U.S. Women's Open champ Inbee Park's Badlands connection shows how strong Las Vegas pro golf is
You might recall that Inbee Park won the U.S. Women’s Open less than a week ago. OK, you probably don’t (if the 2008 men’s U.S. Open is the tournament that’s destined to be remembered forever with Tiger Woods winning on one battered knee, the 2008 Women’s Open appears doomed to forgotten as quickly as a new Matt LeBlanc sitcom).
Still even as Park’s pushed aside, much like LPGA Championship winner Yani Tseng was before her (women’s golf is really on some roll, huh?), at least one more thing needs to be pointed out about the youngest U.S. Women’s Open champion in history. Inbee Park is as Las Vegas as Las Vegas can get.
Many Las Vegas golf experts have missed out on the fact that Park lives in a development right off Badlands Golf Club, the Johnny Miller desert design in the golf-rich suburb of Summerlin. Park and her family used to live in a high rise right near the Las Vegas Strip, but moved a little farther from The Action and closer to the golf action.
Badlands is one of my favorite golf courses in Vegas, a track where being wild means seeing your ball disappear into the desert rocks. Anyone who’s ever played it, will no doubt remember the massive mini mansions up on the hills overlooking some fairways. Park doesn’t have one of the biggest houses (that $585,000 she took home for winning the Women’s Open is by far her biggest paycheck), but the fact she decided she wanted to make Vegas her American golf base shows how far the area’s come as a pro golf stronghold.
TPC Las Vegas has long drawn an assortment of visiting PGA Tour players to its back pros-only practice range. But with more and more high profile coaches and golf schools having come into town, Las Vegas is now something of a largely overlooked mecca. Butch Harmon deserves a good share of the credit for this, with his school at Rio Secco Golf Club having given up-and-coming teachers a great platform while raising the overall bar in Las Vegas golf instruction.
Now, pros don’t have to be a Nevada native or complete hardcore gamblers to call Las Vegas home. You can say you live there for the golf coaches and not be laughed at.
Just ask Inbee Park. She actually signed up for classes at UNLV before deciding to turn pro almost before any tuition checks cleared. Park’s total college career consists of two classes attended. That’s not two class courses taken. That’s two times she went to a class, period.
Hey, that’s an American sports success story too. Do you really think Larry Johnson sat in class much longer than that during his Running Rebels career?
It’s all about getting yourself ready for the pros. Inbee Park knows Vegas is a place you can learn how to win. It’s no coincidence that she handled the windy final Sunday in the U.S. Women’s Open with ease. Those Minnesota winds are nothing compared to Las Vegas’ game-changing gusts.
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