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UNLV golfer enjoys time at LPGA tournament: ‘I just had so much fun’

McKenzi Hall had a lot of takeaways from her first LPGA tournament experience. The gratitude she felt at Shadow Creek last week and the pure joy of playing with her idols are things she will carry with her forever.

Hall, a Las Vegas native and a member of the UNLV women’s golf team, was given a sponsor exemption into the T-Mobile Match Play. Her rounds of 83-86 are not what she hoped for, but she wasn’t alone in struggling on one of the most difficult courses in Las Vegas during some brutal conditions.

“For how poorly I played, I just had so much fun playing,” Hall said. “It was definitely the most mentally draining rounds I’ve ever had, but I honestly just had a really good time and tried to enjoy every moment.”

Hall found herself on the driving range next to golfers like Nelly Korda, Brooke Henderson, Minjee Lee and other world-class players.

“(Wednesday) I was so nervous,” Hall said. “These are people that I look up to. To be in the same field as them was definitely nerve wracking, but it was super cool to have this experience.”

Officials at MGM Resorts wanted to give one of their two sponsor exemptions to a local player. They chose Hall in part because she earned her first collegiate win in September at the Dick Maguire Invitational. The second exemption went to veteran Brittany Lincicome, who has been on tour as long as Hall has been alive. Lincicome said she hoped Hall would take in the experience and just have fun.

“Whether you play good or bad, whatever, there are just so many positives you can take away,” Lincicome said. “Teeing it up at an LPGA event I think is a pretty cool achievement at any level. Take it for what it is. It’s a hard golf course. Just have fun.”

Hard was an understatement for Shadow Creek last week. There were more rounds in the 80s (36) than rounds under par (34) thanks to swirling winds, changing conditions and a difficult layout.

“It’s a tough golf course, so I wasn’t going to be too hard on myself,” Hall said. “I of course wish I would have played better, but I had a really good time.”

She shared the experience with friends, family and UNLV teammates and coaches who followed her every move on the course. That included her dad, Ken, who served as her caddie for the week.

Ken Hall said he felt nothing but pride walking the course with his daughter and watching her soak in the experience. McKenzi Hall felt the same.

“Overall the experience was just so great,” she said. “For this being my first pro event, having my dad on the bag and it’s an event in Las Vegas, it was just super cool.”

Chip shots

*UNLV senior Yuki Moriyama was named Mountain West men’s golfer of the week for the second time this season Thursday following his victory at the Wyoming Cowboy Classic. He tied the fifth-lowest tournament score in school history with a career-low 17-under 199, including a career-best 8-under 64 in the final round.

*The Masters field this week has a small number of Las Vegas golfers compared to recent years. Kurt Kitayama, Min Woo Lee and Collin Morikawa are among the 89 players competing, as well as UNLV alum Adam Scott.

*Tracy Shepherd beat Cliff Jacobson 1 up to win the Legacy men’s club match play championship. Jeff Brickner topped Matt Piccolo in the consolation match final.

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. Reach him at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.

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