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A.J. McInerney ready to ‘play for Las Vegas’ at Shriners Open

Updated October 31, 2017 - 4:03 pm

Most of the focus on former UNLV golfer A.J. McInerney receiving a sponsor’s exemption into this week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open has been about him being a survivor of the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting on Oct. 1.

What has been somewhat overlooked is that this is McInerney’s first-ever PGA Tour event.

“To have this opportunity this week in my hometown where I was born and raised is something I have been looking forward to since I was 15 or 16 years old,” McInerney said. “In the midst of everything that has happened over the last month or so, to get the chance to play for Las Vegas and to see all of these people in the community come together (is special). This week will be something I never forget.

“I played a full season on the Web.com Tour last year, but didn’t finish in the top 25 (to advance). This is my first PGA Tour event, ever, and to play it in my hometown, first off, is amazing. Having a good finish this week would be great for my career. Playing well on the PGA Tour only does good things, but I’m still going to be at second stage of Q School for sure, which starts Tuesday in McKinney, Texas. Unless I would get a win here this week and a two-year exemption and become a member of the PGA Tour, I need to go to second stage. Even with a top 10 I’d still go to second stage.”

McInerney, who has a history of back injuries, said he is healthy entering the week and his “game is good.”

Monday, Monday

Former UNLV golfer Andres Gonzales was one of four players to get into the tournament through the Monday qualifier held at Boulder Creek Golf Club. Gonzales and Jim Knous shot 7-under par to tie for third.

Gonzales was exempt on the PGA Tour last season, but earned $422,078 to finish 158th on the money list and lose his status. Gonzales missed the Shriners cut last year.

Also qualifying was Tom Whitney, who was the low finisher with 9-under 63. Whitney attended the U.S. Air Force Academy from 2006-09 and was on active duty through May 2014. In 2015, he won the Nevada Open that was played in Mesquite at Casablanca Golf Club and Palms Golf Club.

The other qualifier was Ryan Hogue, who shot 8-under 64.

Former PGA Tour winners who played in the Monday qualifier but didn’t advance included Tommy Gainey, Spencer Levin and Mike Weir, the 2013 Masters champion.

Brotherly love

In the pre-qualifying events played last week at Boulder Creek to secure a spot in the Monday qualifier, Van Thomas shot 68 in the morning round and then grabbed the bag of his older brother, Zane, and caddied for him. Zane shot 67 and also moved to Monday.

Zane graduated from Arbor View High in 2012 before playing at UNLV while Van graduated in 2016 and then played for Odessa Junior College. Neither Thomas brother advanced to the Shriners.

More Monday madness

Former Alabama golfer Scott Strohmeyer qualified for last week’s Sanderson Farms Championship by surviving both the pre-qualifier and Monday qualifier. He made the most of it by finishing tied for fourth to earn a spot this week.

Outside looking in

Former UNLV golfer and Las Vegas resident Bill Lunde entered the week as the seventh alternate.

Stars on, off course

Among the PGA Tour players supporting the Charley Hoffman Foundation Pro-Am Monday at TPC Summerlin were Vijay Singh, Chad Campbell, Alex Cejka, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel, Bryson DeChambeau and Nick Watney. Among the amateurs were Las Vegas residents Kenny Ebalo, Edward Fryatt, Kevin Marsh, George and BJ Balaban, Tyler Mays and Brad Creel.

The golf notebook regularly appears each Thursday but will run each day through Monday this week during the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt is a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. He can be reached at bhurlburt5@gmail.com or @LVGolfInsider.

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