Las Vegas, Nevada (August 15, 2012)–In nearly every sport, home field or court advantage is a big deal. Who knows the real reasons why, but crowd support is probably a key factor in the benefits provided to the home team. But what about golf? Does playing in the hometown provide a true advantage? If you ask Kevin Na, a Las Vegas Golf Region resident who won the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last year, the answer is a resounding yes. —By Brian Hurlburt, follow @LVGolfInsider for more Vegas PGA Tour news. Photo courtesy Las Vegas News Bureau.
And Na can give specific examples from moments in the tournament last year when his playing the course for two weeks straight prior to the tournament proved fruitful. Na, along with former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, Tournament Director Adam Sperling and Shriners Hospitals Golf Committee Chairman Raoul Frevel, was in attendance at the annual JT Shriners Open media day. Na reminisced about his victory in 2011, which included birdies on 16 and 17 in the final round.
"If you know the golf course, you know exactly what it is going to do all of the time," said Na, who moved to Las Vegas four years ago and lives three minutes from the host course, TPC Summerlin. "So when you play a hole, you just feel comfortable that you can hit your shot. And when you get on the green, you know the putt. And you know it’s going to turn one way, or you know exactly what a putt is going to do. Or you know it’s going to turn more than you think. And you may make a 10 footer that the other guys might miss. And it isn’t just one shot; it’s a momentum switch. Like on 17 last year I had a putt from close to the middle of the green and the pin was back left. I know the putt is right to left at the start but at the end it actually goes away from the water and goes right. I knew exactly what that putt was going to do; I know it was 40 feet, but I knew exactly what it was going to do. Right when I hit it, it was online and, sure enough, at the end it moved pretty hard to the right and went in the hole. And that was my winning putt. Just knowing the greens can save you a shot a round and that can make all the difference."
Na is just one of many Tour pros who have strong ties to Las Vegas golf courses, but with his win he became the first to win the hometown tournament. Na says he is good friends with many of the local pros, including recent PGA Tour winner Scott Piercy. They exchange good natured jabs via text, and Na was quick to jokingly point out last year that he now owns the bragging rights of the local pros.
In other news during the press conference, it was announced that Casey Martin was awarded a sponsors exemption because of his golf ability and how he has overcome his disability. That perseverance is directly in line with the mission and philosophy of the Shrine International. Also, five local heroes were announced as part of the Shift4 Who's Your Hero campaign. Each will be honored during the week of the Shriners event. Stick close to GolfLasVegasNow.com for more details about these stories.
The 2012 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open is the ongoing commitment between Timberlake and Shriners Hospitals for Children® to continue the tradition of a PGA TOUR event in Las Vegas. The collaboration between Shriners Hospitals for Children® as Title Sponsor and Host, along with Celebrity Host Justin Timberlake, creates a truly unique and world-class event for players and fans alike. A variety of well-known golfers will participate in the competition and help support the mission of Shriners Hospitals for Children®, while enjoying the signature flair that Las Vegas has to offer. The 2012 tournament is October 1– 7, 2012 at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas. Join the Celebration as we mark 30 years of PGA TOUR Golf in Las Vegas and 90 years of care from Shriners Hospitals for Children.