FARMINGTON — For the 49th time, the San Juan Open golf tournament is ready to tee off.
San Juan Country Club is set to host the event beginning on Thursday for a field of about 140 golfers.
The tournament will see a dramatic rise in professional golfers competing for the $17,500 first prize this year with 78 registering for the 72-hole event compared to just 57 in 2012.
SJCC General Manager Randy Kahn was surprised by the large increase since the tournament has had to battle with the rise of other tournaments in the southwest.
"I was blown away, and at one point, we'd be shorter (than last year)," Kahn said of the field size. "I've complied email addresses from every player who's been here the last six year and sent out a few reminders. It seemed to help."
One pro missing will be 2012 champion Gabe Maier, who didn't register for the event.
Despite not having a defending champion, a strong field is expected with 2011 champion Ryan Dillon, 2010 champion Clay Ogden, 2009 champion Derek Tolan and two-time winner Ryan Hogue all scheduled to compete.
"It's a really strong field," said SJCC head professional Jeff Roth. "It's the deepest I've seen here and this year could be the strongest the tournaments ever had."
Roth will be competing in the event for the fourth time and said the course is in immaculate condition.
"The course is in great shape and the greens are among the best in New Mexico," he said. "They're smooth and (PGA) tour standard."
Roth said not too much has changed with the course and the golfers can expected to see a similar set up to years past with quick greens for the players to try to navigate.
"We'll try to have a driveable par 4 on three of the four days and use all the tee boxes we've added the past couple of years," he said.
As far as his game is concerned, Roth said he's been playing well so far this year.
"I'll be ready to play and have a long week like everybody," he said.
"Getting enough rest over the four days will be key for me."
The tournament with a total prize pool of about $73,000 will tee off around 7:30 a.m. on Thursday and run until Saturday for amateurs and conclude on Sunday for the professionals.
Joshua Perry covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.