The Las Vegas Challenge presented by Innova successfully kicked off the 2023 Disc Golf Pro Tour season. The event itself ended up telling an unpredictable tale of old (and perhaps new) rivalries, new bags and sponsorships, and pressure as high as the Vegas winds. The 22-year history of the annual Las Vegas tournament has quickly developed into a fan-favorite competition, but a step back in time can show you how a tournament that first started in 2000 with 44 total participants has grown to host 176 professional athletes on the elite stage of the Disc Golf Pro Tour.
Before the Las Vegas Challenge, the tournament was known as the Gentlemen’s Club Challenge. The previous name came out of the early 1990s when a group of disc golfers known as the Gentlemen’s Club would visit Vegas’ Sunset Park to play rounds with any who would challenge them. According to Scott Merritt, the Assistant Tournament Director of the LVC, the name change happened as a way to “…more positively promote the event and to bring in new sponsors.”
Coincidentally enough, the course the Gentlemen’s Club would play at (Sunset Park) was actually the original hosting course of the annual Las Vegas tournament between the years of 2000 and 2015, before the tournament moved to the three courses at the Wildhorse Golf Club in 2016.
The course transition took place shortly after the Las Vegas Disc Golf Club (LVDGC) hosted their 2015 Halloween Classic at a venue owned by the same organization that owns Wildhorse. Impressed by the love of disc golf in the area and the diligent event organization skills from the LVDGC, Wildhorse’s owners suggested hosting a disc golf event at their traditional golf course. Despite the history that came from Sunset Park, the club agreed that transitioning their city’s premiere disc golf tournament to a place that can be made into an elite and private disc golf paradise would be an incredible opportunity for them.
After the growth and success of just the first tournament at Wildhorse, Tournament Director (and former LVDGC board member) Jeff Jacquart made the decision to create a business dedicated to managing the annual event. “A key reason for the change was to remove the Las Vegas Disc Golf Club from any financial obligations tied to the event, especially with the TD no longer being on the club board,” Merritt explained. “Jeff ‘retired’ from being a board member so 100% of his disc golf time could focus on the GCC/LVC.”
22 years later, the Las Vegas Challenge is the first stop on the Disc Golf Pro Tour. The history of the Gentlemen’s Club and the LVDGC shows you how far the devotion of local clubs and individuals can take the sport of disc golf in your community.