September 10, 2009–There's always plenty going on and around Las Vegas golf courses. And right now, some Las Vegas golf courses are closing for overseed while others are re-opening. Among the Las Vegas golf courses back open as of Sept 11 are Rio Secco Golf Club, Cascata, and Las Vegas National Golf Club, while Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort never closed. But off the courses, the Las Vegas golf news is highlighted by former Las Vegas resident Tommy Armour III, who recently told Las Vegas golf writer Jack Sheehan that he'll be playing in Las Vegas' PGA Tour event, the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, but the biggest event around that time could be his 50th birthday bash that will take place in Las Vegas.
The Timberlake Open takes place October 15-18 at Las Vegas golf course TPC Summerlin, and defending champion Marc Turnesa is ready to defend his title. Armour's official 50th b-day is October 8, but Sheehan, who has co-authored two books with PGA Tour and Champions Tour star Peter Jacobsen, says that his friend Armour is ready to let loose in Las Vegas to celebrate the age milestone that will make him eligible for the Champions Tour. Armour III grew up in the Las Vegas area, playing such Las Vegas golf courses as the old Desert Inn Country Club. He is known for his flamboyant lifestyle and being the life of the party.
"He is still working hard on strengthening his back, and is undecided at what kind of schedule he's going to play next year, but he's definitely playing Vegas–where he'll celebrate his 50th birthday in grand style here on Oct. 8," says Sheehan, alluding to Armour's back injury suffered when he slipped and hurt his back in Memphis during sectional qualifying for the US Open. He was 8-under par through 32 holes and was four shots clear of qualifying when he had to withdraw. "But he probably won't make any appearances on Champions Tour until 2010. He should have a medical exemption for about six months into 2010 on the regular Tour, in the event he doesn't jump back into the top 125. Another note is that he still has the second lowest ever Vegas round, with a 60 in 1999 during the Las Vegas Invitational." Editor's note: Chip Beck fired a 59 during the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational.
Armour III is one of more than two dozen professionals on the PGA Tour, Champions Tour, LPGA Tour and Nationwide Tour who have strong ties to Las Vegas golf courses. Among the others are Adam Scott, Charley Hoffman, Nick Watney, Kevin Na, Chris Riley, and Natalie Gulbis. The Las Vegas area is also home to more than 60 Las Vegas golf courses, many designed by the game's biggest names including Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Jack Nicklaus and many others. Click now for direct access to the official websites of Las Vegas' golf courses.
"Before I had back surgery (in June), I didn't plan on playing the senior tour next year because with the groove change you'll have to control your ball more, and I'm pretty good at that," Armour III recently told Golf Magazine. "I still love the PGA Tour. When I watch the senior tour, it doesn't look like there are a lot of fans. That's not to say you'd go out there and win every time. It's competitive. Anywhere they play for money — the senior tour, the LPGA, the Nationwide Tour — it's competitive. I need to see after this injury how it's going to be. Whatever happens, I'll continue to play golf because I love it."
Sheehan also mentioned that Armour III is in discussions to be a part of a golf television show based in Las Vegas. Another big name potentially associated with the project is Joe Buck, and Sheehan, who has worked for ESPN and USA Network as a commentator, could also be involved. Sheehan and Armour III are longtime friends. Last year, Armour III was inducted into the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame during a ceremony that took place prior to the Timberlake event. In his entourage celebrating were Janet Jones-Gretzky and PGA Tour star Pat Perez among others. Sheehan was the evening's emcee and is a 2009 inductee.
In other Justin Timberlake Open news, tournament organizers have announced that Kyle Stanley has received a sponsor exemption. Stanley turned professional after just three years at Clemson University where he was a three-time NCAA All-American. During his three years at Clemson University, Stanley placed second, seventh and second respectively in each NCAA Championship. He broke more than 18 Clemson records set by former players such as U.S. Open Champions Lucas Glover, Jonathan Byrd and DJ Trahan. Stanley finished second at the NCAA Championship at Inverness, was named First Team All-American, and was honored with the Ben Hogan Award given to the top amateur/college golfer.
He finished his amateur career ranked as the number two amateur in the country and third in the world.Stanley recently qualified for the United States Open for the second consecutive year, earning medalist honors (62-70) at the Columbus Sectional. He recently made his professional debut playing at The Travelers Championship on the PGA TOUR, where he finished in a tie for 19th place shooting rounds of 66-67-70-66. Word is that another big-name college golfer might earn an exemption in the coming weeks.
Elsewhere on the Las Vegas golf scene, both the UNLV men's and women's golf programs kick off the 2009-10 seasons in the coming week. The women are the host school for the new Golfweek Conference Challenge event that is taking place at Tom Fazio's Primm Valley Golf Club. The event tees off Sunday, September 13. The Lady Rebels enter the season ranked 18 in the Golfweek Pre-season poll. UNLV’s ranking is also the third highest in a preseason poll for the program, as the Rebels were ranked No. 14 to begin the 2005 season and No. 16 heading into the 2006 campaign.
The Rebels are heading into their eighth season under head coach Missy Ringler, and she returns one of the most talented teams she has had during her tenure. All five members of last year’s starting lineup return. “I am so excited to see the preseason ranking of 18 for our team,” Ringler said. “We knew coming into this season that we were going to be a very strong team again with everyone one of our starters returning, along with adding a talented freshman in Ellis Keenan. We are excited to start the season this weekend at Primm and are looking to get off to a great start.”
Rebel junior Therese Koelbaek was also named one of Golfweek’s Top-50 Players to Watch, as the two-time honorable mention All-American enters her third season with the program. Already one of the top golfers in program history, Koelbaek put together a strong sophomore season that saw her post six top-10 finishes while her scoring average of 73.24 was second in the Mountain West Conference. During her rookie season she won two events, including sharing medalist honors at the 2008 NCAA West Regional, and she was named the MWC Freshman of the Year.
The men head into the 2009-10 season under head coach Dwaine Knight, also an inductee into the 2009 class of the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame, and new assistant coach Daron Dorsey, a member of the 1998 NCAA Championship team. The team will open this week as it will compete at the William H. Tucker Invitational on Friday and Saturday, September 11-12. The tournament will be held at the University of New Mexico’s Championship Course (par 72, 7,591 yards) in Albuquerque, N.M.
The 54-hole stroke-play tournament will consist of 36 holes on Friday and 18 on Saturday. Scheduled to compete for UNLV this week will be senior Eddie Olson, sophomore Derek Ernst, senior Brett Kanda, sophomore Colby Smith and freshman Kevin Penner. Junior Jeremiah Wooding and freshman Jordan Epstein will be competing as individuals and will not count toward the team's totals.
The 17-team field for the tournament includes Air Force, Arizona, Baylor, BYU, Campbell, Colorado, UNLV, New Mexico, New Mexico State, North Texas, Pepperdine, San Diego State, Texas-San Antonio, Texas A&M, Utah, Wyoming and UTEP. UNLV is the Tucker's defending team champion as it won last year's tournament by 11 shots at 12-under 852. The Rebels entered the final round in 2008 five strokes behind host New Mexico, but turned in a score that was 16 shots better than the Lobos during the round.
Olson tied for first individually at last year's Tucker, finishing at 5-under 211. Ernst tied for fifth last year at 2-under 214, Kanda was tied for 11th at 1-over, and Wooding competed as an individual and finished tied for 52nd at 12-over. Live scoring will be available courtesy of Golfstat with a link found on the schedule page at UNLVRebels.com. UNLV is entering its 23rd season under head coach Dwaine Knight and the squad returns six letterwinners from last season.