The Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament: Celebrity, Philanthropy, and the Allure of Shadow Creek
The Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament hosted by Aria Resort And Casino, was recently held at the Shadow Creek Golf Course in North Las Vegas. Luxist attended the event this past weekend and experienced first-hand the unique blend of celebrity and philanthropy. However, this year the event took place at one of the most alluring, mythic, elite golf courses in the U.S., Tom Fazio's Shadow Creek. And for the first time, the course opened to the general public.
A little more on this golf course: unlike many famous courses, this one is hard to imagine, out in the middle of the Nevada desert, and even harder to find. From the Las Vegas strip, it's about a half hour away -- north on I-15 to Craig Road, then go west, then north again, and finally, through some imposing guard gates. And then, there it is, beyond the gates -- the 350-acre, $60 million plus, exceptionally private, painfully green, Tom Fazio course looking more like courses at Pinehurst, or Kiawah, or Augusta. Anywhere, almost, but Nevada.
Shadow Creek boasts quiet streams, rushing brooks, weeping willows, waterfalls, ducks, pheasants, rabbits, and stone bridges that look eerily like the old Swilken bridge at St. Andrews. Indeed, Shadow Creek, has an untouched, impossibly perfect, movie-set look, as if few mortals would ever dare to actually play the course.
For many years, adding to this ineffable allure, is fact: for years, and even now, ONLY MGM Resort guests are permitted to play Shadow Creek. Green fees are listed at $500.00 -- with limo service to and from the course. And the players must schedule tee times at least an hour apart, giving the impression that golfers are on the course by themselves. All of this plays into an image of ultimate elitism combined with escapism, creating a course intrigue that involves rarity, mystery, and sanctuary.
The course's route runs mostly north and south so the sun's glare would miss the golfer's eyes, and Fazio with his builders, dug 50 feet into the low desert to provide for elevation changes and enough dirt to build hills around the entire property to provide another dimension of privacy. One of the stories heard, perhaps apocryphal, was that many who live close to the golf course don't know of its existence.
And now The Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament allowed celebrities and even the general public, to see (and some to play!) the course with Michael, who has played the course many times. Looking exceptionally fit, the 48-year-old sports legend answered some questions at the tournament's beginning, and surprised me and others, with this admission:
"My passion for golf is the same as my passion for basketball. As a kid, I played basketball before golf, thank goodness. If I played golf first, I probably would have been a golfer. That's how much passion to excel I have to conquer this game."
When asked about his decision to move the tournament to Las Vegas, Jordan said the move (from the Bahamas where all of his other nine tournaments were held) has helped bolster the celebrity field for the event. "It's more of a centrally located area to appeal to celebrities and athletes. We changed the time frame from January to March to take advantage of the great weather. Everybody is very happy. A lot of them have never played Shadow Creek, and it's one of the biggest attractions.
The list of celebrities in attendance, and playing, was substantial and diverse. With Michael Jordan were Marcus Allen, Flex Alexander, Anthony Anderson, Derek Anderson, Gabriel Aubry*, Brian Baumgartner, Jerome Bettis, Drew Brees, Brandi Chastain, Chris Chelios, Roger Clemens, Larry David, Richard Dent, Abe Elam*, Shannon Elizabeth*, Julius Erving, Michael Finley, Jamie Foxx*, Dwight Freeney, Janet Jones-Gretzky, Wayne Gretzky, Ken Griffey, Jr., Bill Guthridge, Penny Hardaway, Hill Harper, Kevin Hart*, Hollywood Henderson, Brett Hull, Toby Keith, Toni Kukoc, Spike Lee*, Mario Lemieux, Kenny Lofton, Greg Maddux, Danny Masterson, Chi McBride, Christina Milian*, Paul O'Neill, Michael Pena, Mike Piazza, James Pickens, Jr., Maury Povich, Salli Richardson, Stuart Scott, Bruce Smith, John Smoltz, Alan Thicke, Winky Wright, Boyz II Men* (Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockman, Wanya Morris) and Jabbawockeez*. (*non-golfer)
The event is a major charity fundraiser, and the Nevada Cancer Center Institute is one of the chief recipients. "They called us," said Shelley Gitomer, vice president of business development for the Nevada Cancer Center Institute, who received a $50,000 check from the Invitational. "We were thrilled they chose us, along with the James R. Jordan Foundation and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, among others. The Nevada Cancer Center Institute is a major outpatient and research facility in Las Vegas, where we have become a leader in cancer research, education, as well as, in hematology/medical oncology therapies."
"This event is great for the city, allowing -- for the first time! --the general public to see and some to play with these celebrities. Golf is a very social game, it often brings out the best in people. I must say that in meeting the celebrities here, they are generous, kind and humble -- really different from how many of us used to think of celebrities. This event helps everyone: our Nevada Cancer Center certainly, but also we are educated by seeing the philanthropic side of celebrity, being the best you can be when you give back to those in need."