By Brian Hurlburt, Las Vegas Golf Insider
Mesquite, Nevada (Nov. 12, 2020)–Taylor Montgomery, a former UNLV golf star, isn’t afraid of the moment when it comes to playing for money on a golf course owned by a casino. He demonstrated that calm demeaner by firing rounds of 62-68-69 to finish at 17-under par and win the $150,000 Nevada Open by two shots over Chicago’s Daniel Hudson. Montgomery earned $31,350 for the victory.
The tournament was played at CasaBlanca Golf Club and Palms Golf Club Nov. 10-12 in Mesquite, Nevada, a gaming and golf destination located about 77 miles north of Las Vegas. Zakhai Brown (Golden, Colorado), and Sam Weatherford (Grand Rapids, Michigan), finished tied for third at 14-under par.
Montgomery is the son of Shadow Creek general manager Monte Montgomery, himself a former UNLV golf star and a player who has also won some notable tournaments. Taylor has had access to the Las Vegas course where his dad works for pretty much his entire life, and has witnessed and experienced some “pressure” moments at the layout.
Shadow Creek is owned and operated by MGM Resorts and was the site of the $9 million match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in 2018, and also the PGA Tour’s CJ Cup in October 2020.
Montgomery now channels lessons learned at “The Creek” and while playing at UNLV to help him successfully maneuver moments like he routinely experiences during a top mini-tour event like the Nevada Open or during Korn Ferry Tour events, where he is well within reach of earning PGA Tour status for the 2021-22 season.
But even remaining calm under pressure wasn’t enough to ensure smooth sailing during the 2020 Nevada Open. Montgomery enjoyed a 7-shot lead midway through the second round, but started the final round leading by only a single stroke.
“It was like riding a roller coaster out there and that’s a perfect way to describe it,” said Montgomery. “It’s like on some shots, you feel good over them, and then sometimes you feel awful. It’s a funny game. It really is.
“I tried not to think anything about the outcome of the tournament or where I was at, but even so, I stopped hitting it as well as I was, plus a couple of putts that were dropping before, stopped dropping. Then things tightened up, but fortunately I would start playing well again and make a few birdies.”
Montgomery isn’t new to winning tournaments, but this was his first Nevada Open title. He was a two-time Nevada state high school champion while playing at Foothill in Henderson (2011, 2013), won as a college player at UNLV, won several events and $100,000+ cash during the Major Series of Putting, and is a two-time champion of the Sand Hollow Open, which is played annually just up the road from Mesquite in Hurricane, Utah. Besides that career success, Montgomery is also happy with the current state of things.
“My game has been solid for the last probably three or four months and I’ve had some good tournaments,” Montgomery said. “I hit a lot of good iron shots and I putted pretty solidly this week. I really didn’t get into a lot of trouble, even though you always hit some ugly golf shots in a tournament, but none of them were really that bad. I just managed my game well on these courses. The CasaBlanca course was in great shape and the greens were the best I’ve ever seen them. I also played last year and they were good, but nothing like this year.”
Over the last several decades, the Nevada Open has built a reputation as not only a quality event on the course, but also for what there is to do off the course. Montgomery, whose grandparents took him to Mesquite as a youngster, enjoyed the entire Nevada Open experience.
“It’s just a fun environment to come play in with your buddies,” Montgomery said. “Four or five of us played poker in our rooms at the CasaBlanca each night, and the café is right there, which is nice. And you can also gamble in the casino, play blackjack, or do whatever. And then you come out in the morning and play golf. It’s a very fun tournament. There’s a lot of things to do here.”
Montgomery now shifts his focus back to the Korn Ferry Tour and his pursuit of status on the PGA Tour. As of this writing, he is 23rd on the points list and the top 25 earn status. However, an entire season awaits on that tour.
“The COVID thing was a little weird for the Korn Ferry season and now we still have a completely new season coming up, but all the points I currently have will roll over,” Montgomery said. “However, it’s still another year to go, so I am going to have to go out and play very well if I want to be on the PGA tour.”
Christian Adderson, the Nevada Open tournament director and CasaBlanca Resort assistant general manager, was very pleased with the 2020 event. Mesquite Gaming operates the resort and the Nevada Open.
“This was probably one of the deepest fields we had in all of these years and we not only had great players from the Western United States, but from all over the country,” Adderson said. “And Taylor Montgomery is a true ‘Nevada’ Open champion because he is from Las Vegas and played at UNLV. Also, he has played in the event a few times as has his father, Monte. I think it is wonderful to now include Taylor as a Nevada Open champion.”
Click here for complete Nevada Open tournament details
Photos courtesy Mesquite Gaming, Tyler Coop