July 9, 2009 (UPDATED July 13) –Forgive us if we take a slight liberty in the headline of this story by calling Las Vegas native Craig Barlow a 'PGA Tour pro'. To be exact, in 2009, Barlow, who grew up playing Las Vegas' golf courses, is officially on the Nationwide Tour, but that's only after a decade-long stint on the PGA Tour where he earned more than $4.9 million in career earnings. Injuries led to inconsistent play in 2008, and therefore his first-ever stint on the Nationwide Tour. And in Las Vegas, Barlow is also experiencing new surroundings as he now is playing out of Las Vegas golf courses Cascata and Rio Secco Golf Club, two Rees Jones beauties operated by Harrah's.
Just days after this posting, Barlow took a big step forward in gaining full status on the PGA Tour by finishing in third place in the Ford Wayne Gretzky Nationwide Tour event. The finish put him 21st on the money list. The top 25 advance to the PGA Tour following the season. And Barlow is also playing on a sponsor's exemption in the Canadian Open July 23-26, 2009.
"We're very excited to have a Las Vegas native and long-time tour professional like Craig represent our golf courses," says Eric Dutt, Harrah's VP of Golf Operations, Las Vegas. "He is a first-class representative of our facilities, and we all take pride in having him as part of our team. He is always very outgoing with our staff and guests, and he does a tremendous job of carrying our message as he plays the tour and meets a variety of golfers, many who visit our properties after meeting him." Dutt, who worked for Las Vegas' PGA Tour event many years ago, actually hired Barlow to also work for what was then called the Las Vegas Invitational. Before that, Barlow was a standard bearer for the event while a Las Vegas junior golfer. In addition, Dutt, a member of the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame, also played amateur golf against Barlow, even beating him some of the time.
Cascata is a brilliant Rees Jones design that plays in the hills overlooking the valley of Boulder City. Jones executed a design that created each hole as a private experience. Cascata is a par 72 that plays to 7,137 yards when stretched to the limits (where Barlow plays, by the way), and is crowned by a stunning clubhouse that rivals the best in America. In fact, in the ZAGAT America's Top Golf Courses, Sixth Edition, Cascata earned a rating of 29 out of 30, thus being one of only three golf courses in America to earn such a high rating. Cascata was one of only two courses to earn a 29 out of 30 rating for service. Click now to view the official Cascata website, or to reserve your Las Vegas golf tee times or Las Vegas golf packages. The summer of 2009 could be one of the best times in history to play Cascata because there are special Las Vegas golf deals available with rates starting as low as $250, thus a savings of $250 off the regular rate. For personal service, you can call 1-866-941-7703.
"They really do keep Cascata in A+ conditions that are almost identical to what most tour events are like," says Barlow following a recent practice round at Cascata, and in true public relations form, but speaking his true beliefs. "We're spoiled because we (tour pros) get courses at their best, but I have never played a resort course that is in better shape on a daily basis, and I'm not just saying that. Where Cascata goes a step above is the scenery and serenity of the property; there are no houses; each hole is an individual and unique experience; and it also provides plenty of challenge. Whenever I tee it up at Cascata, I feel at peace with golf."
Before Barlow was an official member, he played the course on occasion, and during one of those rounds, he fired a 10-under par 62 that still stands as the course record. Barlow stepped to the 18th tee at 8-under par, only to eagle the par 5 hole, and finish with another in a long list of course records. That llist includes a 63 at the legendary Cypress Point in California, a record he shares with Mr. Ben Hogan. Barlow fired the round at Cascata on one March morning in 2007, and then watched the UNLV Rebels basketball team advance to the elite 8 of the NCAA basketball tournament that afternoon, making the day even more special for the avid UNLV fan.
"Course records are nice, but I love shooting low rounds," says Barlow, who through his first nine events on the Nationwide Tour had earned about $50,000, good for 55th on the money list (the top 25 earn PGA Tour status for 2010). "I take more pride in going low than I do in setting a course record. A dream day is to shoot a real low round, and anytime you do that, you get the adrenalin rush that you crave." Barlow spends most of his time playing at Cascata, but also enjoys playing Rio Secco Golf Club on occasion.
Rio Secco Golf Club is also 18 Las Vegas golf holes designed by Rees Jones. The course plays in the hills overlooking the Las Vegas valley and features holes that play over, around and through the plateaus and native desert land. Rio Secco Golf Club is home to the world-famous and beautiful T-Mates (female caddies) in addition to the Butch Harmon School of Golf. The Harmon school is open to all, but is where many of the world's best golfers (Mickelson, Scott, Gulbis, etc.) fine tune their games with Harmon and his staff. Click now for the official website of Rio Secco Golf Club and to reserve your Las Vegas golf deals and Las Vegas golf tee times at Rio Secco. Current summer rates at Rio Secco Golf Club start at just $60.
Overall, there are no fewer than 29 tour professionals who have deep ties to Las Vegas' golf courses including Tommy Armour III, Robert Gamez, Natalie Gulbis, Nick Watney, Adam Scott, Inbee Park, Chris Riley, Chad Campbell, Charley Hoffman, Kevin Na, Dean Wilson, and many others. The area is also home to the PGA Tour's Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and the Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge, a made-for-TV event that is played at Rio Secco. Three-player teams from the LPGA Tour, PGA Tour and Champions Tour play against each other for cash, bragging rights and to benefit the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.