This Las Vegas Golfer Went From National Champion to Desk Job to Nationwide Tour Leader

Image July 25, 2008 {BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: 3:00 PM PST, July 27} –Bill Lunde birdies final hole for first-ever Nationwide Tour win–click for championship story –How many players in the world have gone from playing in charity scrambles on a regular basis at Las Vegas golf courses to leading a tournament on the Nationwide Tour? The answer is exactly one, and it happens to be Las Vegas golf's own Bill Lunde, an All-American member of the 1998 UNLV National Championship golf team. Lunde basically gave up the game a couple years ago and went to work in marketing and sales for the Las Vegas Founders, the group that operated Las Vegas' PGA Tour event for a couple decades. And since everyone knew that Lunde was the best stick around, the invites to area charity events poured in, and being the nice guy that he is, and the networking opportunity that playing provided, he accepted several offers. "It was kind of good for me to be out there playing in these charity events," says Lunde, who fired a 67 to share the lead after the first round of the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational. "I got invited to play a lot, because everyone knew I played golf and everyone thought I would be a good team member to have. So I got invited to play a lot and it was good for my work at the time because I got to meet a lot of people and meet a lot of the guys that were supporting charity events around Las Vegas."

Lunde was one of the stars of the '98 UNLV team that also included Charley Hoffman, a current PGA Tour member, who lives very close to Lunde in Las Vegas. Lunde and Hoffman grew up together and then played together at UNLV. While at UNLV Lunde had the oppotunity to play many of the best Las Vegas golf courses, and these days he and Hoffman tee it up quite a bit at TPC Las Vegas and TPC Summerlin, both PGA Tour-owned Las Vegas golf courses.

And it was a round with Hoffman during his "sabbatical" that prompted Lunde to get back into the game. Hoffman convinced him to join a group of fellow tour pros for a round, and Hoffman and Lunde partnered up on the unsuspecting twosome. Nobody expected much from Lunde–he was a has-been that never was–but he threw down a smooth 66 and Hoffman and Lunde dominated the match. The day provided a glimspe of what a positive attitude can bring to the game and rejuvenated Lunde's competitive fire.

"I remember talking to him, kind of a good story about it, the guys in Vegas, they always said, hey, let's go play and I said, no, I don't want to play golf, you guys have fun," says Lunde. "One day they got me out there and me not being able to practice, my only goal is to beat everybody. I'm not hitting balls and these guys are out practicing and I went out there shot 66, beat everybody, didn't even miss a shot. At one point in the round, Charley was my partner, so he was even loving it more than I was. He goes, amazing what attitude does, doesn't it?"

Lunde was always very hard on himself, but the time away from the game allowed him to view things differently and, in a way, lowered his expectations. He slowly got back into playing by teeing it up and dominating the Butch Harmon Vegas Tour, and then he successfully qualified for the Nationwide Tour last year. Through his first 16 events this year, Lunde had earned $107,911, good for 28th on the money list. The top 25 receive full PGA Tour playing privliges in 2009. Hoffman was also very big in giving Lunde the final boost of confidence he needed to get back into golf.

"When I did go (back) to play I asked Charley what he thought about it and he goes, 'Well, it was never a question of talent, just whether you wanted to do it or not,'" says Lunde. "Just him being out there on the PGA TOUR and being around, he didn't think I was crazy.

"I've always known my downfall was my attitude and being too hard on myself, and everyone that knows me can tell you the same thing; there's no mystery. I wouldn't try to argue with anyone about it. But knowing it and not letting it affect you or doing the opposite is hard. I think just being away somehow things clicked a little better and now I have a better attitude about golf."

Lunde played on the Nationwide Tour in 2004 and 2005, earning more than $150,000 combined but didn't break through to the big tour. In 2007, Lunde played in the FRYS.com Open, the event that just a year earlier he was selling sponsorships for, and finished in a tie for 44th. He earned the spot in the tournament through his success on the Harmon Tour. 

Now Lunde is back and happy, and who knows where this story will end. But our guess is with Lunde holding a championship trophy and living the PGA Tour dream.

 

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