LAS VEGAS — Wars always result in casualties, and in golf’s current conflict between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, some tournaments may ultimately wind up the losers.
In Las Vegas, there’s optimism that its PGA Tour stop — The Shriners Children’s Open — will survive. Not only did the Shriners, who have been sponsoring the tournament at TPC Summerlin since 2007 re-upped for another five years, the event, which tees off Thursday and is played in October every year, gives players on the Tour a chance to meet their 20-tournament obligation.
There are 13 elevated events on next year’s Tour schedule, plus the four majors (Masters, U.S. Open, PGA and British Open). Assuming a player competes in all 17, he still needs to play three other tournaments to remain in good standing on the Tour.
Las Vegas provides an ideal opportunity to help get to the magic number. TPC Summerlin is an easy course to navigate. The purse, which is $8 million this year and will climb to $9.6 million come 2026, makes it enticing. It’s a few weeks after the Tour Championship so players can take some time off, regroup, then get back to work.
And it’s the city itself, along with the title sponsor, that make this event so popular. Not just for the players, but their wives and girlfriends as well.
“Guys love to come to Las Vegas,” said Patrick Lindsey, who is in his eighth year as the tournament’s director. “We talk a lot about player hospitality and the city has great hospitality, whether it’s entertainment, dining, shopping, and yes, gambling for those who want to do that. The weather is always great in October and the course is always in fantastic shape.
“The other component is the Shriners. The players know how important the work that the Shriners do and they’ve always been so supportive. Everyone understands this event is important to the Shriners.”
There are 21 hospitals throughout North America and have helped 1.5 million children since the first facility opened back in 1922 in Shreveport, La. You’ve seen the television commercials that feature the patients who ask you to give money to support the hospitals and you know their names, most notably Alec, Kaleb and Sebastian.
Lindsey has a personal stake in keeping this event going. His 10-year-old son Wes has Cerebral Palsy and has been going to the Shriners Hospital in Salt Lake City for years to receive treatment.
“For me, it hits close to home,” Lindsey said. “You go to these hospitals and it’s remarkable what goes on there, how many kids are getting help.”
The golf tournament, along with the Shriners’ annual college all-star football game, has raised hundreds of millions of dollars over the decades. This year’s East-West Shrine Bowl will be played in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium on Feb. 2 and will be televised on NFL Network.
And while the Shriners Children’s Open will likely survive the PGA Tour-LIV battle, it almost didn’t survive COVID-19. The 2020 tournament was played without spectators and the pandemic lingered into 2021, though spectators were allowed back on the course.
“We had to have a lot of patience,” Lindsey said. “In March 2020, everything shut down and we figured, ‘We’re in the fall. We’ll be fine.’
“It didn’t quite work out that way. We couldn’t have fans and we barely got through it. The Shriners took a big hit but they knew how important it was to stay involved.”
The 2019 event had been highly successful and while that momentum was short-circuited by the pandemic, Lindsey is confident that this week’s tournament will get things back on track.
“What the pandemic did in 2020 was it allowed us to re-envision our event,” he said. “We were able to hit the reset button and communicate better with each other, with the Shriners and with the Tour,
“One positive that came out of 2020 was a lot of people watched the broadcast and the numbers were through the roof. It was a huge success. Last year was close to normal. We still had some restrictions. Our attendance was down. But we’re looking at a big year, almost as if the last two years were erased from history and we’re picking up from 2019.”
Hopefully Lindsey will be right. The kids are counting on things getting back to normal at TPC Summerlin.