Las Vegas, Nev. (Dec. 26, 2014)–Las Vegas and professional golfers go hand-in-hand. Don’t believe us? Well, take a look at the long list of golfers with Las Vegas ties who play the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and Champions Tour. With its centralized proximity, great weather, tax advantages and ideal golf courses and conditions, it’s no wonder more and more pros have Las Vegas ties. There are so many pros that we need a two-part series to take a look at those pros and some of their many accomplishments. — by Bill Bowman.
Tommy Armour III–Perseverance paid off for Armour. He won twice on the PGA Tour, 13 years apart. He won the 1990 Phoenix Open and then picked up the hardware at the 2013 Valero Texas Open. He earned almost $10 million on the regular Tour. He’s now roaming the fairways on the Champions Tour and has found new life–he’s been runnerup four times and won almost $2.5 million.
Craig Barlow–The lifelong Henderson, Nev., resident is golf’s version of the ultimate grinder. He turned pro in 1995 and his best finishes on the PGA Tour are three third-place spots, the latest being the 2006 Nissan Open. And 2006 wound up being his best year on Tour as he won just over a million dollars and had five top 25s. In 2004, Barlow showed his perseverance after firing an opening round 80 at Q-School but battled back to earn his PGA Tour card for the next year.
Chad Campbell–Campbell speaks softly and carries big sticks. The quiet UNLV grad turned pro in 1996 and has four PGA Tour wins, the latest the 2007 Viking Classic. One of his career highlights is a loss in a playoff in the 2009 Masters. Campbell was joined in the playoff by eventual champ Angel Cabrera and Kenny Perry. Has earned more than $22 million on Tour.
Alex Cejka–The Czech Republic golfer turned Las Vegas resident spends a lot of time working on his game at the TPC courses. He turned pro in 1989 and has 11 worldwide victories. His best results on the PGA Tour are a pair of runnerup finishes, in the 2004 International and the 2003 B.C. Open. He’s earned more than $8 million in his career.
Jim Colbert–Jim is a member of the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame and also a two-time Senior PGA TOUR Player of the Year while living in Las Vegas. While he last made a check on the Champions PGA Tour in 2012, Colbert remains one of the most important pro golfers with strong ties to Las Vegas. He was responsible for bring the PGA TOUR back to Las Vegas in 1983 and the event will be played in 2015 for the 33rd -straight time.
Derek Ernst–Ernst, who graduated from UNLV in 2012, burst onto the PGA Tour scene in a big way–with a win in the 2013 Wells Fargo Championship in just his ninth career start. He’s earned $1.6 million in his young career, with his victory being his only top-25 finish so far.
Robert Gamez–Gamez, who lived in Las Vegas for many years, made a sudden impact on the PGA Tour upon turning pro. He made his debut at the Northern Telecom Tucson Open in 1990 and also won for a second time his rookie season. Then a drought set in and his third–and final–PGA Tour win came 15 years later at the 2005 Valero Texas Open. He won almost $9 for his career.
Andres Gonzales—Mr. Fu Manchu, Gonzales is another UNLV alum starting to find his way on the PGA Tour. He turned pro in 2006 and he’s closing in on that first Tour win. He has two top-10 finishes on Tour–including a third in this year’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba–and has made almost $1 million.
Natalie Gulbis–One of the LPGA’s more glamorous players, Gulbis turned pro in 2002 and has one Tour victory…the 2007 Evian Masters. She was the star of her own reality show on The Golf Channel and the show spotlighted her and Las Vegas. She was on the LPGA’s Solheim Cup team in 2005, 2007 and 2009.
Charley Hoffman—Hoffman joined Bill Lunde on the 1998 UNLV championship team. Hoffman has won three times on Tour, including this year’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba, firing a final-round, five-under 66 to rally from three strokes down. He’s won more than $16 million in his career and gives back by hosting a charity event prior to the Shriner’s Hospitals Open for Children at TPC Summerlin.
Skip Kendall–Kendall is probably the least-known UNLV grad. He graduated in 1987 and then turned pro. His best results on the PGA Tour were four second-place finishes, the latest was at the 2004 Bob Hope. He did win four times on the Web.com Tour, including the 2012 Pacific Rubiales Championship. He’s now working to get starts on the Champions Tour. He didn’t get his card for 2015 but has gotten sponsor exemptions and has a third-place finish in the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach.
Therese Koelbaek—Make room for another UNLV golfer on the pro golf scene. But this time it’s a Lady Rebel. Koelbaek recently earned a spot on the LPGA Tour with a tie for 11th at qualifying school. She wound up the event at 5-under-par and her final-round one-under 71 helped her take the next step in her golf career. Her name is up and down the UNLV record book and she ended her college career with four tournament victories and 17 top-five finishes. She was also the 2011 Mountain West Female Scholar of the Year as well as the conference’s golfer of the year. Koelbaek is the firstt UNLV female golfers to earn exempt status on the LPGA Tour.