Don’t despair if you can’t get a tee time at Shadow Creek, the exclusive golf course in North Las Vegas. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton couldn’t, either, during one trip to town about six years ago.
Once the domain of Steve Wynn’s casino whales, Shadow Creek — which will host the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational from Thursday through Sunday — has been restricted since 2000 to MGM Resorts’ registered guests, who must pay $500 (includes round-trip limo) for the privilege of playing one of the world’s most beautiful golf courses.
Since Clinton wasn’t staying at an MGM Resorts property at the aforementioned time, the former world leader was denied access to Shadow Creek.
“Nobody really knew what to do about it,” Shadow Creek general manager Mark Brenneman said at the recent MJCI media day at the course. “So we went to the Chairman of the Board at the time, (the late) Terry Lanni, and Terry’s not a golfer.
“Terry said, ‘Let’s keep our policy in place.’”
To be clear, Clinton did play Shadow Creek during another visit to Las Vegas. Brenneman was in his group and also has played with former U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
“Each president is different in the way that they play,” Brenneman said. “Both Bushes played very quickly and Clinton didn’t play as quick. And he certainly had his mulligans.
“It’s funny. The first four holes, he was good. Then he flubbed a chip shot on (No.) 5, the par-3, and once he started with the one (mulligan) he just kind of kept going, and nobody’s going to tell the former President of the United States he can’t do something.”
Brenneman has the scorecard from that round in his office. Clinton, listed as a 14-handicap, fired a 91 — along with several one-liners.
“He’s exactly as advertised,” said Brenneman, who shot 68.
George W. Bush is the best golfer of the trio, but Brenneman was most impressed with a self-deprecating comment “W” made as they had coffee together before their round.
“He was in town for a speech and I asked him ‘How do you get around? You’re not like me on Southwest B-17,’” Brenneman said. “He said, ‘Well, when I speak, I put it in the contract that they have to fly me in and out by private plane. And they pay me a lot of money to speak. And, you probably didn’t notice this Mark, but I’m not a very good speaker.’
“That has always stood with me, that he knew he wasn’t.”
The first President Bush keeps his fishing pole above his locker at Shadow Creek, because he’s been known to play nine holes and then go fish in the lake on No. 4.
The Thunderbirds once soared over the 433-yard 15th hole while Bush was playing it. After the third flyover in their missing man formation, Bush snapped off a salute, turned to his group, which included Wynn, and quipped, “Just one of the perks of the job.”
“That was really cool,” Brenneman said. “It just kind of gives you goose bumps when you’re around these guys.”
It’s safe to say our caddie, Kevin, didn’t get goose bumps watching Review-Journal reporter Matt Youmans, Las Vegas Sun reporter Taylor Bern and myself, Rodney Dangerfield Jr., hack our way around the course.
Then again, he might’ve experienced a chill retrieving one of my golf balls from one of the myriad creeks that wind through the lush links.
I kept a running “Al Czervik goes to Shadow Creek” diary of my inaugural round at the course last year and am grateful to report that I played much better this time around.
After failing to record a par my first time there, I parred No. 1 and No. 9 and birdied No. 16 — despite the fact my tee shot clanged off a tractor on the edge of the fairway. Of course, I followed that up by setting the new course record for most shots fired into the lake in front of the picturesque par-3 17th hole.
Youmans was the best golfer in our group, with a 91. Like Ty Webb in “Caddyshack,” Bern didn’t keep score. I shot a Spaulding Smails-esque 101.
While you still need to stay at the right resort to play Shadow Creek, the course will be open to the public for the fourth straight year for the MJCI.
In addition to Jordan, the event is expected to feature Julius Erving, Wayne Gretzky, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr., Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Eric Dickerson, Jonathan Ogden, Aaron Rodgers, Brian Urlacher, Larry Fitzgerald, Jerome Bettis, Marcus Allen, Toni Kukoc, Chris Chelios, Brandi Chastain, Ray Romano, Luke Wilson, Nick Jonas, Bruce Jenner, Brian Baumgartner and many more pro athletes and entertainers.
Ozzie Smith and Vince Coleman will return to defend their two-man scramble title.
Tickets, which cost $30 per day or $100 for a four-day pass, are available at mjcigolf.com.