AJ McInerney, a former Coronado High and UNLV star, shot 8-under 64 at Boulder Creek Golf Club on Oct. 4 to win the first Shriners Children’s Open Pre-Qualifier and advance to the official Monday qualifier at Spanish Trail. McInerney recently stepped away as a UNLV men’s golf assistant coach to pursue his dream of playing the PGA Tour.
UPDATE 10/10/2023: AJ did not make the 2023 field via the official Monday qualifier.
“Everything’s good, I just want to play again,” said McInerney succinctly to open our discussion. “I stepped down as the assistant coach at the end of last season, which was a difficult decision. I really loved those guys, the program, and Coach Hebert. However, I felt the desire to go and chase my dream and passion, and that is playing professional golf, so that’s what I’m doing.”
McInerney’s stellar round in the pre-Q follows an up and down summer, with the biggest disappointment coming when he missed out on advancing in Tour Q School. He played some mini-tours and other Monday qualifier events, and plans to play in the Nevada Open in Mesquite in November.
“The round at Boulder Creek just felt good to close our a round,” McInerney said. “It always feels good to shoot a good score, but just to be able to finish it off was very rewarding. It seems like lately when I’ve had a good round going, I’ve kind of given a few shots back coming in or at some point during the round. I hope to build on this round. I thought Boulder Creek was in great shape. The fairways were pure out there and the greens were good, as well.”
McInerney has proven in flashes that he could belong on the PGA Tour. He has made two cuts in four chances on the PGA Tour including a 10th place finish in the 2017 Shriners Children’s Open. Now he starts the chase to get back on the big tour, which isn’t easy without any status. Earning a spot in the Shriners via the Monday qualifier would be huge in many ways after a summer of getting a glimpse of PGA Tour life via a different avenue.
“I caddied a little bit this summer for Harry Hall and I was pretty lucky that he let me come out with him for a bit and get the feels going again,” McInerney said. “Just being around the PGA Tour was great and I tried to learn as much as I could from Harry and some other guys that we played with. That was was great experience, but now I am focused on my game, my body and getting better. I will be playing full time.”
McInerney will always look back on his time as a UNLV assistant coach—and a season as the interim head coach—with pride and appreciation.
“Coaching at UNLV was a blessing in my life, for sure,” McInerney said. “I think UNLV and Coach Knight taught me so much when I was a player there. And then to get to go back and coach when I was done playing, it kept me involved in the game. I built some great relationships with some of the players and that really means a lot to me. And to get to coach at your alma mater is not something a lot of people get to do. I am excited for the path the program is on and what Coach Hebert is doing with recruiting.”
Now, McInerney is solely focused on the future and enjoying the journey.
“I am excited about this process, and that’s why we love this game,” McInerney said. “It’s not easy, but that’s why I love it.”
Others advancing to the Monday qualifier via the pre-qualifiers were:
Jhared Hack, Phil Reedy, Rhett Rasumussen, Brandon Bauman, Mark Baldwin, Brandon Kewalramani, Steven Cabanday, Colton Yates, Andrew Rodriguezm Andrew Spilman, Skylor Taylor, Yi Cao, Eric Mcardle, Paul Imondi, David Bradshaw, Dylan Healey, Michael Visacki, George Markham, Jack Rahon, Joe Hooks, Vijay Srinivasan and Kirby Coe-Kirkham,. As of this post, Angelo Giantsopouolos, Mike Hultberg, Jack Trent, Camron Saunders and Jesse Lee were in a 6 for 2 playoff to determine the remaining spots.