Wynn takes $2M plunge into golf

Apr 25, 2006 5:25 AM

Steve Wynn has never backed off a big stakes investment, so it makes perfect sense that golf’s richest first prize purse will be held on his course, his way.

The event, which takes place sometime around June 2007, was actually organized last year by former Atlanta Falcons QB Steve Bartkowski, among others. The event was held in Mesquite and played at the CasaBlanca Golf Club. The team of Californian David Ping and Garth Mulroy, an ex-NC State golfer from South Africa, took home a combined $3 million winner’s check for their $100,000 ante ($50K apiece).

This second edition is a whole new ballgame with an adjusted format, national TV exposure and a high stakes kicker reminiscent of the World Series of Poker. Each golfer must ante up $50,000 individually to enter. No teams. The winner takes home a cool $2 million, topping the first place amounts for the Players Championship and each of golf’s four PGA majors — Masters, U.S. and British Opens, along with the PGA.

"The event organizers wanted a different spin and engaged my services," said Terry Jastrow, a 24-year television producer for ABC Sports, who has previously been involved in college football, Wide World of Sports, The Skins Game and Monday Night Football. "Match play is fun for the players, but not television friendly. So we made it a stroke play event.

Jastrow, who now deals with all four major networks, has produced 68 of golf’s major championship and is a winner of seven Emmy Awards. So, if he’s involved, expect no less than a quality production based upon that impressive resume.

"We took a page from the World Series of Poker," Jastrow said. "Lee Trevino once said that real pressure is not playing for somebody else’s money, but playing for your own. Golfers with great dreams, who have $50,000 and think they can stand the pressure are welcome."

The Wynn Golf Course, designed by world renowned Tom Fazio, is a par 70, 7,042 yard test on the grounds of the Wynn Las Vegas Resort & Casino. The course is exclusive and not made for large crowds. So expect a limited number of spectators, most probably invited guests.

The event is a coming out party for the golf course, built on the grounds of the famed Desert Inn course that at one time hosted a PGA Tour event during the heyday of the "Rat Pack."

"The Ultimate Game" is limited to 160 players, with half the field eliminated during the first four rounds of match play. The final 10 compete in a two-day, 36-hole winner take-all stroke play competition. Tourney organizers have tentatively set the finals for June 6-8, but TV wants a weekend slot when the PGA does not schedule a high-profile tourney.

"I’m not sure whether the event will be telecast live or taped for future showing," Jastrow said. "The 10 finalists would be featured in an American Idol-type introduction to the public so that they could gain some popularity and draw oddsmakers into booking the event."

Players on the PGA, Nationwide and Seniors Tours are not eligible, but LPGA participation is a possibility. Top amateur players, PGA club pros, celebrities and John or Jane Q Public are all welcome, provided they bring $50,000 and play well enough to stick around.

"We have had preliminary conversations with the LPGA," he said. "If their players make it to TV we would have to make them a sanctioning partner, which we may do. It’s possibly Annika (Sorenstam) and Michelle Wie could be playing for the money.

You could see shoe companies bring Michael Jordan or LeBron James into the field, or George Clooney and Jack Wagner from a list of top celebrity golfers.

"The possibilities are endless, which makes this event so exciting," Jastrow said. "That’s why it needs to be in Las Vegas. There is no better place to have it."