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September 30, 2014

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For Justin Timberlake, golf serves as an ‘escape’

Host prepares for 2010 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

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Steve Marcus

Justin Timberlake drives off the second tee during a pro-am at TPC Summerlin. This year’s Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, part of the PGA Tour’s fall series, will be played Oct. 21 through Oct. 24 at the course.

Everyone knows when Justin Timberlake is in town. Or at least they think they know.

The truth is Timberlake doesn’t only frequent Las Vegas when he’s headlining an arena show or hosting a party at a nightclub. Timberlake says every once in a while he sneaks into Las Vegas without the spotlight to feed one of his other passions — golf.

“Last year, I came for a trip for about a week and just played a lot of different courses,” Timberlake said.

Timberlake said it was a necessary getaway after months of playing concerts, making appearances and shooting movies and commercials.

Timberlake has become an avid golfer since he took up the game eight years ago.

“For me, it’s a nice escape,” he said. “It’s a way to spend the day outside without having to think too much except for hitting a little ball towards the hole.”

For the third straight year, Timberlake will host Las Vegas’ PGA Tour stop when the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open tees off Oct. 21 and runs through Oct. 24 at TPC Summerlin.

His duties include playing in the annual pro-am, hosting a concert and accommodating players and their families. People involved with the tournament speak highly of working with Timberlake.

“Justin Timberlake has just been such an asset to us as far as name recognition,” said Gary Dunwoody, chairman of the Shriners Hospital for Children Committee. “You can’t even imagine the recognition with his name on top.”

Dunwoody cited a recent study by The Daily Beast that showed Timberlake’s name attachment is worth $9.3 million to the organization.

Timberlake and the Shriners also collaborate to raise money during the tournament. Their efforts this year include allowing local charities to sell tickets to the tournament and keep half of the proceeds.

“As far as celebrities go, I can’t imagine anyone as well known that we would rather associate with,” Dunwoody said.

The 29-year old Timberlake didn’t grow up around golf. He said he just ventured onto a course a few years ago and realized it was "an addictive game."

“I just played for the first year and picked it up pretty quickly,” Timberlake said. “It got pretty serious right away. I fell in love with the game.”

Timberlake quickly worked his way down to a 6-handicap. Since then, he has found himself taking lessons from renowned golf coach Butch Harmon and playing alongside fellow A-listers like Michael Jordan.

But Timberlake said his favorite sessions remain quick rounds through some of Los Angeles’ top country clubs.

“I don’t really play with celebrities,” Timberlake joked. “They are no fun to play with. They take too long. It’s all about pace of play. I like to keep it moving.”

Timberlake took the opportunity to buy a course near his hometown in Memphis and renovate it about five years ago. Now, more than $15 million later, Mirimichi Golf Course is a championship-level venue.

Timberlake said that venture opened the doors to his partnership with the PGA Tour.

“It’s pretty cool to be able to do both,” he said. “I don’t know if I can rate one higher than the other.”

Timberlake is not going to stop now. He considers golf one of his loves and hopes the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open only allows it to blossom further.

“Everyone walks up there and they are the same,” Timberlake said. “I think that’s another reason I love it so much. You can go out there and be a normal person and forget about the world.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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