As Willow Creek Country Club plays host to this event for the sixth time since its inception in 1999, it is a testament to the strength of the Nationwide Tour that for the past three years the champion of the event has not returned to defend his title.
And that is due to the fact that the winner has graduated to the greener pastures of the PGA Tour. In fact, the last two winners here in Utah - Zach Johnson and Aaron Oberholser - have parleyed their wins into success on the PGA Tour.
Johnson, who won the title last year en route to becoming the Nationwide Tour's player of the year, already notched his first career win at the BellSouth Classic in early April. He currently sits in the 29th position on the tour's money list and believes that his experience on the Nationwide Tour was invaluable to his transition onto the PGA Tour.
'You know, my wife and I talk about that quite a bit. I would say it's a minor transition with respect to the biggest difference is the names on the leaderboard,' said the 28-year-old Johnson. 'The Nationwide Tour, I think is exceptional. It's the second best tour. I think it's still somewhat underrated. They did a very good job out there.'
Oberholser, the Utah Classic winner in 2002, has also performed well since his jump to the big leagues. A couple of top 10s in 2003 were followed by a playoff loss at the Wachovia Championship in May. Ranked 39th on the money list, he also has a pair of fourth place finishes at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Booz Allen Classic.
With just a third of the Nationwide Tour season yet to play, the players are beginning to become acutely aware of their positions on the money list. The top 20 receive membership to the PGA Tour for the 2005 season and currently only $10,113 separates Ben Bates in the 20th spot from James Driscoll in the 21st position.
The purse for the Utah Classic is $450,000 with $81,500 going to the winner.
The tour will take a week off following the event in Salt Lake City before heading east to the TPC of Virginia Beach for the Virginia Beach Open.