Last year he lost the Nevada Open in a playoff after tying with one other player for first place. This year he was back for redemption. And Tom Whitney got it as he won the $25,000 first place prize by two strokes on Thursday, Nov. 12 to take the 2015 Nevada Open crown.
Whitney shot a 69 at the Palms Golf Course in the opening round on Tuesday, playing in conditions not normally seen in Mesquite. With cold temperatures, blustery winds and occasional rain, Whitney said “it’s what I’m used to after living in Colorado and attending the Air Force Academy. I have a low ball flight as part of my normal game so it didn’t affect me too much. I tend to like playing on days like that.”
Wednesday’s conditions were much better with sunshine and calm winds as Whitney shot a 67 at the CasaBlanca Golf Course, five under par.
Starting two shots back in the final round at the CasaBlanca Golf Course, Whitney ripped off four birdies in a row on holes 2, 3, 4, and 5 for a one shot lead over the field. “At that point I knew it was anybody’s game,” Whitney said.
As he was finishing on hole 18 with a birdie to put him two under for the round and 14 under for a three day total, there was talk that the second place player, Kurt Kitayama was making a move up the scoring ladder when he eagled hole 13. “When I saw that his final two holes were 16 and 17 I felt a little better. Hole 17 is the toughest on the course and Kurt was going to have to birdie both of those to tie me. If he did, great. If not, even better,” Whitney quipped.
But it was not to be as former UNLV Golfer Kitayama finished second, two strokes back. In all, 209 players started the tournament, one of the largest fields in the history of the Nevada Open.
Whitney graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2010 and was on active duty through May 2014. Now he plays golf full-time. He’s won two other mini-tour events this year including the Waterloo Open in Waterloo, Iowa, and a tournament in North Dakota.
From here he heads to Phoenix and then possibly the pro tour in Latin America or Canada.
For the first time, Nevada Open week included a pro-am prior to the professional competition. The event raised $1,000 for Mesquite Junior Golf, which will go towards growing the sport among youngsters in the Mesquite area.
The Nevada Open is one of the most historic golf tournaments to be held annually in Nevada. The total purse for 2015 was $125,000, the largest amount in history. The event has been played for more than 40 years and includes such former champions as PGA Tour winners Robert Gamez and Tom Lehman, and former Nike Tour tournament winner and current Butch Harmon School of Golf teaching professional Vic Wilk. Another former champion is Kevin Penner–now a PGA TOUR player–who won the Nevada Open in 2012 while still an amateur and playing at national college powerhouse UNLV.