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UNLV’s Jack Trent finishes strong at Shriners Open

Before Sunday when he shot a final-round 68 to finish in a 29th-place tie in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open as its only amateur, Jack Trent’s claim to golfing fame was winning the Southern Highlands Collegiate in March.

Before that, it was finishing third in the Jackrabbit Invitational during his freshman year at UNLV.

There’s a hole on the Satsuki golf course in Japan that stretches 964 yards. It’s a par-7. That’s roughly how far Jack Trent has come since finishing third in the Jackrabbit Invite.

As he strolled from the 18th green Sunday at TPC Summerlin after the only double-bogey of his professional debut, he doffed his cap and tousled his hair. Those in the hospitality tents rewarded him with applause as warm as the afternoon sun.

“Definitely exceeded my expectations,” the lanky Australian said after signing his scorecard. “My goal to start the week was to have four really solid rounds. I think I did a little more than solid.”

Yes he did, and there were people he wanted to thank for what turned out to be a most excellent adventure.

Opportunity arises

His parents, Jack and Louise. Dwaine Knight, his coach at UNLV. Clif Vanetti, his swing coach and caddie this weekend. Former Rebel Adam Scott, his countryman and role model who suggested the two play a practice round on Tuesday — after meeting and pounding fairways with Scott, the youngster considered his PGA baptismal a success before the holy water was rolled out to the practice green.

All those people in the gallery with the Bee Gees’ accents who were cheering for him.

Maybe even the weatherman, for keeping the wind in the same place Lee Trevino kept his 1-iron.

But he did not thank Cole Hammer by name, because golf is a game played by gentlemen, and gentlemen do not thank rivals for blowing 2-foot putts that make it all possible.

Hammer plays golf for Texas and is one of the country’s top-ranked amateurs. In March at the aforementioned Southern Highlands Collegiate, he missed a putt for the win on the first playoff hole that he probably could have tapped in with his shoe.

Trent beat him on the third extra hole and earned a guaranteed spot in the Shriners.

“Probably out here watching, honestly,” he said about how he would have spent Sunday were it not for Hammer nubbing that gimme. “It’s kind of how things work out, I guess. It’s the game of golf, and that’s sport.

“But I’m grateful for whatever happened and that I’m standing here right now.”

Making his move

The reason he was standing on the business side of a media scrum was because he played all four rounds with consistency and unflappability on a big stage that tends to flap guys of his age and experience. He shot 67-69-66-68 for a four-round total of 14-under-par 270.

The UNLV junior’s last hole of the tournament — his second shot on the par-4 18th found the water — was the only one he would like to forget.

He was the first amateur to play in the Shriners since fellow Rebel Charley Hoffman in 1999; he was more fearless than Abraham Van Helsing wearing a garlic necklace at a vampire convention. At one point in his final round, he was tied for seventh.

“It just shows that if I play my game and I keep my head down I can not only make the cut but also make a lot of birdies and play with some really good players,” Trent said, adding that his move to Las Vegas from Australia’s Sunshine Coast before his sophomore year at Las Vegas’ Palo Verde High was more frightening than playing with the long hitters on the big stage.

“I went from beaches and rain forests to casinos and the desert. But in the end it was the right move.”

What’s next? Trent said he had a college tournament in Florida — not the Jackrabbit Invitational, but the Tavistock Invitational at Isleworth Country Club in Windermere — for which to prepare.

“I haven’t been in school for three weeks so I don’t even know what teachers look like,” he said.

Because he won’t be able to pocket the $43,900 it paid to finish in a 29th-place tie, he said he must figure out a way to pay caddie Vanetti between now and when he brings the apples to class.

It’s a great problem to have, but one that Jack Trent probably never thought he would have after finishing third at the Jackrabbit Invitational.

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

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