Two players with strong ties to Las Vegas are off to red-hot starts on the 2018-19 European Tour.
Resident David Lipsky and resident and former UNLV golfer Kurt Kitayama both recently won, giving Vegas golfers two wins in the tour’s first six tournaments.
On Sunday, Lipsky, 30, won the Alfred Dunhill Championship to move into first in the season-long Race to Dubai rankings. It was the second career victory (2014 European Masters) for Lipsky, who recently made some changes and in October said his game was “terrible.”
“Distance off the tee has improved, a combination of things, the strength coach I have been working with and a new swing coach as well,” Lipsky said after the victory. “I’ve been really re-tuning my game, and it looks like it’s paying off.”
Earlier in December and in his third start in Europe, Kitayama won the Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open at Anahita. He has made the cut in each tournament and finished top 15 four times. He ranks fifth in the Race to Dubai rankings.
Kitayama, 25, played for the Rebels from 2011-15 and was an All-American as a senior. He authored one of the most memorable moments in UNLV men’s golf history when in 2013 at the NCAA Golf Championships, he holed out a 208-yard shot for eagle on the 18th hole at the Capital City Club Crabapple course in Atlanta to get his team into a playoff to qualify for the final eight, which the Rebels ultimately did.
“He wasn’t a superstar when he came to UNLV, but he worked hard and became a great player for us,” UNLV head coach Dwaine Knight said about the 5-foot, 7-inch Kitayama. “At Chico High School in California, he was also a very good basketball player in addition to golf. I went to one of his games and he was a tough, little guard.
“We’ve always had pretty good luck with athletic kids who play more than one sport in high school because once they determine they are going to play golf full time in college, they really focus and make quick improvements. Kurt always had great length and because of his basketball ability, had great touch around the greens and was a great putter.”
Kitayama qualified for the European Tour via Q School and was outside the top 1000 of the world rankings to begin the season. He is now 191st , one spot behind his practice partner, Lipsky. Kitayama also practices with Alex Kang, Aaron Wise and former teammate John Oda, among others, when home.
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UNLV sophomore Jack Trent shot 68-71—139 (-5) to win the Southern Nevada Golf Association Championship at Cascata on Sunday. Former Rebel Edward Fryatt was second at 1 under. Other champs were: David Koch (senior), Nick Bilonta (senior net), Gary Thompson (net), Frank Abbott (silver) and Neil Driscoll (silver net).
The golf notebook appears Wednesdays. 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 email@example.com or @LVGolfInsider
Upcoming area events
Jan. 5-6: SNJGA LV Golf Hall of Fame Tournament of Champions, LV National
Jan. 8: SNGA/USGA Rules Seminar, Bear’s Best
Jan. 17: SNGA/USGA Rules Seminar, Wildhorse
Jan. 17: SNGA Social Series, Bali Hai
Jan. 19-21: Rebel Jr. Golf Camp, Las Vegas National
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