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Harmon backs new Las Vegas mini tour

Butch Harmon, one of the leading golf instructors in the world, has lent his name to a Las Vegas-based mini-tour that he thinks will quickly become the world's finest.

The Butch Harmon Golf Tour will run for 16 weeks from June to September, culminating with its Tour Championship. The Tour, which will begin in 2005, will award $3.225 million in prize money, with $175,000 purses for the first 15 weekly events and $600,000 for the Tour Championship.

Tournaments will be at Rio Secco, Las Vegas National, the Badlands, Oasis, the Las Vegas Paiute Resort, Boulder Creek, Primm Valley, Siena, Painted Desert, the Tournament Players Club at the Canyons, Casablanca and Legacy.

Harmon, Tiger Woods' longtime instructor until their split in 2002, said the tour hopes to attract the best players in the world who are not members of a major pro circuit such as the PGA Tour, Nationwide Tour and European PGA Tour.

Players are required to pay a $25,000 entry fee to cover entry into all 15 regular-season tournaments. The top 40 money-winners will qualify for the Tour Championship. Harmon said the tour has arranged for free practice for members at six local golf clubs and will work with players to facilitate housing, fitness and car deals.

All proceeds from the tour will be donated to the Southern Nevada Junior Golf Association, Harmon said.

"We're going to create the greatest developmental mini-tour in the country," Harmon said Tuesday at Rio Secco Golf Club.

Former UNLV star Chad Campbell, now a top PGA Tour player, built his reputation playing on mini-tours. He is the all-time leading money-winner in the history of the Hooter's Tour.

Harmon is aiming the tour at players who have the skills to play on the PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour, but haven't qualified. Also, there are players who once played on those tours, but lost their status and are looking to return.

Harmon said interest in the tour is already high and he anticipates no problems filling the 156 spots each week.

The regular tournaments will be 54 holes, with a cut after 36 holes for the low 50 players plus ties. The Tour Championship will be 72 holes with no cut. The tour's leading money-winner will receive a paid entry to PGA Tour Qualifying School.

Harmon estimated the leading money-winner would make more than $200,000.

Harmon, whose Butch Harmon School of Golf is based at Rio Secco, coaches some of the world's top players, including former UNLV star Adam Scott.

He said some of his young pupils could play on the new tour, saying confidence frequently separates those who make the PGA Tour from those who don't.

"There are so many excellent players out there that what it comes down to is confidence and a comfort level," Harmon said. "A lot of players on the mini-tours and even to some degree the Nationwide Tour feel very comfortable in that environment. They feel they're as good or better than the players they're playing against. But when they jump up to that next level, they don't have the confidence they had at the lower level.

"It's all about learning to believe in yourself. If you're good enough to win on the Butch Harmon Tour, you're good enough to win on the Nationwide Tour and eventually to win on the PGA Tour."

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