Las Vegas, Nevada (April 20, 2010)–Those Vegas boys can play. At least that's what World Golf Hall of Fame member Jackie Burke, Jr. has been saying for a lot of years. Recently, Las Vegas Golf Region residents Brady Exber and Kevin Marsh earned their second-straight Champions Cup Invitational title, which was played over four rounds at Jimmy Demaret and Burke's Champions Golf Club in Houston, where there are reportedly hundreds of single-digit handicap members.–By Brian Hurlburt.
"I have been very fortunate to play and win a lot of tournaments, but the Champions Cup is very special for me and the Champions Club is a special place," says Marsh, who moved to Las Vegas in January of 2000 and has teamed with Exber four times in Houston. "I have a lot of friends in that area, and it is always wonderful to spend time with Mr. Burke. Guys like that who have a passion for amateur golf don't exist anymore, and he respects those of us who play the game for the love of it. He sees how much Brady and I love the game, and I think that is a big reason why he spends so much time with us." Marsh and Exber enjoyed breakfasts and lunches with Burke, and also spent a lot of time on the putting green with the colorful golf legend. Marsh plays a lot at Las Vegas golf course DragonRidge Country Club, while Exber plays and practices at TPC Summerlin, site of the PGA Tour's Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. The Las Vegas Golf Region is the home to top amateurs, more than 30 tour pros who have strong ties to Las Vegas golf courses, plus many world class golf courses.
"He built this club for the good players, and you can always find a game, and that makes winning there even more special," says Marsh, who also won the 2005 U.S. Mid-Amateur and earned a spot in the 2006 Masters. "There are about 500 members who are single-digit handicappers, and he has a saying, 'You wouldn't start a yacht club and invite people who don't know how to sail'." Marsh also says that Burke likes to say that the club, which was built in 1957, "Isn't about the Baked Alaska", meaning that golf is first and foremost, not the presentation of the food or working to please a membership worried about the social aspects of the golf experience. Can you play? That's the only question.
Marsh and Exber fired rounds of 65-66-66-68, good for a 19-under par total, and a six-shot victory. The duo were also named co-champions in 2009, but the event was rain-shortened to 36 holes, leaving a feeling of unfinished business for the two. “Last year, it kind of felt like a cheap win,” said Exber, who also serves as the president of the Southern Nevada Golf Association, and is a member of the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame. “This one was validation. I thought we played very well this week. I owe a lot to Kevin. He is a great player.” Marsh also thanked Exber for his play in helping them best a field in the 43rd playing of the tournament.
"It's hard to play that course with no stress, but when you have a player like Brady striping it down the middle every hole, it makes it a lot easier," says Marsh. The victory was the fourth Champions Cup Invitational title for Exber, who also teamed with Las Vegans Frank Acker in 2005, and Jamie Crow in the nineties. Marsh and Exber are scheduled to be back in Texas in May for the Carlton Woods Invitational, to be played at Jack Nicklaus' The Club at the Woodlands, Texas. Marsh won the event in 2009, beating Exber by five shots. They can only be teammates for so long. Brian Hurlburt is the Founding Editor of GolfLasVegasNow.com, Your Link to Las Vegas Golf. Photo courtesy Kevin Marsh.