September 16, 2009–Many pieces are in place for Las Vegas' PGA Tour event to be viewed as a can't miss Las Vegas happening. Justin Timberlake, one of the biggest stars in the world, is the celebrity host of this Las Vegas golf event. The Shriners, one of the world's largest charities, is in full support. The tournament takes place at Las Vegas golf course TPC Summerlin, a very fan-friendly layout. And the tournament has a history of big winners including Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Greg Norman, and many others. The one piece missing is that the event takes place during the PGA Tour Fall Series, not the FedEx Cup. But a good field is still expected and currently eight of the 30 golfers playing in the Tour Championship are scheduled to be here for the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open October 15-18, with more expected to commit.
Tournament hosts and officials would love to be included in the FedEx Cup, but are still looking ahead to a successful event in October. "I hope we can get in the FedEx Cup,” says Timberlake, who spoke to the Las Vegas media from New York via a webcam. “I’m still pretty vocal about that.” As are others, but the question is if that will ever happen. Nobody knows is probably the right answer, but what is known is that this PGA Tour event is important to the Las Vegas golf community, no matter who steps to the tee and swings it during the perfect weather of October.
The 2009 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open marks the 27th-straight year that a PGA Tour event has been played in Las Vegas. Over the years, the event has been called several different names, most notably the Las Vegas Invitational, but last year both Timberlake and the Shriners entered into a 5-year deal to support the Las Vegas event. A celebrity pro-am was created, and the Wednesday event is back for 2009. Confirmed celebrities scheduled to play in 2009 are Smokey Robinson, Natalie Gulbis, Kenny G, and poker star Phil Hellmuth.
New tournament director Adam Sperling has taken over the reigns of the Las Vegas PGA Tour event, and is working to create consistency and new excitement. And there is plenty to be excited about as the tournament nears. Besides some established names playing here (Kenny Perry and Hunter Mahan in addition to Las Vegas golfers Nick Watney, Charley Hoffman and Chris Riley plus defending champion Marc Turnesa, among others), two potential huge stars have committed to play in Las Vegas. Oklahoma State sensation Rickie Fowler, who Sperling says has plans to move to Las Vegas, is playing here as is Kyle Stanley, another former amateur standout.
Fowler is currently the top-ranked amateur in the world and was the 2008 College Player of the Year as a freshman. And over the weekend he helped lead the United States to its third-straight victory in the Walker Cup. Fowler is scheduled to make his professional debut at the Nationwide Tour's Albertsons Open In Boise, Idaho, this week. Stanley was an All-American at Clemson where he was the 2009 Ben Hogan College Player of the Year. In his first appearance as a professional on the PGA Tour, Stanley finished in a tie for 19th at the Travelers Championship and earned $75,300. He made three of his first four cuts, earning a little more than $100,000.
Timberlake, who says he is "crazy excited" about year two of his event, will once again be hosting his annual Justin Timberlake and Friends concert, where this year such stars as TLC, Ciara, Timberlake, Taylor Swift, with other surprise performers, will hit the Mandalay Bay stage. In 2008, Timberlake rocked about a 3-hour concert with 50 Cent, the Jonas Brothers, Lionel Richie, and Rihanna, among others. Timberlake was asked how the this year's concert could be even better than the 2008 performance. "One way we will top last year is that Taylor Swift will be performing, and nobody will come on stage to interrupt her!" said Timberlake, referring to Kanye West jumping on stage during Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV Video Awards. The comment drew laughter from the media conference attendees.
Other events surrounding the tournament include a junior clinic conducted by Butch Harmon, Timberlake, and various other pros and celebrities that will take place on Sunday at TPC Summerlin; a special ladies outing featuring Gulbis, a Las Vegas resident and LPGA Tour superstar; and a special event featuring Team Smile, where 150 under-served Las Vegas youth will receive free dental work in addition to a golf clinic organized by The First Tee of Southern Nevada. Also, Rich Beem will be giving a clinic to the military at Nellis Air Force Base on Wednesday. And "The Hill", a popular spot for tournament viewing, will be back and feature food, drink, and dozens of televisions airing the sporting events that are on during tournament play. Last year, Fred Couples and Greg Maddux were among those involved with the junior clinic.
And, not to be forgotten, the tournament supports the worthwhile work that is done by the Shriners Hosptals for Children. Shriners Hospitals for Children is a one-of-a-kind international health care system of 22 hospitals dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing pediatric specialty care, innovative medical research and outstanding teaching programs. Children up to age 18 with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate are eligible for care and receive all services at no charge – regardless of financial need.
"I am excited to come back here and obviously this is a special place for me," says Turnesa, whose victory last year is his lone PGA Tour win. And here's hoping the golf fans of Las Vegas are as excited and flock to TPC Summerlin for the golf and fun.