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Shriners Open never considered allowing fans to attend

Updated October 7, 2020 - 6:40 pm

His name is Bronson Burgoon, and the hope among Shriners Hospitals for Children Open officials is that he becomes the answer to a one-time trivia question.

When Tony Finau, the world’s 16th-ranked player who finished eighth at the U.S. Open, tested positive for COVID-19 under PGA protocols this week, it opened a spot for Burgoon, whose previous claim to golfing fame was hitting a wedge shot within 2 inches of the final hole to clinch the 2009 NCAA championship for Texas A&M.

Finau was the 13th player or caddie to test positive since play resumed in June after shutting down in March.

It also showed why it still isn’t totally safe to allow even a small percentage of spectators to roam TPC Summerlin despite Gov. Steve Sisolak recently having eased restrictions on allowing them at Nevada sporting events.

The PGA Tour has yet to permit fans to attend tournaments. Tournament director Patrick Lindsey said through a spokesperson that the governor’s announcement had no impact on tournament planning but that COVID-19 would affect its bottom line.

“Our expenses have decreased, but in turn, so has our revenue,” Lindsey said. “In previous years, we have welcomed over 70,000 fans, which would benefit the amazing work of Shriners Hospitals for Children through ticket and concession sales, corporate sponsorships and more.”

Missing Alec

Las Vegas resident Kevin Na, the defending champion, said he is going to miss spectators flanking the hills around the closing holes at this year’s tournament, and one spectator in particular.

Na said he met Alec Cabacungan, a national Shriners spokesman who lives near Chicago, last year on the practice green, where the teenager described Na holing a long putt.

“ … to take the lead … from l-o-n-n-g range. Oooh … oooh … there it goes!” the teenager exclaimed in a voice-over that would have done Jim Nantz proud.

“He’s a great guy, and I know his dream is to become a sports announcer,” Na said during a videoconference call Wednesday about writing a $50,000 check to Shriners Hospitals after winning last year. “I hope his dream comes true.”

What’s up Doc?

Rickie Fowler, the former wunderkind still seeking his first major championship, said he was looking forward to playing exclusive Shadow Creek in North Las Vegas next week after the CJ Cup was moved from South Korea amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a special place; I’ve only actually played it twice,” Fowler, 31, said Wednesday. “One of the times I played was (with) Doc Rivers.”

The former Oklahoma State phenom said hitting the links with the longtime NBA star and coach was a memorable experience.

“He was awesome; he’s like, ‘Man, I’m a big fan’ — I was kind of shocked,” Fowler said. “It was cool to see someone who is big in another sport — who is a lot taller and bigger than me — complimenting me about my game and stuff like that.”

19th hole

Two former UNLV stars worth keeping an eye on at TPC this weekend are Charley Hoffman (three top-10 finishes in 14 starts) and Ryan Moore (2012 champion with a record-tying 72-hole winning score of 260). … Sergio Garcia, winner of last week’s Sanderson Farms Championship, missed the cut in his only prior Shriners Open start in 2003 and has never won back-to-back PGA Tour events. … The recent Safeway Open at Napa, California, was delayed by fog, which won’t be a problem at TPC Summerlin. Sunny skies and high temperatures of 95, 91, 90 and 84 degrees are forecast Thursday through Sunday, though it could get breezy for the final two rounds.

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

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