There are legendary Tiger Woods and Las Vegas stories at nearly every turn, both on and off the course.
He nearly played collegiate golf at UNLV for hall of fame head coach Dwaine Knight.
He won his first PGA Tour event, the Las Vegas Invitational, in 1996, at age 20.
He has held his annual Tiger Woods Foundation Tiger Jam in Las Vegas for a couple decades.
He spent countless hours with his former instructor, Butch Harmon, at his school, which is located at Rio Secco Golf Club.
And he has enjoyed all that Las Vegas has to offer in many, many other ways …
But before any of the above happened, a very young Tiger Woods teed it up in the 1991 Las Vegas Founders’ Legacy Invitational. The American Junior Golf Association tournament was played at the Legacy Golf Club, an Arthur Hills-designed golf course located in the Vegas suburb of Henderson.
Woods finished fourth behind eventual Texas A&M golfer and PGA Tour player Anthony Rodriguez. Woods only received a small mention in the Las Vegas Review-Journal article by Peter Poggione because his performance didn’t warrant much more than that at that time.
But what happened during the pre-tournament junior-am between Woods and former long drive champion and Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame member Art Sellinger was arguably the most memorable moment from that week. And one that Sellinger is continually asked to remember.
Sellinger was stationed at the par 5, 14th hole for the day to hit big drivers for sponsors and juniors. He had heard Woods was amped up to take him on in a long ball bash. It was Stephen Hamblin, Sellinger’s friend and the tournament director, who alerted him that Woods was targeting him.
The long drive king, who went on to created Long Drivers of America and the successful World Long Drive Championship, would be ready.
Woods tried to intimidate Sellinger when he stepped to the tee, but the long-drive veteran took control, telling the teenager that it was his show and Tiger would hit first.
Indelibly etched into Sellinger’s memory is the steely look of determination Woods had in his eyes when he stepped to the tee. Woods seemed convinced that it would be himself, not Sellinger, who would walk away as the long drive king of that particular day.
Woods, the young phenom, didn’t disappoint, and pounded a drive long and deep. Sellinger immediately knew he needed to summon up every ounce of speed and strength the he had to hit one by the prodigy.
And Sellinger did.
Sellinger’s drive ended up 370+ yards down the fairway and about 15 yards by Woods.
“Not today, Tiger,” Sellinger thought to himself.
But he also let Hamblin in on a secret shortly after hitting his momentous tee ball: “That was the best drive I ever hit in my life.”
That drive that day was even better than those epic tee balls he struck to win multiple long drive titles.
Some three decades later, Sellinger is still asked about that day and that moment at Legacy.
“I had met Tiger the year prior at an AJGA event in Houston and ended going to dinner and a Houston Astros game with him and his father along with Stephen Hamblin, so we were familiar with each other,” Sellinger says. “As I was quoted in the Sportsman of the Year article in Sports Illustrated in 1996, ‘I said all along someone will come on the scene who can drive it as far as professional long drive champions and he will have the full game to go with it, and dominate and set records and hit shots we have never witnessed. Guess what, he is here!’”
And Woods has been ‘here’ ever since that day when he lost to the Vegas long drive king.
The Legacy Golf Club features several unique holes including the par 3, 10th hole that features each tee box designed in the shape of a deck of cards. The “Devil’s Triangle” is a trio of risk and reward holes (11-13) played before reaching the aforementioned Tiger vs. Sellinger hole.
Here’s hoping the Legacy ownership and management adds a mention of this unique moment between a prodigy and a long drive king in Vegas golf lore so locals and visiting golfers can enjoy it. And take their swings to try and match those stunning drives.
For tee times at legacy, visit thelegacygc.com.
Tiger Woods photo credit: Las Vegas News Bureau.