Justin adds star power to the Las Vegas event

IAN HUTCHINSON, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

It is the way of the PGA Tour to overload itself with star power in August and September and have little left in that department by the time October rolls around for events such as this week's Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open that will be played at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas.

Vegas in a town never lacking is star power, so if the tour can't send the big boys, this neon city will provide the flair itself. Timberlake, a six-time Grammy winner, signed on last year to lend his name to the event and will host a celebrity pro-am Wednesday and a highly anticipated, star-studded concert on Friday.

As tournament host, Timberlake becomes the 14th celebrity to host a tour event, following in the footsteps of Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., the latter two being part of the legendary Rat Pack that was known for its high life in Vegas back in the day.

"Obviously I'm a huge fan of the Rat Pack. I'm sure that became very apparent probably in the attire I've started wearing in the last couple of years," said Timberlake, adding that he would also like to have a bit of Bing Crosby out there, since the late crooner was known to have game.

"I do know that Bing, from what I was told, was a really good golfer and actually respected and loved the game," he said of retro flair that would nicely complement a tournament in Vegas.

"I'm kind of intrigued by the fact that, maybe, we can bring that type of synergy and that type of style, that type of legend about the game in modern day. I just have to find three or four other guys who can really get out there and play and who love it, who can play the part and dress the part," Timberlake said.

Apparently, Timberlake is capable of looking and playing the part. He says he's a single digit handicapper, ranging anywhere four to eight, despite getting into the game at an older age than most.

"My dad tried to get me into the game when I was younger, but I was pretty much a diehard basketball player in school," he said. "That required a lot of time and dedication in my mind. I remember that my dad tried to get me into golf when I was 10 or 11. I played it a little bit, but I wasn't as serious about it.

"I didn't really fall in love with the game until I was about 21 or 22. I was on tour, just kind of got cabin fever from playing indoor arenas three or four days in a row. My crew, my stage manager, took me out," he said.

"I sort of remembered everything that my dad taught me when I was 10 or 11. It kind of came back to me. I started hitting balls at the range. I went around and hit balls with them when they played a round. I immediately fell in love with the game."

Now 27, the former - Sync lead singer is like anyone who plays the game with proficiency, but can't find enough time to play.

"I grew up in Tennessee. I love doing anything outdoors, so there's that, but also, I have a million things always going on," he said. "When I'm on the golf course, it seems to be the only place where I can shut it all off, just go out there and hit a little ball at a hole 450 yards away," he said.

"You know, I get lost in the beauty of the courses I play. I get lost in the game. That's when it really hits you that it really is the greatest game ever played," said Timberlake, whose celebrity hasn't yet been able to get the Vegas tournament into a better position on the tour schedule.

Of course, that's the goal of a lot of tournaments that are have-nots on tour, including the RBC Canadian Open, which the Royal Canadian Golf Association wants moved from those nightmare dates behind the British Open, but one consolation is it's part of the Fed Ex Cup points race, if that matters to anybody.

The Vegas tournament, on the other hand, is in that graveyard part of the schedule after the Tour Championship when the focus is on players trying to keep their cards.

"I don't want to overshoot our hopes, but, I mean, obviously if I come into this, I aim high," Timberlake said.


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