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Once nearly eliminated, UNLV golf management program thriving

Updated January 22, 2019 - 4:45 pm

Flashback about a decade ago to the dark days during the recession. The powers that be at UNLV were faced with difficult decisions, among them, what curriculums needed to be slashed to balance the budget.

Near the top of the cut list was the UNLV professional golf management program, directed by a motivated Dr. Chris Cain. To outsiders, it appeared to be a foregone conclusion that there was no saving it.

Somebody forgot to mention that to Cain, who began requesting letters of support from community leaders and working with UNLV executives Stuart Mann and Don Snyder on a plan. An important piece was moving the program into the hotel college, where it remains as part of the rebranded Harrah College of Hospitality with support of current dean Stowe Shoemaker.

“Around that same time, we learned our peer program at ASU was shutting down and it was a more established program so we needed a bit of a miracle,” Cain said. “The miracle came in the form of letters of support. Not one. Not ten. Hundreds. From students, parents, alumni and industry. I still have them in a binder in my office.

“It keeps us all humble and hungry knowing how close we were to shutting the lights off. When it came time to present our case to the program elimination committee, I proudly presented the letters in an overwhelming pile of support. I made sure they made a sound hitting the table. Never underestimate the power of a Rebel.”

UNLV is now rated among the top golf management departments nationally and more than 20 alumni work in the Las Vegas golf industry. Last Thursday, five were honored during the PGA of America, Southwest Section, Southern Nevada chapter awards dinner held in UNLV’s Hospitality Hall. The group included Kendall Murphy, who was named professional of the year.

Other alumni honored were Cain, lifetime achievement; Zach Fahmie (Summit), assistant professional of the year; Matt Henderson (TPC Las Vegas), Horton Smith award for education; and Shawn Light (Golf Tec), teacher of the year.

Additional professionals honored: Troy Helseth (Anthem), player of the year; Tom Fischer (Paiute), senior player of the year; Chuck Bombard (Angel Park), Bill Srausbaugh Award for mentorship; Tim Sam (Golftec), player development; Jane Schafer (Las Vegas Golf Club), youth player development; Mason Spalding (TPC Las Vegas), merchandiser of the year (public), Brian Sanders (Southern Highlands), merchandiser of the year (private); Shawn Goben (Stallion Mountain), patriot award and the recently retired Tony Fiorentini (Boulder City) was given special recognition for years of service.

Non-pro honorees: Southern Glazer executive Tom Incorvaia (person of the year) and Clark County coroner John Fudenberg (citizen of the year). Fudenberg once worked at Angel Park and Canyon Gate.

Weekly deal

The 2019 Las Vegas National player’s card is $99 and includes two free rounds and ongoing discounts.

Stars on, off course

Greg Giuffria, a Southern Highlands member and former rock and roll keyboardist, was the keynote speaker at the PGA awards dinner and attended despite breaking his foot while playing golf a day prior.

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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