Las Vegas Sun

October 18, 2019

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Tee Party: UNLV’s Jack Trent makes his pro debut at one of his ‘home courses’

Jack Trent

Wade Vandervort

Jack Trent is UNLV’s top golfer, and has a chance to launch his pro career at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

A familiar name showed up on the caller ID. Golfer Jack Trent’s idol was phoning him.

Trent, a UNLV junior, has long looked up to PGA Tour notable Adam Scott.

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

• When: October 3-6

• Where: TPC Summerlin, 1700 Village Center Circle

• Phone: 702-873-1010

• Tickets: $29-$349 (17 and under free)

• Info: shrinershospitalsopen.com

Both followed a similar path from Australia to UNLV. Scott is one of the Rebel program’s all-time greats; Trent is the current No. 1 golfer on the team.

Scott was calling because this week, they’ll have something else in common: Both are competing at the PGA’s local stop, the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, which runs October 3-6 at TPC Summerlin.

Trent will make his professional debut after qualifying for the tournament through a sponsorship exemption. He received some guidance from Scott when the two followed their phone call with a practice round. “I’m going to extract as much information from him as a I can,” Trent says. “He’s someone I look up to and can relate to.”

Scott, who has recorded 13 PGA wins—including the 2013 Masters championship—is far from the lone accomplished professional in this year’s Shriners field. When the PGA Tour announced the tournament would begin counting for points in the FedEx Cup regular-season standings three years ago, local organizers hoped it would incentivize more top-end talent to participate. This is the first year that has truly come to fruition. The field is stacked.

It includes Brooks Koepka, the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer, and five-time major champion Phil Mickelson, along with the past two defending champions. Bryce DeChambeau, the 2018 Shriners champion, and Patrick Cantlay, the 2017 winner, used their victories at TPC Summerlin to launch into the upper echelons of the tour.

As usual, there are also a few Rebel greats in the field, including Charley Hoffman, a four-time tour winner with $28 million in career earnings, and Ryan Moore, who won an NCAA individual championship at UNLV and has $30 million in professional earnings.

“Seeing those guys on the [practice] putting green 10 feet away from me will be really cool,” Trent says. “It will be good to see them in person. I have only seen them on television.”

Trent has long imagined this moment and all the particulars. Questions like, “How will that first tee shot look and feel?” and, “With whom will I be paired?” have raced through his mind.

Along with the anticipation comes a necessity to manage emotions, something UNLV golf coach Dwaine Knight says shouldn’t be a problem for Trent. “This is his lifelong dream,” Knight says. “He will be nervous like most people are in their first PGA event. I’m sure it is really daunting for him. But you couldn’t tell. He is taking it well.”

Knight coordinated with Shriners Open executive director Patrick Lindsey to get an exemption into the event for the winner of the Southern Highlands Collegiate, a premier college event hosted by UNLV each spring. Trent won a three-hole playoff against top-rated amateur Cole Hammer from the University of Texas. “It’s a good opportunity for a player like Jack to play against the pros,” Knight says.

Trent’s family moved to Summerlin from Sunshine Coast, Australia, after his freshman year in high school. He immediately became a star on the Las Vegas junior circuit and won consecutive state championships at Palo Verde. His family also joined TPC Summerlin, so he has played many rounds on the site of his professional debut.

“I consider it one of my home courses,” Trent says. “The rough can get thick out there. There’s room to hit it off the tee, but if you miss the green, it can get tricky.”

As a winner of a sponsor exemption, Trent isn’t eligible for prize money. But if he wins, he’ll receive all the perks that come with being an event champion—his PGA Tour card for two years and entry into major tournaments. If that happens, he’ll also turn professional.

“I really have nothing to lose,” Trent says. “I’m going to be aggressive and make the most of this opportunity.”

Trent credits the UNLV program for the opportunity and says playing under Knight’s watch has elevated his game. The Rebels consistently rank in the top 20 nationally and are typically in contention for the national championship, which they won in 1998.

The program has produced the likes of Scott, Hoffman and Moore. Trent envisions himself being included on the list in a few years.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.