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Major Series of Putting helping golfers explore new reality

Updated October 16, 2019 - 8:33 pm

Compete. Get paid. Like a pro.

This is the Major Series of Putting mantra.

The competition that Golf Digest credits for changing how the sport is defined made its 2017 debut on a honest-to-goodness $2.2 million putting green in the literal shadow of the Strip, where driverless monorail cars whooshed by every four to eight minutes. This week it’s being played at Legacy Golf Club in Henderson without a monorail and, judging from the crowded parking lot, few Uber drivers.

The players come from around the world, strapping blades across their backs like pool cues. Some dress like golfers. Many do not. There’s more than $200,000 in prize money paid out in stroke play and team championships and smaller competitions that cost less to enter called Turbos — think of these as the MSOP’s Korn Ferry Tour.

Rules and etiquette are minimal. “Players are expected to play in a dynamic and noisy environment,” reads one regulation. Putting at the MSOP is like sinking free throws at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium when you play for North Carolina.

Taylor Montgomery, a second-generation UNLV golfer — his father, Monte, was an All-American and is superintendent of golf at Shadow Creek where rules and etiquette are not minimal — is presently trying to qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour. This week he is lining up putts alongside a motley crew of pros wearing Titleist caps and pressed khakis, Putt-Putters from overseas and frat boys in baggy T-shirts and shorts representing their local munis.

At the MSOP, the crickets one usually hears on a regulation golf course gyrate to dance music from boomboxes.

“If you haven’t experienced it yet, it’s probably the most fun you’ll ever have playing golf,” said Montgomery, who turned a $200 MSOP entry fee into a $75,000 bonanza by winning the 2017 stroke-play championship.

Added MSOP president Guillaume Beland: “Putting levels the playing field. Last year at our main event, we had 10 amateurs and 10 pro golfers at the top of the leaderboard.”

With tournaments in 12 cities, the MSOP is growing and becoming accessible to the point one soon may be able to earn money by sinking putts in his living room.

Golf’s new reality

In one of the hospitality tents, a man sporting giant Buddy Holly eyeglasses was inviting golfers to putt in a virtual reality.

Entrepreneur Jason Clevering of Austin, Texas, has developed an application that can transport a golfer to the MSOP putting surface, or even the greens during one of pro golf’s major championships.

Players in this year’s MSOP can experience the 2017 iconic $2.2 million putting green via the Oculus Quest headset and a club attachment. The virtual reality winner will be paired with Fox Sports reporter and MSOP host Holly Sonders in the team championship with a shot at first-place money of $50,000.

“It’s every golfer’s dream to have a practice green in the backyard,” Clevering said. “We’re delivering that, except you can do it anytime, anywhere — even if there’s snow on the ground.”

By using the application, the opportunity exists for amateur golfers to concurrently attempt the same putts as PGA touring pros.

“During the U.S. Open, we had scans on (holes) 7 and 17 at Pebble Beach within a few seconds of a ball hitting the green,” Clevering said. “By using our app, you could take Tiger Woods’ putts before he took them.”

Being partial to rolling putts into highball glasses on office carpets, it was with some reluctance that I allowed Clevering to hook me up. The immersion factor was amazing. After saving par with a tricky 10-footer, I pumped my fist like Tiger at Augusta. Those in the hospitality tent still living in the real world must have gotten a big chuckle.

Clevering said the Oculus Quest costs $399. The ProPutt app probably will be priced at $19.99. Additional courses will be sold at an additional cost.

It’ll still be a lot cheaper than installing a backyard putting green, or hiring Fixer-Uppers Chip and Joanna to build an addition onto your house with long hallways and high ceilings.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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