Golf returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1904, and two Las Vegas residents will be searching for gold.
Alex Cejka, a German who moved to Las Vegas more than a decade ago, and Inbee Park, a South Korean who spent her formative years in the valley, will represent their native countries Aug. 11 to 14 in Rio de Janeiro.
Park, the LPGA Tour’s third-ranked golfer, withdrew from this week’s Women’s British Open, at which she was the defending champion, to focus on getting healthy for the Olympics. She has been nursing a left thumb injury and has missed several events this season.
“Since the PGA, I’ve been resting and rehabilitating my left thumb in the hope that I would be right to defend my title (British Open), but it just needs a little bit more time,” Park, 28, said in a statement.
Park won back-to-back state high school individual titles for Bishop Gorman. In 2008, at age 19, she became the youngest player to win the U.S. Women’s Open, one of seven major championships on her resume.
Park, who has won $12,834,376 on the LPGA Tour, moved from Las Vegas after high school but returned a couple of years ago and is a member at TPC Summerlin.
Cejka has lived in the valley since 2003, the first year he played in Las Vegas’ PGA Tour event. He mainly plays at TPC Las Vegas and TPC Summerlin.
The 45-year-old plans to enjoy the entire Olympic experience, including the opening ceremony.
“I am getting there early so I can be a part of the opening ceremonies and can share that moment in the tunnel with my teammates prior to walking into the stadium,” he said. “As for the golf, I think me and the other golfers look at it as more of a normal tournament than other Olympians who have worked four years for this one Olympic moment. I am absolutely thrilled to represent my country, and at my age, this was my one chance, so it makes it even more special.”
Cejka has won one PGA Tour event and more than $10 million in his career. He is having a solid season, highlighted by a second-place finish at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Last weekend, he took fifth at the Canadian Open, his fourth top 10 finish of the year, and is 59th on the money list with $1,431,008.
Cejka’s caddie in Rio will be former UNLV golfer Chris Berry, who played on the 1998 national championship team. Berry introduced Cejka to Rebels coach Dwaine Knight, who has been helping Cejka with his putting.
Cejka putted well in Canada, highlighted by making an 84-footer on the 18th green in the third round.