.

This week's event will draw players from the longest distance ever because a trio of Australian professionals signed up and played their first practice rounds on Wednesday.

Their names are Tim Frazer, Anthony Brunero and Sam Burrell.

Brett Watson was manning the desk at the golf course when the call came from the land down under enquiring about the Provo Open and if the Aussie trio could sign up and compete.

"Sure, you're more than welcome. It'll be fun. We'll see you then," Watson answered.

He hung up the phone and thought, "That's a new one."

The Aussies came across the event while scouring the Internet to plan their trip to the United States to play on the mini tours.

"I'm really looking forward to playing the Provo Open," said Brunero. "Tim Frazer told me about the event and I've been hearing good things.

"I am heading to the U.S. in early June to prepare for the Dakota Tour later in the month. I thought it would be great to see a new place and play a great event as part of my preparation."

email: dharmon@desnews.com