Las Vegas becoming the ‘Jupiter of the West’ for up-and-coming golf pros

Count Charley Hoffman among those who will be watching to see how Shadow Creek Golf Club stacks up against the pros.

As a student at University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the early 1990s, Hoffman, who didn’t qualify for this week’s CJ Cup field, has witnessed some spirited matches there. This is back in the day when he caddied at Shadow Creek and didn’t have two nickels to rub together but often lined up putts with $10,000 a hole on the line.

“These guys would roll up with chips in colors and sizes I’d never seen before,” he said. “I’d try to keep it light. I’d go, ‘Are you going to pull this one like you did the last one because my read will be a little different.’”

Hoffman stuck around after school and called Las Vegas home for 20 years and never struggled to find money games when he was away from the Tour from the likes of former Running Rebel golfers such as Bill Lunde, Chris Riley, Ryan Moore and fellow touring pros Chris Perry, Dean Wilson, Eric Meeks, Ernie Gonzalez, just to name a few.

“If I didn’t have family in San Diego, I’d still be out there,” Hoffman said. “I’d recommend it to anybody.”

The reasons for Tour pros to set up shop in Las Vegas are many, but the most cited are access to two TPC facilities – TPC Las Vegas and TPC Summerlin, which hosted last week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open – a hospitably sunny climate and no state income taxes.

Doug Ghim, a native of Chicago who played his college golf in Austin, Texas, for the Longhorns, was looking for warmer climes and followed friends to Viva in Las Vegas.

“I hate humidity,” Ghim confessed. “That’s really why I chose it.”

But it didn’t hurt that two college teammates at UNLV: John Oda, who grew up in Hawaii, and Shintaro Ban, a Northern California native, were there, part of a migration of young touring pros that are eschewing Jupiter, Florida, and the typical hotspots of Orlando and Jacksonville area and Scottsdale, Arizona, to make Las Vegas once again the trendy spot to be. “The Jupiter of the West,” they are calling it, and the list of residents include PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa, Aaron Wise, Wyndham Clark, Norman Xiong and Maverick McNealy.

It was actually McNealy, who helped make Ghim’s decision to move to Vegas a “no brainer,” by offering a room in his pad for the princely sum of $400 a month.

“That seemed too good to pass up given I figured I’d be struggling on the Korn Ferry Tour for a little while,” Ghim said. “I was sleeping on a twin bed. Once I got my (Tour) card I was like I can’t justify living on a twin bed anymore.”

Ghim has gotten his own place, but McNealy found a new roommate in Joseph Bramlett, another Northern California transplant who played at Stanford and at 32 calls himself, “the old guy.” He moved there about a year ago at the same time as another San Jose, California product: Justin Suh. For Bramlett, it’s tough to beat living six minutes away from two TPC facilities, having the ability to catch a flight anywhere, and as he put it, “being around a lot of motivated people trying to do exactly what I want to do.”

“It’s a really good place,” he said. “You can always find someone to play with.”

That group would include vets of the area such as Scott Piercy, Kevin Na and Alex Cjeka as well as LPGA players Danielle Kang and Inbee Park and American-based European Tour pros David Lipsky and Kurt Kitayama. There’s also several top-notch instructors teaching there including Jeff Smith at TPC Summerlin and Butch Harmon at Rio Secco, which was part of the original attraction for McNealy to move there. But Bramlett may have said it best when asked why he decided not to join so many of his Tour brethren in taking a Florida mailing address.

“I’m definitely a West Coast boy,” he said.

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