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Dove Canyon Event Adds Gamesmanship to TV Golf

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Will the deluge of football finally get to you? Will you finally be ready for a couple hours of finesse and serene green?

That’s what Dave Williams, president of SPO Productions and the man who conceived the Pro Stakes Championship, is betting on. And betting is the key word here.

Williams’ brainchild is a designed-for-TV event that matches a personable foursome of Fuzzy Zoeller, Craig Stadler, Peter Jacobsen and Chi Chi Rodriguez, who replaced John Daly this week after Daly announced he was entering alcohol rehabilitation. They’ll all be miked for sound, of course, and encouraged to bring their best shtick .

The players will tee off at noon today and Sunday at Dove Canyon Country Club and the event will be broadcast on the USA Network from 4-6 p.m. both days. The players will play nine holes each day and compete for a share of $100,000 in traditional medal play with $40,000 going to the winner.

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The real action, however, will be involved in a $400,000 “challenge” purse.

Williams says it’s really just an extension of how 25 million golfers play every weekend, but if that’s really the case, they must have a top-of-the-line laptop in their carts because this format could require some serious number-crunching.

If all that football didn’t give you a headache, trying to figure out this tournament might.

Today is a relative snap. The guys tee it up and try to shoot a low score. The also accrue points in these categories:

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--In the fairway off the tee (200 points)

--Longest drive in the fairway (200 points)

--Closest to the pin in regulation (400 points)

--First on the green (200 points)

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--On the green in regulation (200 points)

--Par (200 points)

--Birdie (400 points)

--Eagle (800 points)

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--Hole in one (2,000 points)

--Double eagle (3,000 points)

--Sandies: up-and-down out of a bunker (200 points)

--In the hole with a club other than a putter (400 points)

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The player with the lowest score today will receive 1,000 bonus points with 700 going to the second-best score, 400 to third and 300 to fourth.

Sunday’s competition gets a bit more complicated, however. On the back nine, players will challenge each other in any of the above categories. If a player wins a challenge, he adds those points to his score, but no one else loses any. If the challenged players wins, he gets the points and the challenger loses them.

The player with the fewest points will tee off first Sunday and be the first to make a wager, not to exceed his point total and at least a minimum to be decided Saturday night. The player with the next fewest can either make a bet after all the players have teed off, or he can wait until the 11th tee, but no later. If he decides to make a challenge, then the next player in line has the challenge honors and can either wager or wait.

There will be a maximum of three challenges per hole.

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“I got it down the second they explained it to me,” Zoeller said. “You’re talking to a guy who has been down this road before. But as far as the strategy goes, we’ll all be flying by the seat of our pants.

“You can challenge one guy, or everybody. It’s going to be something. We don’t really know what to expect, but I think it’s going to be fun. And once we get all the kinks worked out, this event’s going to be good for the game.”

Actor Jack Lemmon will be a referee in charge of what he deems to be fair or unfair challenges. If all players miss the green with their tee shots on a par three, for instance, he wouldn’t allow the first player to chip to wager his whole point total on “first on.”

Here’s a hypothetical look at what might happen on a par-four Sunday:

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Let’s say Chi Chi has challenge honors on the tee and he challenges Fuzzy to 500 points for “first on,” figuring Zoeller will outdrive him and he’ll get the first shot at the green.

The foursome tees off and now it’s Jacobsen’s turn to bet. He likes his angle to the green, and so he challenges Stadler, who’s in the rough, to “birdie.”

Fuzzy, who now has the lead in points, wants to bet 1,000 points on “on the green in regulation.” Lemmon tells him to “bet like a man,” so Fuzzy decides to play it safe and wait until the next tee.

“When Peter called me about this, I was all for it from the beginning,” Zoeller said. “You know, this is mostly a television thing, for those folks in Minnesota and the East who are up to their butts in snow.

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“The key with something like this is to get the right group of people who can make it work for television, make it come across as being as much fun as it is. It sounds a little complicated, but it’s going to be a kick.”

Go figure.


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