Vegas Golf History – Sorenstam remembers helicopter ride, lights-out scores at Paiute

Some two decades after playing Karrie Webb in a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match, which also served as the inaugural round of the Pete Dye-designed Wolf course at Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort, Annika Sorenstam still has vivid memories of that Vegas experience. –By Brian Hurlburt, Las Vegas Golf Insider.

“Karrie, our caddies, and I took a helicopter from the strip to the course,” Sorenstam recently recalled for this writer. “None of us had seen the course, but we shot lights out. We were at the height of our careers … it was an honor to be part of Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf because there had been so many amazing matches with the game’s legends. It was fun for us as ladies to be part of it.”

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Shooting “lights out” was an understatement because Webb shot 8-under 64 to edge Sorenstam by a single stroke on that fateful day. At the time, the two had combined for 54 LPGA Tour victories, two LPGA Tour rookie of the year awards, multiple scoring titles and player of the year awards, and were both on the way to hall of fame inductions.

And on Oct. 23, 2001 (the actual round occurred a couple weeks prior), the two were front and center on ESPN and playing in one of golf’s grandest traditions, the long-running Shell series that over the decades had previously included Gene Littler, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and so many other legends.

“We do bring the best out in each other,” Webb told Las Vegas Sun golf writer Victoria Sun immediately following the round. “And it’s the best golf I’ve played in probably two or three months, so she definitely does bring that out in me.

“I have the utmost respect for Annika’s game. She’s just had a tremendous year and I congratulate her on that. I’m just happy to be a part of the event and able to make the match as exciting as it was.”

The occasion of the two legends playing was a perfect way to unveil the third Pete Dye signature course at the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort. The legendary Wolf course, which along with both the Sun Mountain and Snow Mountain courses at Paiute, remain favorites with local and visiting golfers to this very day. They each annually earn high marks from pretty much everyone who plays them.

Back in 2001, it was nearly a weekly occurrence for Webb and Sorenstam to be in the thick of things during an LPGA Tour event, but the one-on-one event oiver the 18 holes of the Wolf course allowed for a unique focus on their games throughout the round and telecast.

“I think our rivalry started when we came out on tour as rookies,” Sorenstam told Sun. “Just going back and forth, we’ve been the best players since 1995 and 1996. It is a rivalry, but I think a friendly one. There are no hard feelings. But once we’re on the golf course, it’s serious. There’s a lot of pride involved. I’m glad we got a chance to play this match. It was so much fun. It’s been so many years we’ve gone back and forth. This was great timing.”

Since the playing of that Match, the Paiute has hosted hundreds of corporate events, high-level amateur tournaments including U.S. Open qualifying and the popular Golf Channel Am Tour Duel in the Desert, in addition to the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship and, most recently, the Korn Ferry Tour’s MGM Resorts Championship at Paiute.

The swings just keep coming at Paiute, where the only three Pete Dye signature courses in Nevada are located.

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