Tucson Golf Pro Don Littrel shoots 66 to qualify for PGA event

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Local golf fans have extra reason to tune into the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas this October: Don Littrell, assistant golf professional at Skyline Country Club has qualified for the starting field with the $6 million PGA Tour event.

In a rare feat, Littrell nabbed the coveted slot by winning a Southwest region qualifier held in late August. Competing against hundreds of pros from Phoenix and Las Vegas, Littrell shot 66 to enter a playoff with one other player, which he won on the third play-off hole. Fellow Tucsonan Chris Dompier, Littrell's boss at Skyline Country Club, shot 67 to finish right behind.

The win qualifies Littrell to bring his aggressive, make-it-happen game to the nationally televised Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, set Oct. 14-21 at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas. At stake are $6 million in prizes and full FedEx Cup points, with the winner receiving just over $1 million and an invitation to golf's biggest and most prestigious event, the 2014 Masters tournament.

"This will be the most nervous I've ever been in my life," says Littrell, who will turn 33 a few days after the tournament. "But I love to play, love to compete, and this is a huge step forward. Whatever I do to get past the nervousness and play will be something I can bring back and share with our members here."

Making his PGA Tour debut, Littrell will represent Tucson's Skyline Country Club, displaying the club's logo on his shirt and equipment. A small group of Skyline members will be traveling to Las Vegas to cheer for club pros Littrell and Dompier, who will be caddying for his close friend.

While TPC Summerlin's tight course suits his aggressive playing style, Littrell expects the Shiners Hospitals for Children Open to be a shootout. In the lead-up to the tournament, he's focusing on shooting more accurately over short distances.

A Class-A PGA member since 2007, Littrell began golfing in his teens with his step-father and has been at Skyline for more than eight years. A native of Michigan, he lives in Tucson with his wife, Melisa, and their two boys. He credits yoga, pilates and limited weight training for his on-course flexibility and fitness.

The Shriners event is particularly high profile this year, after schedule changes made the tournament one of six opening events for the PGA Tour. These changes are expected to draw even more of golf's top names than usual for an event whose history includes players such as Greg Norman, Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods, whose first PGA victory was at Shriners in 1996. (The event was then called the Las Vegas Invitational.)

The Shriners Hospitals for Children Open will be nationally televised on the Golf Channel beginning Oct. 17. For more information, visit shrinershospitalsopen.com.

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