On Sunday, December 17th, The Wynn Golf and Country Club closes to make room for Steve Wynn’s new Paradise Park project, which will include a 47-story hotel and Carnivale-themed lagoon area.
The closure ends a golf ear that dates to 1952 when the Desert Inn course opened. The Desert Inn closed in 2001, and the reimagined Wynn and Tom Fazio layout opened on the land in 2005.
In 1953, the Desert Inn hosted the inaugural PGA Tour Tournament of Champions. Al Besselink won, and his first-place prize of 10,000 silver dollars was delivered in a wheelbarrow by Wilbur Clark, the resorts first owner. Contrary to a popular rumour, Besselink said he didn’t lose it all in the casino.
“I was just so positive that week,” Besselink told Jack Sheehan during an interview for City of Champions: the History of Professional Golf in Las Vegas.” I led every round, but I darn near didn’t close the deal at the end. I had to make a slick downhill, 8-footer for par on the last hole to edge Chandler Harper. As I lined it up, I said to the Man Upstairs, ‘God, if you let me make this one, I’ll give $5,000 to the Damon Runyan Cancer.‘ I knocked it in and kept my promise”
Jack Nicklaus shared his Desert Inn memories with “City of Champions” contributor Scott Tolley. “The Desert Inn was a nice golf course,” Nicklaus said. “It was probably a little more difficult than the average desert golf course at the time. I thought it was a pretty good test of golf. I remember making the longest putt of my professional career at the Desert Inn. I walked off at 118 feet. I think I was on the par 3, 11th hole.”