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November 24, 2014

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Michael Jordan tournament to yank shroud of secrecy from Shadow Creek Golf Course

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Hole No. 9 at Shadow Creek Golf Course. So vast. So mysterious.

If ever a woodsy, grassy, lake-laden expanse could be considered mythic, it would be Shadow Creek Golf Course.

In its first decade of existence, the stories of Shadow Creek’s exclusivity permeated the clubhouses of Las Vegas golf lore: Only the “whales” who patronized Steve Wynn’s hotels would be permitted to play it, and so rare was human activity that groups teed off an hour apart.

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Hole No. 6 at Shadow Creek, which is picturesque, so much so that we are running this picture of it.

You could barely find this course, too, as it was cut into the hardened earth of North Las Vegas. Drive north on I-15 to Craig Road, head west, then north on Losee Road, and it’s there, at the bottom of a man-made, 350-acre crater, wrapped in a 10-foot fence, hundreds of varieties of trees and its own mythology.

No, the Tom Fazio-designed, $60 million course envisioned by Wynn in the late 1980s is not the sort of place you’d notice from the road. Even Augusta National, home of the Masters, is at least visible from the street, set amid such businesses as CarQuest Auto Parts and UPS Stores.

And walk the Shadow Creek grounds? A concept as laughable as me hitting a 1-iron off the fairway.

Today, standards are somewhat more relaxed than in the days when Wynn ran the operation, as MGM Resorts guests are permitted to play Shadow Creek. Green fees are listed at $500, with includes limo service to and from the course. Otherwise, commoners have not been allowed on the course.

But Shadow Creek, conceived by Wynn, created by Fazio and owned today by MGM Resorts, is opening to the public for the first time. We get to see what all the hullabaloo has been about during an event equal to the task: The 10th Annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational, set for March 31-April 4. It’s the first time the tournament will be held in Las Vegas.

This installment is hosted by Aria, and tickets are on sale at the hotel’s “Viva Elvis” box office, or at the Aria Web site or the Michael Jordan Invitational site. Tickets range from $25 for general admission passes Thursday and Friday, $50 for general admission passes Saturday and Sunday, and $100 for weekly general admission passes for all days. VIP passes are offered, too, which affords ticket-holders to view the course from a hospitality deck overlooking the par-5, 18th hole, which is supposedly spectacular but has been seen by about only 150 people in 20 years.

The event’s news release lists such luminaries as Wayne Gretzky, Charles Barkley, Mario Lemieux, Julius Erving, Mark Wahlberg, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell and Don Cheadle as some of the event’s more noteworthy participants over the years. This year’s field is still to be announced. The event benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the James R. Jordan Foundation, Cats Care, Nevada Cancer Institute and the players’ chosen charities.

As Jordan said in a news release: “I’m truly excited about bringing my tournament to Las Vegas. Shadow Creek is one of my favorite courses, and Aria is a spectacular resort. I love seeing old friends, playing golf and having fun, but the most gratifying aspect of hosting the event is what we’ve been able to give back.”

And, as Aria President and Chief Operating Officer Bill McBeath said, in that same release: “Aria Resort & Casino and Shadow Creek are incredibly proud to bring the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational to Las Vegas for the first time. It’s only fitting that we open Shadow Creek to the public for the first time to welcome fans of Michael Jordan and his celebrity guests for such a spectacular tournament. More importantly, we are honored to be a part of an event that will help raise money for a variety of important charitable organizations.”

The whole development reminds of when Tiger Woods, pre-fire hydrant collision, was deciding on which university to attend for academic and golf interests. He had pared the field of many dozen worthy institutions down to two just: Stanford and UNLV.

It is said when he was asked why UNLV was in such haughty company, he referred to the Rebels’ home course and said, “Have you seen where they play?”

Not yet, but check back in March.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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