June 4, 2008–Rio Secco Golf Club, one of two Las Vegas golf courses designed by the legendary Rees Jones, is set to host the Western Athletic Conference Golf Championships, to be played April 27-29, 2009. Rio Secco Golf Club is a Harrah's Las Vegas golf course and has played host to several notable events over the years, including Tiger Jam, UNLV golf's home event, and several other celebrity tournaments. The WAC tournament is a historic event and has had some big-time champions over the years, including future PGA Tour stars Bobby Clampett (twice), Rick Fehr, Tim Herron, Bruce Summerhayes, Paul Stankowski, and JJ Henry, in addition to current Las Vegas residents and PGA Tour stars Nick Watney (lost in a playoff) and Dean Wilson. "For the last few years our coaches were the ones pushing for a neutral site, and we looked at several potential locations before selecting Rio Secco Golf Club," says Elizabeth Kampfe, WAC Director of Championships. "But everything that the staff and management was willing to do for us, plus the quality of the golf course made selecting Rio Secco a great decision."
For the last several years the WAC Golf Championships have been hosted by schools in the conference, but a move to a neutral site was made for 2009. Over the years, the tournament has been played at such prestigious host golf courses as Turtle Bay, Poppy Hills, Singing Hills, Waikoloa Beach and Hidden Valley.
"I think this presents a new opportunity for our coaches and teams, and it creates an equal playing field for everyone," says Kampfe, who also noted that Las Vegas, in general, was chosen because of its convenient airport location and good weather. "It also offers the student athletes an opportunity to play in a pro-level tournament while still in college."
The 2008 team champion was New Mexico State while the individual champion was Troy Merritt. The conference win was his fifth tournament victory in a row. He was also voted the WAC Player of the Year. New Mexico State was led by Las Vegas' own Matt Edwards who was a first team, All-Conference selection. Edwards attended Coronado High School in Henderson, Nev., a Vegas suburb. Edwards was a senior this season.
Brigham Young University has dominated the event over the years, claiming 22 team titles and 17 individual wins.
Rio Secco Golf Club offers a Las Vegas golf experience that is played through steep canyons, on top of desert plateuas overlooking the Las Vegas valley, and within deep desert washes. Rio Secco Golf Club has garnered several local and national awards including Best Overall Las Vegas Golf Experience by VegasGolfer Magazine, a Top 100 Golf Course by Golfweek Magazine, and a Top 10 Golf Resort in America by USA Today, among other accolades. Cascata is the sister Las Vegas golf course to Rio Secco Golf Club, and is also a Rees Jones design. Las Vegas National Golf Club is also now managed by Harrah's Golf as well, and is one of the most historic golf courses in Las Vegas.
Eric Dutt, Harrah's Vice President of Las Vegas Golf Operations, is a former college golfer at Purdue Univeristy, and is committed to supporting golf at all levels. He was the driving force behind bringing the event to Rio Secco Golf Club.