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Local golfers work to stay sharp during pandemic

Updated May 2, 2020 - 3:19 pm

Golfers all over Las Vegas rejoiced Friday when the shutdown of courses mandated by Gov. Steve Sisolak was lifted and courses were allowed to open if strict social distancing protocols were followed.

But even when the courses were closed, some of Southern Nevada’s top pros and amateurs stayed sharp by traveling to Arizona (where golf courses didn’t close) to play in mini-tour events or found unique drills to perform while #StayingHomeForNevada.

Alex Cejka, 49, a PGA Tour player who lives in Las Vegas, was labeled as “the hottest player in golf” by Golf.com because he played in three Arizona events, winning twice and finishing sixth in the other.

“I went to Phoenix to see what it was like to hit a golf ball after six weeks, then heard about the first mini-tour event when I was there,” Cejka told Golf.com. “There’s a big difference between golf on the range and in competition, playing kids who are 23, who hit it 320, and who are great players and hungry.”

Cejka and his wife, Alyssa, traveled by RV and she caddied for him. During his Parker Open victory, Cejka made an ace and an eagle in the final six holes to force a playoff with former UNLV golfer Eddie Olson. Cejka said the talent of a PGA Tour player usually rises to the top.

“You can’t tell after one round, but you can tell after three,” Cejka said. “The Tour player knows how to turn it on.”

Rising UNLV junior Veronica Joels played on the Cactus Tour for five-straight weeks and finished as the low amateur (fourth overall) at 8-under par at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa last week.

Tim Sam, director of instruction at GolfTec Henderson, kept busy by providing online video tips for the Southern Nevada Golf Association, which provided quality swing help and alittle levity.

Sam’s first tip, about putting, featured one of the pandemic’s most popular commodities: toilet paper. Sam revealed how golfers can improve their alignment by striking the cardboard roll insert with a putter. When the cardboard goes straight on the floor, so will a putted ball on the green.

“Even though we had to stay home, that didn’t mean our golf games had to suffer,” Sam said. “We still had to practice; we still had to get better. I was fired up to take a look at some creative ways to help golfers improve and pass the time. “The more you practice putting, the results will go straight to the bottom line and lower your scores.”

Ronda Henderson, a 2019 U.S. Women’s Senior Open qualifier, also practiced putting and also used a household item to finetune her swing.

“I have a couple of drills my instructor (Lake Las Vegas Performance Institute pro Craig Barlow) gave me that I focus on while swinging in the backyard,” Henderson said. “I use the reflection in the sliding door as my mirror.”

Dye courses return

Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort’s 54 holes reopen Friday.

Ace in the hole

Southern Nevada Junior Golf Association golfer Drake Harvey aced the par-3, No. 14 hole at TPC Summerlin on Friday.

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 bhurlburt5@gmail.com or @LVGolfInsider.

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