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The picturesque 9th Hole at Shadow Creek
The lure of having free reign over the otherwise heavily guarded, VIP-only Shadow Creek golf course has one sports nut so impressed that he’s moving his five-star event to Las Vegas for good: Michael Jordan will host his Celebrity Invitational golf tournament in our town from March 29–April 1.
The Jordan Invitational, which has raised more than $6 million for several charities, is in its 11th year, but only its second in Vegas. (The event was held here in 2011 after nine years in the Bahamas.) “It was time for a change,” the basketball legend says. “Las Vegas is exciting and easy to get to. The first time I came to Las Vegas was in 1985, after I was already in the NBA. What I remember most from that first trip is the energy of the city and how much I liked it.”
What sealed the deal was an offer Jordan could not refuse: MGM Resorts International would allow the tournament to take place at the appointmentonly Shadow Creek, the ritzy Tom Fazio-designed course (think limo service and private caddies) previously accessible only to high rollers and hotel guests. Built and constructed in meticulous detail near the Nellis Air Force base, Shadow Creek has long been shrouded in mystery.
“I’ve been fortunate to play Shadow Creek more than 100 times, and over the years many people have asked me what it’s like,” Jordan says. “It was really special to me that my tournament marked the first time it was open to the public. Until you drive through those gates, you have no idea that such an incredible course is out there in the desert.”
A noted philanthropist, Jordan made sure that if he moved his event to Vegas, he would incorporate a local beneficiary, so he partnered with Nevada Cancer Institute. And his choice of the Make-A-Wish Foundation as a charitable partner was a no-brainer: Jordan has served as the foundation’s Chief Wish Ambassador since 2009. He has granted nearly 200 wishes in more than 20 years, making him one of the most requested wish-granters ever.
“Each year for the past few years,” he says, “we’ve brought a child to the tournament.” Last year, Jordan granted the wish of Marc Garcia, a 16-year-old from Pennsylvania, giving him a putting lesson on the practice green at Shadow Creek. “On his first try—the first time he’d ever even held a golf club—he sank a 15-foot putt,” Jordan says. “Marc and his family came to our signature event, the MJCI Celebration at Aria, with a concert by Jamie Foxx, and met all the celebrities in attendance.” The other charities that receive proceeds from the Invitational are the Chicago-based James R. Jordan Foundation, founded by Michael’s mother in honor of his late father, and Cats Care, the charity arm of the NBA team he owns, the Charlotte Bobcats. Cats Care promotes education, hunger prevention, and wellness in North Carolina.
At the Jordan Invitational, celebrities and professional athletes alike will be on the course for four rounds of events, including celebrityamateur pairings, and a two-person, 36-hole scramble in which only celebrities compete. In addition to the golf events, there will be plenty of festivities at night.
“Since the tournament takes place over the NCAA Final Four weekend, we have a college basketball viewing party at Aria on Saturday,” says Jordan, a six-time NBA champion and former NCAA champion at the University of North Carolina. “This will be followed by our $250,000 Celebrity Blackjack Invitational, a new event for this year. The highlight of the weekend is always the MJCI Celebration, which is our biggest party. We’ve had so many great moments at the tournament over the years. The most gratifying thing for me is what we’ve been able to give back.” For a full schedule of events and ticket information, call 877-253- 5847; arialasvegas.com/mjcigolf