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Baron, Kelly to be inducted in Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame

Charlie Baron has fond memories of running the local PGA Tour stop but doesn’t miss the stress that went along with the job.

Baron, 65, helped the event now known as the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open establish roots and served as tournament director for 22 years.

For his contributions to local golf, Baron will be inducted into the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame along with longtime club professional Joe Kelly in a ceremony tonight at the Palms.

“We spent 22 years trying to build something special in Las Vegas for the community,” Baron said. “What I’m most proud of is we were able to help so many local charities, help make Las Vegas a golf tourist destination and really help give the community a big-time sporting event.”

The tournament tees off Wednesday at TPC Summerlin with the pro-am round.

Baron now lives in Massachusetts and does fundraising and some basketball coaching at the Marianapolis Preparatory School in Thompson, Conn.

He said he never viewed his position as tournament director as a job.

“It was a special time in my life,” he said. “I met so many great people, and we were all sharing the same goal: to make sure Las Vegas had a golf tournament it could be proud of.”

He recalled the exposure that Las Vegas gained when ESPN televised what was then a 90-hole event played at three courses.

“It was unbelievable,” Baron said. “To be on ESPN all week back then was big. It really put Las Vegas on the map for golf.”

Kelly first came to Las Vegas in 1978 to work for Dave Johnson at the old Desert Inn Country Club. He has seen golf’s explosive growth in town through the 1980s and ’90s as well as the recent slump the past few years as tourism numbers have dropped.

“We’ve still got a lot to offer,” both for locals and tourists,” Kelly said. “We’ve got a great junior golf program that gets kids started in the sport at a young age and gives them skills they’ll use their entire lives, not just when they’re playing.”

Kelly, 59, is president of First Tee of Southern Nevada, which is part of an international program that introduces golf to boys and girls ages 6 to 17.

Kelly began playing at age 10 while growing up in Brigham City, Utah. By 12, he was working at the local golf course and had decided to make teaching the game his career.

“I’ve been very blessed,” said Kelly, the director of golf at Sun City Summerlin. “To spend so many wonderful years here in Las Vegas and to work for great people like Dave Johnson, Jim Colbert and Bill Walters, they gave me the opportunity to do what I love.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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