RTO minus defending champion

RENO - The Reno-Tahoe Open has delivered many things to its fans. One thing it can't deliver on is its defending champion.

Las Vegas' Scott Piercy, who last week visted Montreux Golf & Country Club for the annual RTO Media Day, won last weekend's Canadian Open to earn a trip to the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational this week.

"I'm absolutely happy for him," said Jan Smoley, the executive director of the RTO. "Obviously we'll miss him. He was a great champion for us. I couldn't be happier for him.

"He called after he won and asked if I was disappointed. I told him I was thrilled for him."

Piercy is the first RTO winner not to defend his title since Steve Flesch won the event in 2007.

With Piercy mixing it up with the big boys this week in Ohio, it leaves the RTO with seven defending champions in the field.

Notah Begay III (1999), Chris Riley (2002), two-time champ Vaughn taylor (2004-05), Will MacKenzie (2006), Parker McLachlin (2008), John Rollins (2009) and Matt Bettencourt (2010) are in the 132-player field.

BUSY DAY ON THE GROUNDS: It was a big day at Montreux, as the Grand Sierra Resort hosted the third annual Patriots' Luncheon at the course.

It featured a keynote speaker Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, one of several post-Vietnam Medal of Honor award winners, and Scott Bill, father of Navy Seal Brian Bill, who was part of the team that overtook Osama Bin Laden in 2011. The younger Bill was later killed in when his Chinook helicopter carrying 38 soldiers was shot down by a grenade.

"There wasn't a dry eye in the house," Smoley said of the emotonal event.

The elder Bill has remained dedicated to raising funds for the Navy Seal Foundation, which has focused on providing assistance and support to the special warfare community and their families. Bill was preented with a hand-painted portrait of his son which was created by Phil Taylor of the American Fallen Soldiers Project.

AMERICANS SHINE: Americans have won the first 13 RTOs, but there two big international names in the field this week, Ireland's Padraig Harrington, a three-time major champion, and Colombia's Camilo Villegas, a three-time PGA Tour winner, who is making his RTO debut.

Harrington is here because he wanted to play in a tournament before next week's PGA event at Kiawah Island, and he wasn't eligble for the WGC-Bridgestone. He meets with the media today, so it will be interesting to get his thoughts on the Montreux layout.


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