Timberlake at last year’s Shriners Open with winner Jonathan Byrd

 
  Justin Timberlake on the eighth green at JT Shriners Hospitals for Children Open Championship Pro-Am at TPC Summerlin
 
  Tournament director Adam Sperling

When the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open hits Las Vegas, all eyes will be on the celebrity who has been making an appearance for charity for the past four years: Justin Timberlake, who brings star power to TPC Summerlin along with a concert that pours money into the Shriners Hospitals for Children. While names such as UNLV grad Charley Hoffman, returning champion Jonathan Byrd (who won last year with a hole in one on the tournament’s third sudden-death hole) and 2009 tournament winner Martin Laird plan to be in attendance at the event (September 26 to October 2), it’s Timberlake whose star wattage shines the spotlight on the charity and Las Vegas.

This marks the 29th consecutive year that Vegas has hosted the PGA Tour event that was known as the Panasonic Las Vegas Pro Celebrity Classic when it kicked off in 1983. “Justin and the hospitals have brought consistency,” says tournament director Adam Sperling.

The JT boost has helped the tournament touch local charities and schools in unexpected ways, an important added value for Las Vegans since none of the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children are located here (although hospitals in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and Sacramento provide for more than 400 Las Vegas-area children). The Shriners Hospitals, which offer advanced care for kids with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate free of charge, see the tournament as an awareness campaign that helps them grow through new donors and more charitable giving.

“We’re supporting more than 50 local charities and a dozen schools financially,” Sperling says. “That’s especially important to our growth as a city and important to the recovery of local charities here.”

The tournament’s Goodie Two Shoes Foundation Rockin’ Walk raised $12,000 to help disadvantaged children buy new shoes last year, while Hoffman raised more than $75,000 for charity through his Pro-Am. In total, local charities netted in excess of $100,000 in 2010, and organizers look forward to a strong 2011. In all, it takes more than 1,000 local volunteers to keep the wheels of this tournament moving. “We do whatever we can throughout the week,” Sperling says, “to bring programs for the communities.”

And with Timberlake, an avid golfer, on board as the face of the tournament, the event has grown at an enormous rate. “Under the entertainment umbrella, Vegas seemed like the right location for him to get involved,” Sperling says, calling the union a perfect match.

Of course, it’s the tournament itself that brings in the crowds and serious players, but Hollywood will be on hand, too: Earth, Wind & Fire, The Commodores, Sugarhill Gang, Sister Sledge, Vanilla Ice and Wayne Brady are among the performers slated for the Justin Timberlake and Friends Old School Jam at Planet Hollywood.

“We do a nice job of blending the excitement of Vegas with local programming to give it a local feel with national and global awareness,” Sperling says of the tournament that reaches 400 million homes during 12 hours of coverage. The celebrity side represents just a piece of the 10-day event. While the core of the 25,000 visitors last year and 40,000 expected this year are golf fans, other events such as the Women’s Day Luncheon, Parties on the Hill and Youth Clinic give everyone a reason to visit TPC Summerlin. “Our slogan,” Sperling says, “is ‘More than just a golf tournament.’”

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