Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Nick Watney is usually the one signing autographs, not requesting them.
But Watney, a professional golfer who finished 12th in this year’s FedEx Cup, couldn’t contain himself when he spotted one of his childhood heroes during Wednesday’s Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open Pro-Am.
“I grew up on the west coast and the first thing I remember from the 49ers is Jerry Rice,” Watney said. “So once I saw him on the tee, I was definitely going to get his autograph.”
Watney had Rice, the Hall of Fame wide receiver, sign the bill of his hat and sported it for the rest of the day. Rice was among a number of celebrities and athletes who participated in the Pro-Am, which was shortened to nine holes because of an early morning rain delay.
Watney was in the group that attracted the biggest gallery. He played alongside tournament host Justin Timberlake.
“He hit the ball very solid,” Watney said of Timberlake’s game. “You can tell he’s a good athlete. He’s coordinated and makes a good move at it.”
Actors Andy Garcia and Grant Show were also paired with Watney. Rice spent his time on the course with PGA Tour pro Marc Leishman and former NFL standouts Emmitt Smith and Doug Flutie.
Other celebrities in the field included musician Kenny G and former N*Sync member Chris Kirkpatrick.
“Tournaments like this wouldn’t be going on without the Pro-Am and sponsors like this, so it’s our way of giving back during tournament week,” said PGA Tour pro Rickie Fowler.
UNLV golfers reminisce at new Rebel Ranch
UNLV golf coach Dwaine Knight and members of the 1996-1998 Rebels teams held a roundtable discussion during the Pro Am Wednesday afternoon.
The panel included three golfers who are now professionals — Chad Campbell, Bill Lunde and Chris Riley.
The 1996 Rebels squad ranked first in the nation all year, but failed to win the national championship. The 1998 team won a national title.
“To come with the No. 1 ranking and win in 1998, it was cool,” Knight said. “The one thing I’ll always remember is Sports Illustrated wrote a story about us and said we were going to crap out again.”
Members of the team shared a number of anecdotes from those years and expressed their gratitude for Knight.
“I think we all owe a lot to Coach Knight,” Campbell said. “He always helps us still, especially with our short game and putting. This really is a family.”
The Rebel Ranch is a new hospitality tent at this year’s tournament that will feature special UNLV events each day.
They include Friday’s students day, where 250 UNLV students will be allowed free entry and Sunday’s coaches day, when basketball coach Lon Kruger and athletic director Jim Livengood will hold a meet and greet.
Kodak Challenge race heats up at TPC Summerlin
The 16th hole at TPC Summerlin will mean a little extra to four golfers this week.
It’s part of the Kodak Challenge, a year-long competition that measures golfers success on 30 of the most beautiful holes in the country. The golfer with the best cumulative score on the 30 holes will win $1 million at the end of the season.
The JT Shriners Open is the second to last event of the year. Fowler and fellow rookie Troy Merritt are currently tied at the top of the leaderboard at 15-under par.
“We’re going to be battling it out on that hole,” Fowler said. “We’re going to try to make some low numbers. We’ll be thinking about 16 this week.”
Tim Petrovic and Aaron Baddeley are both one stroke behind Fowler and Merritt at -13.