Twelve years ago, Michael Jordan brought golf back to Las Vegas. Not the white-belt long-pants, stoic-faced golf of PGA Tour pros punching a clock, but the broad-smile, high-fiving game it was meant to be. That’s when Jordan, the NBA legend (and majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats), founded the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational, a four-day golf event at which Jordan’s A-list celebrity friends can pal around, mingle with fans, and raise money for charities.
Three years ago, Jordan moved the MJCI to Las Vegas’ ultra-swanky Shadow Creek Golf Course. It’s a place so private that its black iron gates are usually sealed tight to everyone but the highest rollers at MGM’s seven properties, celebrated VIPs or MGM Resorts’ hotel guests willing to pony up the $500 green fee. This year’s event kicks off April 4 with a two-day celebrity-amateur tournament, followed by a two-day celebrity tournament. The winner donates the $150,000 purse to his or her favorite charity.
Past celebrity golfers have included Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roger Clemens, Ashton Kutcher, Samuel L. Jackson, Cedric “The Entertainer” and Julius “Dr. J” Irving.
“Since the tournament began, I am proud to say that we have raised more than $6 million for a variety of deserving charitable organizations,” said Jordan. Additional beneficiaries this year include Make-A-Wish Foundation, the James R. Jordan Foundation, Cats Care and Opportunity Village. Aria Resort & Casino is the hotel sponsor of the MJCI tournament.
“The annual event has grown every year, and this year it will be even bigger,” said Mark Brenneman, the general manager of Shadow Creek, a course so private that many of the MJCI participants hadn’t even played it.
“Shadow Creek is one of my absolute favorite golf courses,” says Jordan, a six-time NBA champion and Hall of Famer, “and I was so honored when it was opened to the public for the first time for my tournament.”
Tom Fazio’s design recalls the hilly terrain of North Carolina, complete with tall pines, streams, waterfalls, ducks, geese, even pheasants. The feel is so completely different from the rest of Las Vegas, you’ll quickly forget you’re in the dessert.
For many golfers, the opportunity to walk the fairways of Shadow Creek is the worth the price of admission. “But really, the top draw is Jordan,” admits Chris Pryor, a long-time caddie at Shadow Creek. Prior says he advises his friends to hang out between the No. 17 and No. 18 holes, since that’s where the celebrities interact the most with the gallery, often signing autographs or chatting on the way to their next shot.
“When George Bush was president, he would play here a lot,” a clubhouse attendant told me after I completed a recent round on Shadow Creek. “He used to play a few holes then go fishing for bass or catfish in the lake near the fourth hole.”
In the clubhouse, the former president still keeps a locker, Number 5, with his nameplate affixed — right next to Bill Clinton’s locker. Above them both sits Mr. Bush’s spinning reel.
Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament DETAILS:
Shadow Creek Golf Course
Aria Resort and Casino
When You Go:
MJCI celebrities scheduled to attend include: host Michael Jordan, Marcus Allen, Anthony Anderson, Miles Austin, Brian Baumgartner, Jerome Bettis, Wayne Brady*, Chevy Chase, Brandi Chastain, Chris Chelios, Roger Clemens, Vince Coleman, Brian Cushing, Richard Dent, Julius Erving, Josh Freeman, Dwight Freeney, Wayne Gretzky, Ken Griffey Jr., Penny Hardaway, Brett Hull, Dan Jansen, Dustin Johnson, Janet Jones-Gretzky, Toni Kukoc, Mario Lemieux, Greg Maddux, Win McMurry, Christina Milian, Von Miller, DeMarco Murray, Kevin Nealon, Jonathan Ogden, Paul O’Neill, Jake Owen, Michael Phelps, Ahmad Rashad, Jerry Rice, Salli Richardson, Rob Riggle, Stuart Scott, Ozzie Smith, Jason Taylor, Alan Thicke, Winky Wright, Adrian Young and more. (*Non-Golfer)
Daily general admission tickets: $30 Weekly general admission tickets: $100. VIP passes (which include access to the MasterCard VIP Hospitality Deck, complimentary food and full-service bars) cost $150 (daily) or $500 (four day pass). Kids 17 years old and younger will be admitted without charge when accompanied by a ticketed adult.
A complimentary shuttle service will operate regularly from Aria Resort to Shadow Creek Golf Course each of the four days.
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