Shadow Creek has been described as a secret treasure hidden away in North Las Vegas, a mystery location to golfers and fans even in Southern Nevada.
After three major professional events at the course over the past 19 months, that description hasn’t changed.
COVID-19 protocols kept spectators away from the PGA Tour event in October 2020 and the inaugural LPGA event in May 2021. But it was the LPGA and MGM Resorts that chose to not sell tickets to last month’s tournament with the exception of a handful of VIP packages for MGM Rewards members.
Players and local golf fans weren’t particularly pleased.
“It’s like playing during COVID again,” Madelene Sagstrom said after her round of 16 match ended on the 16th hole with no fans there to witness it. “We got used to it (no fans) during COVID, so it’s nothing different.”
Andrea Lee, who reached the semifinals at the tournament, said it felt more like a college tournament than an LPGA event.
“I wish there were more spectators out here, for sure,” she said. “The course is amazing. I know it’s a little bit of a tough walk for them, but it would be great to have more fans out.”
MGM Resorts, however, said the plan was to create an exclusive atmosphere around the tournament and course.
“Our MGM Rewards customers are offered tickets as a benefit of their membership and loyalty to MGM Resorts,” said Lance Evans, senior vice president for sports for MGM Resorts. “We provide our members and golf fans with a VIP experience at the tournament while maintaining the course’s exclusivity.”
That look was jarring for a TV audience that saw virtually nobody on the course, even during the weekend knockout rounds.
LPGA officials didn’t mind, at least publicly.
“Part of the experience of this week is the exclusive and intimate nature of the event for the competitors and our partners,” said Christina Lance, LPGA director of communications.
That explanation didn’t go over well with fans who had hoped to attend the event, including Las Vegas resident Jeff Eisenstein, who had planned to watch the golf in person.
“People that live here are constantly blackballed from attending events that are offered only to big-money gamblers or just out-of-towners that come in to gamble,” Eisenstain said.
He noted it’s not just the LPGA event, pointing to last week’s made-for TV event at Wynn Golf Club featuring Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, which also did not offer any general admission tickets.
LPGA players do a fantastic job at other tournaments connecting with fans, particularly girls who are dreaming of playing golf themselves one day. They didn’t get that chance in Las Vegas.
Players said fan reaction is helpful in a match-play setting — think Solheim Cup or Ryder Cup — but playing the event at Shadow Creek requires a different mindset.
Sagstrom said she tried not to worry about any reactions to shots, good or bad.
“When we’re home practicing all the time, it’s just ourselves,” she said. “So it’s not any different really.”
Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.