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Recalling Tiger Woods’ 1st PGA Tour win 25 years ago in Las Vegas

Provided TPC Summerlin doesn’t become shrouded in darkness during a lengthy playoff, a big check will be presented Sunday to the winner of the Shriners Children’s Open. It will probably seem like a big deal to those who follow golf.

But it will be nowhere near as big a deal as the ceremony 25 years ago when Tiger Woods received the oversized first-place keepsake after defeating Davis Love III in a playoff to win his first pro tournament.

Jack Sheehan, master of ceremonies at that historic check passing, said he will never forget the first question he asked the cherub-cheeked 20-year-old about cashing big in just his fifth pro start.

“If it’s a normal player, you ask about the strategy the last three holes — why did they lay up at 16, what was his thought on 17, a really hard par 3 … that kind of thing. But with Tiger, I wanted to do something a little different,” Sheehan said about the legend in the making having just turned pro after two years at Stanford.

“I said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, how about a round of applause for the richest college dropout in America?’ He looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘I think Bill Gates has me on that.’

“I thought, are you kidding me? He’s right. Gates dropped out of Harvard his freshman year. It was almost like he thought about that beforehand.”

It was as if Woods knew he was destined to win and, as his answer to Sheehan’s follow-up query suggested, not just in Las Vegas.

“I said, ‘Tiger, this is your fifth tournament as a professional. Are you surprised the victory came this soon?’

“He looked me straight in the eye again and said, ‘To be honest with you, Jack, I’m surprised it took this long.’ ”

More on Tiger’s first

Usually when it comes to milestone sporting events, there are infinitely more people who will tell you they were there to see it than actually were there to see it. In the case of Tiger earning his first PGA stripe, you probably can believe them, said Sheehan, who remembers the hills around the final holes at TPC being alive with the sound of Tiger.

It was loud and raucous and boozy, almost like the Black Hole at a Raiders game in Oakland.

“One of the things I remember as I stood on the (18th) green with him is the whole left side bank where they now have that bar, that was just covered with people,” Sheehan said. “Everywhere you looked, there was a gallery, and that’s so unusual for Las Vegas because we’re one of the most poorly attended tournaments.”

It also looked different from the typical golf crowd, Sheehan said.

“It was a multiethnic gallery. I thought that was cool; I wish it could be like this every year.”

No walk-off ace

Regardless of what is engraved on the commemorative plaque on the 17th tee box at TPC Summerlin — and what TV commentators and golf reporters have whispered and written — Jonathan Byrd did not win the 2010 Shriners Open with a walk-off hole-in-one during a three-way playoff that lasted four holes in near darkness.

Tournament-winning ace? Yes, says Summerlin resident and sports enthusiast Kelly Deverell, who has emailed me more than once to set the record straight.

But not a walk-off ace.

“(Byrd) hit first in the group of three and aced the hole. The other two players (Martin Laird, Cameron Percy) then had to hit their tee shots in hopes of also scoring an ace,” Deverall writes.

“No one walked off after Byrd aced the hole because the event wasn’t over.”

0:01

The scorecard from Tiger Woods’ final round of the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational is on display at the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame exhibit at Las Vegas National Golf Club. If you look closely, you can see somebody appeared to have changed his score on the No. 8 hole from a 4 to a 3.

Apparently, Tiger wasn’t carrying an eraser in his bag that day along with his clubs and the future of pro golf.

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

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