February 17, 2009–Through the very early part of the 2009 PGA Tour season, Las Vegas golfers have made a huge impact on the outcomes of several tournaments and are heavily represented on the official money list. In total, and through today, 10 golfers with very strong ties to Las Vegas golf courses, have combined to earn $3,810,546, qualify for the PGA Tour after playing charity scrambles (Bill Lunde, 2006, pictured), win one tournament (Nick Watney, Buick Invitational), and lose another in a playoff (Charley Hoffman, FBR Open). And both Watney (5th) and Hoffman (7th) stand firmly in the top 10 on the money list.
Watney and Hoffman both live in the Las Vegas area and fine tune their swings at the Butch Harmon School of Golf located at Rio Secco Golf Club, a public, resort Rees Jones design. Watney has earned $1,157,836 while Hoffman is at $961,883. The other Las Vegas golfers who have scored cash on the PGA Tour this year include residents Scott Piercy ($341,891, 24th), Bill Lunde ($284,188), Dean Wilson ($101,245, 86th), and Alex Cejka ($34,057) in addition to former UNLV golfers who no longer live here Adam Scott ($552,867, 16th); Ryan Moore ($194,250, 51st), Chad Campbell ($163,000, 60th) and James Oh ($19329, 157th).
Plus there are several other Tour pros with strong ties to Las Vegas playing the PGA Tour this season who haven't made a cut yet but could become a factor on the list soon. That list of players includes Robert Gamez, Tommy Armour III, Chris Riley, Craig Barlow and Bob May. In addition to the high level of pros who have ties to Las Vegas, there are more than 60 golf courses in the extended Las Vegas golf region. The featured Las Vegas golf course for this article is Bear's Best Las Vegas, a course that features 18 holes from different courses designed by Jack Nicklaus. The Golden Bear hand-picked his favorite holes and then he and his team laid them out very nicely over the Las Vegas desert. Bear's Best Las Vegas is a public, resort Las Vegas golf course operated by ClubCorp of America. Click now for complete information and/or Las Vegas golf tee times at Bear's Best Las Vegas.
Jack Sheehan, a respected Las Vegas golf author and personality, has watched as the Las Vegas golf community grew into the what it is today. "Las Vegas has gone in the last 30 years from being a place with great weather and very little in the way of golf courses or opportunities, to a place where a five-star golfer would like to settle his soft spikes permanently," says Sheehan, the author of two books with Tour star Peter Jacobsen. "With 50 good-to-great courses in the area, 300 days of sunshine annually, and some of the best instructors in the world calling Las Vegas home, it's no wonder more than a dozen world-class golfers now reside here. And no place on earth has more legitimate '19th holes' than Las Vegas."
Our favorite Las Vegas golfer story heading into the 2009 PGA Tour season is that of Bill Lunde, the current resident and member of the 2008 NCAA Championship team at UNLV. Lunde quit golf and sold sponsorships to the Las Vegas PGA Tour event before getting back into the game and winning on the Nationwide Tour in 2008 and securing his PGA Tour status for 2009. He had a long journey to get back to living his dream. During his time away from the game he got a real job and fixed his golf habit by playing in several charity scramble events as an everyday golfer.
"After the '05 season I didn't have a great year on the Nationwide," remembers Lunde, who plays and practices at TPC Las Vegas, a PGA Tour-owned Las Vegas golf course. "I kind of half-heartedly went to Q-school, kind of (thinking) whatever happens, happens, not too worried about it. I told myself if I didn't get through Q-school I was done playing golf. I wasn't enjoying any aspect of it, whether it was practicing at home, travel, any aspect of being a professional golfer. So I went to work for the Las Vegas Founders, the group that ran the PGA event in Vegas, and I did some sales and marketing for them. I was there for like 10 months, then kind of got a job working for a title company doing kind of sales and marketing on the commercial side of that business, which was kind of a good step in the corporate world, so to speak, another new job. Then the market kind of started to tank, as we all know, and I was kind of out of a job, so I had to figure out something else to do.
"I talked to family and friends and decided to play golf again. There was a mini-Tour in Las Vegas called the Butch Harmon Tour. I decided to play that for the summer. It was about three or four months long. It gave me a chance to stay at home, play a little golf and see if I was going to enjoy it again. It kind of gave me a new perspective obviously coming from working and with no job experience, and I've got a college degree. Thankfully I have that. Trying to find a job, it's a pretty eye-opening experience. You don't start at the top, that's for sure. So when I started playing again it gave me a new appreciation for the game, and I just really kind of embrace what we get to do day in and day out now. I'm definitely more thankful for the opportunity to do this for a living, having worked. I wouldn't change it for the world. I think it was a great experience I needed to learn. I definitely took golf for granted before and would beat myself up a lot. Now it's like I know what my alternatives are, and hitting a bad shot, as long as it doesn't hit anybody, I'm okay with it."