No More Pain in the Neck For Las Vegas PGA Tour Pro Alex Cejka

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Image April 17, 2009–It's getting pretty ridiculous around these parts, as every week there seems to be a PGA Tour star with deep ties to Las Vegas golf doing something great in a PGA Tour tournament. Already this year, Las Vegas residents have done the following: Nick Watney won the Buick Invitational; Alex Prugh won the Michael Hill Nationwide Tour event; Charley Hoffman lost in a playoff at the FBR Open in Phoenix, and most recently, former UNLV All-American Chad Campbell lost in a playoff at the Masters. And now resident Alex Cejka, who fled his home country as a youngster, was the leader after the first round of the Verizon Heritage. Cejka finished 13th. LIVE SCORING/RESULTS.

Cejka, who is a Czeck native who fled to Germany as a youngster, first moved to Laughlin, Nevada (a small river gambling town about 90 miles from Vegas), several years ago, but a couple years ago moved into the Summerlin area to be closer to a big city and take more advantage of playing some of the best Las Vegas golf courses, including TPC Las Vegas, a PGA Tour-owned course where many of Las Vegas' PGA Tour players practice and play against each other during off times. Through 11 events, Cejka had earned about $193,000 and was 123rd on the money list. He has won 11 times internationally, but his best finish on the PGA Tour enterting the Verizon was a runner-up at the 2003 INTERNATIONAL. He earned $893,998 in 2008, good for 117th on the money list despite missing several months with an injury.

“I feel very comfortable in a lot of places,” Cejka told this writer for a feature in VegasGolfer Magazine. “But there is no airport in Laughlin, and I grew tired of the long drive back and forth to the airport in Las Vegas. I had played TPC Las Vegas and TPC Summerlin, and I grew to love the area so I decided to make the move here.” Cejka played on the European Tour from 1992-2002 before deciding to focus full-time on the PGA Tour. And he is still partially healing from neck surgery that forced him to miss some time towards the end of the 2008 season.

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Image "My goal is to stay healthy," Cejka told the media following the first round of the Heritage in South Carolina. "The last couple of years I have been a little bit unlucky, a little bit injured. I had the neck surgery, also, like end of last year where I was off for three months. So it was tough to come back. So just hopefully everything stays well and I get healthy and practice hard. … I pinched a nerve at the British Open last year and just lost all my strength in the left side and waited like three or four weeks after the British Open and it was really muscle spasm and I lost a lot of muscles in the three weeks. And they had to go in and just did a fusion between C6 and C7 on the neck. I'm not 100 percent. I'm like 85 percent. I'm working hard on it. It takes time. But I'm pretty happy in the way my body feels right now. Now it's a good time to start really practicing hard and play a lot of tournaments." Continue reading for the complete article, entitled "Czech, Mate" from VegasGolfer Magazine, 2008, about Cejka's history, ties to Las Vegas, and how every so often he takes 50 bucks from his fellow Las Vegas PGA Tour pros.–Brian Hurlburt.

Simple words, they are. ‘Moved’ and ‘fled’. But one of them jumps off the page when written, while the other seemingly sits there, ironically, not “moving”. But those words aren’t real simplistic for Alex Cejka, one of Las Vegas’ newest PGA Tour-playing residents. In his official biography is the sentence: “With his father he fled from Marienbad, Czechoslovakia.” When Cejka was a youngster, and nearly 30 years ago, the small town of Marienbad was under communist control. His father gave up everything to flee the country. How much do you think the word ‘moved’ would change that sentence in the biography?

Alex was nine years old and he thought that he and his Dad, Alex, Sr., were just going on a holiday, but then at one point his Dad reached down, gave him a bear hug, and said, “We did it! We did it!” It was a hug that lasted a lifetime.

“I was too young to really know what was going on, but I know my Dad risked his life to do what he did,” says Cejka, who “moved” to Las Vegas about two years ago to a home located just minutes from TPC Las Vegas (formerly TPC Canyons).

Father and son ended up in Germany and Cejka still considers Munich one of his homes. His two sons—he’s divorced—live in Germany, while Cejka also maintains a home in Laughlin, where he lived before Las Vegas (for those reading this from all parts of the globe, Laughlin is a gaming town—with a little bit of golf—located on the shores of the Colorado River about 90 minutes from the Vegas glitter).

“I feel very comfortable in a lot of places,” says Cejka, who played on the European Tour from 1992-2002 before deciding to focus full-time on the PGA Tour. “But there is no airport in Laughlin, and I grew tired of the long drive back and forth to the airport in Las Vegas. I had played TPC Canyons and TPC Summerlin, and I grew to love the area so I decided to make the move here.”

Cejka won four times while playing in Europe full time, including three victories in 1995. He hasn’t won yet on the PGA Tour, but has enjoyed good success since successfully qualifying for the Tour through the 2002 Qualifying School in Palm Springs. Cejka has earned more than $4.5 million on the PGA Tour, including $1.3 million in 2004 when he finished a career best 54th on the money list. Cejka’s best finishes on the PGA Tour were runner-ups at the 2003 BC Open and the 2004 International.

Cejka tried to play both tours simultaneously for awhile, but the travel grew too difficult and the luxury of the PGA Tour was too tempting. “I was very pleased to earn my card through Q school, and I found the first couple years on the PGA Tour very nice,” says Cejka with a German accent. “I finally decided to completely focus here because everything is just a bit easier and a bit better on the PGA Tour. It’s tough on the body to fly back and forth to compete on both tours. And I think to win I need to focus on one tour. I’m not 19 anymore. These days I fly first-class across the country and I struggle, let alone flying coach like I used to so I could play in events in other countries.

Cejka loves the Las Vegas heat and also is a fan of the mountain views and other desert scenery that Las Vegas offers. “It’s gorgeous!” says Cejka. And the in-and-out ease of the airport was also an enticement for Cejka to make Las Vegas his main residence.

He and many of the 25 or so other PGA and LPGA Tour players who make Vegas home can frequently be spotted playing and practicing at the two TPC courses, and it’s not out of the question for some money games to take place between the pros.

“There’s a few of us that will gamble a little bit, and it’s always fun when you can take fifty bucks off your buddies,” Cejka says about a group that includes Dean Wilson, Bob May, Charley Hoffman and others. “Sometimes it’s your day, and sometimes it’s not your day, but we always enjoy the competition.”

Cejka has also ventured across the Vegas valley to play the Jack Nicklaus-designed Reflection Bay Golf Club (PGA Tour player Craig Barlow and LPGA Tour player Natalie Gulbis play there) a few times. Off the course, Cejka is a car lover and has traded in a black hummer for a white H1. He also enjoys the outdoors including boating on nearby Lake Mead in the summer, and deep sea fishing in waters all over the world. He makes it a point to stay a few extra days following events in fishing hotbeds such as San Diego, Asia and Thailand. Cejka is also a bit of a pool player, who occasionally takes a few bucks from friends on the green felt in addition to his other “green” winnings.

Cejka also tries to spend quality time with his sons, but only sees them about every two months but does spend a month with them each summer. The eldest, Alex, is a soccer player while Felix is a golfer. “It’s a challenge to balance everything, but I keep in touch with them and we do the best we can,” he says. For Cejka, life is continually in motion, and he makes sure to savor his good fortune. “I cherish every day and enjoy my life,” Cejka says. And sometimes with fifty extra bucks in his pocket, courtesy of his new Las Vegas golfing buddies.

 

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