May 3, 3008–Now that Justin Timberlake has joined the likes of Arnold Palmer, Bob Hope and Byron Nelson as a host of a PGA Tour event, he appears to be quickly getting down to business. This year–and for at least the next five years–the Las Vegas PGA Tour event will be known as the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (now affectionately dubbed by some as the 'JT Open', just as the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic is dubbed 'The Hope'). Timberlake is well-known for being one of the world's biggest stars, but not so much for his love of the links. He's a single-digit handicap, and is said to be thrilled with his new role. And so far he has been very 'hands on' in the planning for the Las Vegas golf tournament that will be held October 13-19 at the private TPC Summerlin, one of two Las Vegas TPC golf courses (the resort and public TPC Las Vegas is the other). Recently, Timberlake teed it up with Tournament Chairman Gary Davis and Shriners patient Katie Walker, took a 4-hour lesson in Las Vegas with fellow event committee member Butch Harmon, and played golf at the TPC Summerlin with his father, Paul, in addition to being involved in other tournament affairs.
Walker, now in college, was treated at the Shriners Hospital in Los Angeles when she was just a year old. Her leg was amputated and she received her first of many prostheses, and physical therapists at Shriners Hospitals taught her to walk. Shriners Hospitals for Children is a network of facilities in North America that provides superior medical care at no charge to children under the age of 18.
Walker, Davis and Timberlake teed it up at Riviera Country Club in California. Before playing golf Katie and Justin filmed a public service announcement for the tournament.
Timberlake has stated that his intent is to help make this event one of the best on the PGA Tour. This year there will be a Monday pro-am and a high level celebrity pro-am on Wednesday, both scheduled to feature Timberlake. For the first time, this Las Vegas PGA Tour event will be played over four days on only one course with no amateurs teeing it up during tournament play. For many years, the event featured a three-day pro-am during the actual PGA Tour competition and was played over three courses. For the last couple years, the event was played exclusively at TPC Las Vegas and TPC Summerlin.
Timberlake is also scheduled to participate in the Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge June 6 at Torrey Pines. He will join Matt Lauer, Tony Romo and one other amateur as they attempt to break 100 under the extremely difficult US Open conditions and at a potential distance of 7,643 yards from the tips. "I played Torrey Pines from the blue tees and it was very long then," Timberlake told Golf Digest. "I can't imagine what it'll play like from all the way back. I'll definitely sneak down there a few times to practice."
Timberlake is also said to be reaching out to many of the top players on the PGA Tour money list to entice them play in Las Vegas. The JT Open is part of the PGA Tour's Fall Finish and comes after the Fed Ex Cup championship has been decided, therefore making it difficult to attract the game's biggest stars. No word yet on if one of those players could be Tiger Woods, who has played in the event two times.
In 1996, Tiger used a sponsor's exemption and earned his first win on the PGA Tour by beating Davis Love III in a playoff of the Las Vegas Invitational, one previous name of the event that debuted in 1983 as the Panasonic Las Vegas Pro-Celebrity Classic. He came back in 1997 to defend his title–unsuccessfully–but hasn't been back since.
"I couldn't be more excited to host the upcoming 2008 Las Vegas tournament and to be involved with the Shriners Hospitals for Children," Timberlake said upon the announcement of his new tournament. "We will make sure to make this event unique and memorable, and we will raise money for charity while participating in the greatest game ever played. I thank the PGA TOUR and the Shriners Hospitals for Children this amazing opportunity. Raising money to better children's lives while playing golf? I can't think of a better way to pass the time."
Other tournament plans call for a concert on "The Hill", a deluxe spectator area that overlooks holes 16-18, a special celebrity putting contest, a private Timberlake concert for sponsors and other VIPs, and a clinic featuring Harmon, recently voted the world's number one golf instructor by Golf Digest, and Timberlake. Timberlake is also scheduled to present the trophy on the 18th green on Sunday in addition to being a part of other tournament activities.
"As a golfer and a singer — but more importantly, as a patient of Shriners Hospitals for Children — I couldn't be more excited to hear that Justin Timberlake is lending his name and his support to this tournament," says Walker, who served as an ambassador at last year's event and will serve a similar role this year. "His star power is going to make an already fantastic tournament even better, and I know that can only help the Shriners impact more lives like mine."
Walker is a competitive golfer at Cal State Bakersfield with a passion for country singing. She has recently recorded her first CD, which includes her original composition "Challenge Me," a song about how her physical challenges were the driving force to live her life to the fullest.
Timberlake is now the 14th celebrity in PGA TOUR history to host an event, joining the likes of Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. The agreement, among Timberlake, title sponsor Shriners Hospitals for Children and the PGA TOUR, is for five years, beginning in 2008.
Volunteers for the tournament are being actively recruited.