Tiger Woods was a 20-year-old phenom in 1996 when he accepted a sponsor’s exemption from the Las Vegas Founders Club to play in the Las Vegas Invitational. Woods had two top-10 finishes in the two weeks before Las Vegas but hadn’t won.
That changed when he finished tied with Davis Love III at 27 under par, then won with a par on the first playoff hole at TPC Summerlin.
Handing Woods his first career oversized cardboard check and the actual check of $297,000 was Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority executive Rossi Ralenkotter, who is being inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame on Friday.
“Just being able to be a part of the history of professional golf has been an honor, and being the first person to hand Tiger a check is one moment that I’ll never forget,” Ralenkotter said.
Ralenkotter, his fellow executives at the LVCVA and the Las Vegas Founders Club have been instrumental in Las Vegas golf history.
“I always think about the long-standing partnership we’ve had with the PGA Tour,” Ralenkotter said. “Our pro golf history goes back to the 1950s with the Tournament of Champions at the Desert Inn course, evolving all the way to today’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin. We’ve had some incredible moments over the years and some of the greatest legends have played and won here. Professional golf was one of the original sports, along with boxing, that saw the potential in Las Vegas as a sports destination.”
Ralenkotter has watched golf grow and said he thinks more work can be done as Las Vegas continues to evolve as a destination.
“Golf as an industry has faced some challenges recently, but I believe it is still a valuable part of our tourism mix,” Ralenkotter said. “The managers of the courses here continue to focus on new ways to work with the industry and evolve along with the city.”
Play the two Boulder City and Boulder Creek courses for $70. Golfers have two weeks between rounds to play.
Stars on, off course
Woods’ annual Tiger Jam fundraiser returns to MGM Grand, Shadow Creek and Topgolf on May 18 and 19. Phil Helmuth will host Tiger’s poker night.
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.
Thursday: SNGA Tour, state amateur qualifier No. 2, Chimera
Thursday: Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame, Siena
Monday, Tuesday: Women’s SNGA Senior Amateur, Chimera
Monday-May 16: UNLV men, NCAA regional, Columbus, Ohio
May 18, 19: Tiger Jam, MGM, Shadow Creek, Topgolf
May 19, 20: Championship-Girls/Boys Junior America’s Cup qualifier, Legacy
May 25: AJGA Junior-Am Fundraiser, Reflection Bay
May 26-28: AJGA Las Vegas Championship, Reflection Bay
May 28-31: Mesquite Amateur, CasaBlanca
June 5, 6: Big I Junior qualifier, Boulder Creek
June 10: SNGA Tour, Father/Son, Las Vegas National
June 11: United Way Benefit, Spanish Trail
What: The Players Championship.
When: Thursday, Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (Golf Channel). Saturday, Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (KSNV-3).
Where: TPC Sawgrass (Players Stadium), Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Defending champion: Si Woo Kim.