Kevin Penner is trying to work his way onto the PGA Tour, and the former UNLV star is hoping a good week at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open will help him get there quicker.
Penner received a sponsor’s exemption to play this week at TPC Summerlin, and after playing a few practice holes Tuesday, Penner, who has no tour status, is eager to get going Thursday.
“I’m happy for the opportunity,” he said. “I got off to a good start at Q (PGA Qualifying) School, and I’m playing well right now. I feel like I belong out here, and I want to do more than just make the cut.”
Penner, 22, graduated from UNLV this summer, and he said the transition from college to pro has been relatively smooth.
“I’m a little more relaxed,” he said. “I’m on my own schedule, and I don’t have to worry about going to class or studying. I can focus entirely on what I’ve wanted to do, which is play golf.”
Penner won a pre-qualifying Q School tournament in Palms Springs, Calif., and followed that with a win in the first stage of qualifying in Arizona. The next stage in the Q School process comes Nov. 19 in Murietta, Calif. He returns to Las Vegas a confident player.
“I know the course, and I think I can use that knowledge to my advantage,” he said. “There’s obviously a lot of really good players out here, and in the short time I’ve been playing pro, I’ve learned that every shot is important. Every shot matters. It’s about hitting fairways and greens and making birdies.
“My plan this week is to keep things simple but be aggressive.”
Former UNLV teammate David Flynn will caddie for Penner this week. They have been together since summer.
“David knows me and my game,” Penner said. “We have a great chemistry. He’s also my roommate, so he’s the best person to have on the bag.”
Penner tees off at 1:05 p.m. Thursday in the final group off the No. 1 tee.
■ THEY’RE IN — It took two days of qualifying, but Tim Wilkinson, Chad Collins, Kyle Riefers and Chris Smith grabbed the field’s final four spots. Collins, Wilkinson and Riefers will play together Thursday, teeing off at 12:55 p.m. from the first tee.
■ PRO-AM TODAY — Fifty players are participating in today’s pro-am, which begins at 7 a.m. Defending champion Ryan Moore (8:10) is participating, as are local tour pros Nick Watney (7:10) and Scott Piercy (11:40) and former UNLV star Charley Hoffman (12:10 p.m.).
Other notables include Webb Simpson (7:10 a.m.), Vijay Singh (8:10), Zach Johnson (11:40), David Toms (11:50) and Angel Cabrera (12:30 p.m.)
Admission is $35, and free shuttle service to the course is available from the Suncoast beginning at 6 a.m.
■ ZACH JOHNSON FAVORED — The LVH sports book has made Johnson the tournament betting favorite at 10-1. Watney and Simpson are next at 15-1, and Moore, Graham DeLaet and Hideki Matsuyama are next at 20-1.