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FARMINGTON — Some of the San Juan Open’s top golfers enjoy making the trip to the Four Corners, so they were anxiously waiting for answers on the 56th annual event.

When organizers announced that the tournament will be held Sept. 3-6 instead of being cancelled entirely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it was welcoming news.

“I would’ve hated to miss it,” said Sam Saunders, the 2018 San Juan Open champion. 

Saunders was not alone in that sentiment.

Jesse Mueller, a San Juan Open regular since 2012, said he initially didn’t think the tournament would happen this year because about 90 percent of the golfers stay with host families during the tournament, and a number of those golfers travel from out of state. Mueller, who lives in Phoenix, is one of those athletes who travels in from out of state. Meanwhile, Saunders travels up from Albuquerque to compete in the tournament.

However, aside from continuing the strong tradition the tournament has in Farmington, Mueller said players would hit the greens in slightly cooler September weather, and it’d be a short drive to Albuquerque for the New Mexico Open the following week.

“I think it was a great move… We’re excited. It’s always one of our favorites stops to play in the tournament,” Mueller said.

Mueller said having the San Juan Open and the New Mexico Open back-to-back will provide extra excitement and incentive for golfers traveling from states such as California because of the longer distances.

“That’ll draw more of them in,” Mueller said.

For Saunders, the arrangement is perfect. The San Juan Open's just a three-hour drive for him, and he'd simply drive back home for more golf.

“I’ll make it work no matter what. I’m lucky I don’t have any pre-exiting condition," said Saunders, who’s bracing for his fifth San Juan Open in 2020. "It’s my job, and I love playing golf.”

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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