New book describes history of professional golf in Las Vegas
November 18, 2012 - 2:03 am
The historical tidbits surely are known already to Southern Nevadans who have an ardent love of golf.
That Las Vegas has hosted more than 100 pro golf events. That Jack Nicklaus won six championships here and Arnold Palmer three. That Tiger Woods racked up his first PGA Tour win right here in Las Vegas.
But Southern Nevadans who wouldn’t know a fairway from a flibbertigibbet also will enjoy immersing themselves in “City of Champions: The History of Professional Golf in Las Vegas” (Stephens Press, part of Stephens Media, which also owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal, $39.95).
That’s because the coffee table book-sized volume includes plenty of archival photos, interviews and stories that review the development of 20th century Las Vegas through the atypical filter of golf and the growth of the sport here.
“City of Champions” was written by Jack Sheehan and Brian Hurlburt, veteran Las Vegas journalists and golf writers. Sheehan – who has played competitive golf since he was a kid and attended college on a golf scholarship – recalls arriving in Las Vegas in January 1976 and immediately becoming smitten with the 320 or so days of golf-friendly weather experienced here.
At the same time, “I was also disappointed when I got here because there were so few golf courses,” he says. “And, of course, that has changed dramatically over the last 25 years, because now there are dozens.”
In tourism ads from as recently as the late ’70s and ’80s, “you’d see people rolling dice and going to shows and boating at Lake Mead, but you didn’t see golf,” Sheehan adds. “Now, in nearly every national ad campaign that comes out for Las Vegas, somewhere you see golf.”
However, resort owners did realize that golf courses and golf tournaments – the Tournament of Champions and Sahara Invitational, for example – could serve as tools for promoting Las Vegas.
“When Moe Dalitz started the Tournament of Champions (at the Desert Inn) in 1953, he built the golf course basically as a come-on, an enticement, to bring men to his hotel,” Sheehan says.
The Tournament of Champions – which was televised nationally for 12 of the 16 years that it was played here – attracted Hollywood stars, was overseen by glamorous tournament queens, and created a general vibe of fun and sexiness for the rest of the world to envy.
“You’d see all these actresses – Stella Stevens, Lynda Carter, Barbara Parkins – who would come over from L.A. and wear tight sweaters and short shorts. It made it look like people were playing golf all day and partying all night with these gorgeous gals.”
“City of Champions” surveys the history of pro golf in Las Vegas from those Tournament of Champions years to subsequent iterations of Professional Golfers’ Association of America events. Sheehan notes that this year marks the PGA’s 30th anniversary in Las Vegas.
Sheehan says the book is intended, in part, to pay tribute to “the guys who kept the pro tour in Las Vegas for years, this group called the Las Vegas Founders Club.”
“They were longtime entrepreneurs, Las Vegas businesspeople who were household names in Las Vegas – Cashman, Wiesner, Chuck Ruthe,” Sheehan says, all of whom “recognized 30 years ago that the PGA Tour should be in Las Vegas at least once a year. And it’s been kind of a miracle that the tour has stayed here without interruption for 30 years, because there’s been all sorts of sponsorship changes.”
“City of Champions” also recalls the days when the Ladies Professional Golf Association held tournaments in Las Vegas. And while the focus is primarily on professional golf, the book also takes a look at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ golf team’s success under coach Dwaine Knight, high school and junior golf here, and some of Las Vegas’ golf luminaries.
Las Vegas has become home base for several pro golfers, thanks to its year-around golf-friendly weather, the wealth of courses here and the presence of “instructors like Butch Harmon, who is considered one of the two or three best instructors in the world,” Sheehan says.
Sheehan agrees that local history buffs who aren’t even interested in golf will enjoy the book.
“When you see pictures of the Desert Inn golf course that first year, there are about five trees on it,” he says. “Looking through the book is – forget golf – kind of a pictorial history of Las Vegas.”
Among other recently published books that were written by local authors or which involve local themes are a collection of thematically connected short stories from P Moss, Oksana Marafioti’s memoir of growing up in the Gypsy culture, and a novel in verse by New York Times best-selling young adult author Ellen Hopkins.
PARTIAL LISTING OF SOME RECENT SOUTHERN NEVADA-CENTRIC BOOKS:
“American Gypsy” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16) is Las Vegan Oksana Marafioti’s memoir of growing up Gypsy in both the Soviet Union and the United States.
“Battleborn” (Riverhead Hardcover, $25.95) is Pahrump native Claire Vaye Watkins’ collection of short stories with a distinct Western, distinct Silver State flavor.
“Becoming Bobby” (available Dec. 15 from Vegas Lit, $11.95) by Michael Konik is a satirical novel about a working guy who suddenly becomes a high roller.
“The Blackjack Life: A Journey Through the Inner World of Card Counting, the Lessons of Teamwork and the Clandestine Pursuit of Beating the Odds” (Huntington Press, $15.95) is Nathaniel Tilton’s firsthand account of the life of a world-class blackjack player.
“C.C.: Blue Life” by William G. Walsh Sr. (AuthorHouse, $24.59) is a love story set in the world of a New York City zoo, with a bit of time travel included.
“Chasing Kelvin” (Speaking Volumes, $14.95) is the latest installment of Thom Reese’s adventure series about a husband-and-wife rescue and recovery team.
“Chasing Spirits: The Building of the ‘Ghost Adventures’ Crew” (New American Library, $16), by Las Vegas resident Nick Groff, host of Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures,” offers Groff’s tales of adventures in paranormal neighborhoods.
“Components of Murder” by Robert M. Cawley (CopTales, $15.95) is a thriller, based on a true story, about an investigative reporter trying to unravel a murder.
“The Flamer” (Aqueous Books, $14), one-time R-J intern Ben Rogers’ debut novel is a witty, Nevada-based coming-of-age story about an adolescent pyromaniac.
“Give Yourself Permission to Live a Big Life” (Office Dynamics, $24.99) is a memoir in which Joan Burge offers advice and encouragement to women.
“A Heart So Broken” (Rebel Girl Publishing, $12.95) is Christene Houston’s young adult novel about a girl who, after losing a military parent, must deal with the grief that follows.
“Hooked Up: A New Generation’s Surprising Take on Sex, Politics and Saving the World” (York House Press, $24.95) by Jack Myers explores attitudes of college students born 1991-1995 and finds cause for optimism.
“If I Told You So” (Kensington, $15) is Timothy Woodward’s coming-of-age novel about a teenager’s journey of self-discovery – including his attraction to another guy – over the course of a summer.
“An Investor’s Memoir: Lessons Learned from Sixty Years in the Stock Market Without One Day on the Sidelines!” (Aventine Press, $12.50) by former UNLV professor and president Leonard E. Goodall offers Goodall’s lessons and strategies for investing.
“Lifeblood” (Fithian Press, $16.95) by Ann Funk is a historical novel about a young woman who journeys from Iowa to the frontier of Northern Nevada and becomes a doctor.
“Made: Sex, Drugs and Murder, the Recipe for Success” (VIP Ink Publishing Group, $20.86) by Antwan Bank$ is a crime novel about a former military vet set in Las Vegas.
“The Methuselah Man” (CreateSpace, $12.95) is the latest, set-partly-in-Las Vegas installment in Will Dresser’s series of Wes Franklin international thrillers.
“My Mind is an Open Mouth: A Life Behind the Mic” by Cork Proctor with Carolyn V. Hamilton (LifeStories, $19.95) is a memoir by the veteran stand-up comic that includes five decades’ worth of tales about Las Vegas life on and offstage.
“The Order of the Illuminated Knights” (CreateSpace, $10.99) is the first volume in Brian Bresee’s new fantasy series.
“Professor Darling” (Xlibris, $19.99) is the second in Walter John Trowbridge’s series of romantic mystery novels.
“Risk of Ruin” by Arnold Snyder (Vegas Lit, $11.95) is the Las Vegas gaming writer’s social satire about a professional gambler/biker/tattoo artist, a stripper and, well, God.
“Split Seconds: Four Decades of News Photography from the Pacific Northwest and Beyond” (Raleigh Press, $19.95) is a collection of four decades’ worth of images – among them, Jimi Hendrix’s funeral and Elizabeth Taylor’s 75th birthday party in Las Vegas – captured by former Associated Press photojournalist Barry Sweet.
“Sun, Sin & Suburbia: The History of Modern Las Vegas Revised and Expanded” (Stephens Press, $19.95) is former Las Vegan Geoff Schumacher’s update of his 2004 book about the development of Las Vegas, expanded to include the more recent, less boomtowny, recession years.
“The Smith Center for the Performing Arts: A Dream in the Desert” (available Dec. 1 from Stephens Press, $39.95) by Kurt Divich is the photo-packed story of Las Vegas’ world-class performing arts center from its conception through its star-studded opening earlier this year.
“Triangle” (Atria Books, $15) is New York Times best-selling young adult author Ellen Hopkins’ first adult novel, about the struggles, connections and disconnections a trio of women experience in midlife and told in verse.
“Vegas Knockout: A Novel in Stories” (CityLife Books, $14.95) by Las Vegas author/musician/ranconteur/tavern proprietor P Moss, tells the stories of a diverse cast of characters whose lives intertwine in one way or another with an upcoming Las Vegas prize fight.
“Who’s Got the Money” by Meredith Holland and Morgan St. James (Oak Tree Press, $14.95) is a comic crime caper that revolves around prison factories that manufacture furniture for sale to the public.
“Wish You Were Here: Stories and Essays Inspired by Fabulous Las Vegas Postcards” (CityLife Books, $14.95) features the work of several Las Vegas writers who have crafted literary tales, real or imagined, around images found on retro Las Vegas postcards.
“Witnessing Conversations with Heaven: A True Story of Love from the Afterlife” (Balboa Press, $39.95) by Susan H. Kastner tells of a real-life story of a woman who passed away and the messages from her that her loved ones still receive.
“Writer’s Bloc IV” (Mystic Publishers, $18.99) is a best-of anthology of work by the nonprofit Henderson Writers’ Group.
Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280.