Boise Open says goodbye to July

Officials of the Albertsons Boise Open put out a media alert yesterday about a “major announcement” that evening. Officials of the Albertsons Boise Open put out a media alert yesterday, saying that there would be a “major announcement” that evening. Hmmmm. We’ve heard that one before—from every kind of organization imaginable. But man, this was a major announcement, the biggest ever for the sport of golf in the state of Idaho (name me a bigger one). The Boise Open is returning to September next year and will become one of four events that comprise the Tour Finals, with its purse increasing to $1 million. The Boise stop has always been considered one of the most prestigious on the This change cements that. Albertsons, in its 26th year as a part of the tournament, also announced last night that it has extended its sponsorship of the event through 2019.

The Tour Finals series features the circuit’s top 75 players from the regular season, plus players ranked No. 126-200 on the PGA Tour. The top 50 on the Finals money list earn their PGA Tour cards for the following season. The stakes are high. There will be some familiar names roaming the Hillcrest Country Club fairways next year, and they’ll be playing with a purpose. And hey—there’ll be temperatures near 80.

The Albertsons Boise Open’s beginnings didn’t seem humble at the time, but they were. It was 25 years ago that the tournament was one of the original 30 events on the new Ben Hogan Tour. It was a big deal locally, even with its modest $100,000 purse and 54-hole format. Ricky Smallridge was the first champion, taking home $20,000. Community volunteers turned out in droves, though, and the Boise Open’s roots took hold. It’s now one of only four remaining events from that 1990 Ben Hogan Tour. And it’s headed for the pinnacle of the tour as we know it today.

For now, the Albertsons Boise Open is the 15th of 21 regular-season Tour tournaments this year, so it’s crunch time. That’s especially the case for Harold Varner III, seeking to become one of the rare African-Americans to play the PGA Tour. Varner was within striking distance of his first victory last week at the Nova Scotia Open, but he finished sixth. He’s currently 14th on the money list, not assured yet of ending the season in “The 25” that advance to the PGA Tour. Varner says he has “one goal, one mission,” to make the show. “I’ve just got to get better,” said Varner. “If I get better, I’ll win one of these things. It just sucks, because I’ve been here a lot, but at the end of the day I’m getting closer to my ultimate goal.” Varner’s only 5-9, but he packs quite a punch—he’s fourth on the Tour with an average driving distance of 312.9 yards.

Varner doesn’t fancy himself as the next Tiger Woods, or as a black trailblazer. But he does care about the future of golf—especially for the fans. As a marketing graduate from East Carolina, Varner thinks about that stuff. “They don’t set it up for people who just don’t give a (hoot) about golf,” he said last summer in a Bloomberg interview. “Why can’t we set the PGA up for someone who wants to have fun?” Jeff Sanders and his crew have always been proactive on that front at the Albertsons Boise Open. This year they’re adding “Rockin’ The Fairway” after each round tomorrow, Friday and Saturday, with music by Marcus Eaton, Pilot Error and the David Andrews Band.

For the first time since 2011, Boise State has a player on the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award that goes to college football’s defensive player of the year. In fact, the Broncos have two, safety Darian Thompson and defensive end Kamalei Correa. Thompson and Correa were two of just four representatives from the Mountain West. Thompson shared the conference lead in interceptions last year and tied for third in the nation with seven. The All-Mountain West senior now has 14 career picks. Correa led the league with 12 sacks last season and was 13th nationally in that category.

Boise State coach Bryan Harsin was Stewart Mandel’s guest on “The Audible” at this week, and he seems to have stirred some controversy by allegedly lobbying for a Big 12 invitation. But you can just chalk that up to an eager headline editor who wrote, “Bryan Harsin: Boise State would be great fit in Big 12.” Harsin was just answering a Mandel question about whether the Broncos could compete in the Big 12. Is it a goal of Boise State to get there? “That’s a tough question, because there’s so much uncertainty that goes with it,” said Harsin. He cited solid national coverage of the Broncos, their “fantastic brand,” and the blue turf as strengths. “How that all translates into conference realignment, I don’t know,” said Harsin. That’s hardly a full-court press.

Mandel did bring up Harsin’s days as offensive coordinator at Texas and his knowledge of the Big 12—and whether Boise State could fit. “I think so,” said Harsin, who brought up a former Bronco peer, reigning Big 12 co-champion TCU. “You see the type of progress they’ve made—they’re one of the best teams in the country.” The Horned Frogs struggled in their first year in that conference, made huge strides in their second season, and took off with a 12-1 campaign last year. TCU now has Big 12 money and can recruit to a power conference. That changed the playing field for the Frogs, and look what happened. Unfortunately for the Broncos, they may never be able to find out what they could do with the same opportunity.

The Boise Hawks and Spokane were tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the eighth inning last night, and guess what happened? Yes, another game bites the dust late, as the Indians edged the Hawks, 3-2. Yonathan Daza was not in the lineup for Boise. About as soon as Daza was named the Northwest League Player of the Week for hitting .516 and knocking in nine runs last week, he was recalled to the Asheville Tourists. Daza began the season with Asheville before joining the Boise Hawks for Opening Night. He played 16 games for the Hawks and left as the Northwest League’s leading hitter with a .418 average.

The Idaho Steelheads have a second player in the fold for the 2015-16 season. The Steelies have agreed to terms with forward Chase Grant, who is turning pro after wrapping up his college career at Minnesota State. Grant comes from a college program that has produced several successful former Steelheads, including current Pittsburgh Penguin Kael Mouillierat. Grant served as captain during his senior season with MSU and netted 31 career goals.

This Day In Sports…July 8, 2010, five years ago today:

The overblown courtship of one of the NBA’s top free agents of all-time, LeBron James, comes to an end on a manufactured one-hour ESPN special called “The Decision.” James announced that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers after seven seasons to join fellow free agent Chris Bosh and incumbent superstar Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat. Cleveland was bitterly disappointed by James’ departure—he was a high school star in Akron and had long professed his love for Ohio. The idea, James said, was to win championships, something the two-time NBA MVP still hasn’t now that he’s back with the Cavs.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)