HONOLULU – Michael Jordan stories. Fred Couples stories. Tiger Woods stories.
PGA TOUR rookie Taylor Montgomery has all of these and more as a product of the Las Vegas golf scene. His father, Monte, is the GM at Shadow Creek, a playground for high-wattage high-rollers, which means Montgomery, who shot a second-round 66 and was 10 under par and leading the Sony Open in Hawaii after the morning wave, has seen some things.
What was the best part about growing up in Vegas?
“Probably playing golf out there and just seeing the celebrities, like Tiger, Michael Jordan, Jerome Bettis,” he said. “All the athletes out there loved golf. I was never into golf.
“I was more into like basketball and football and stuff,” he continued. “Once I start seeing those guys out there, it kind of drew me towards the game a lot more.”
Once he was in, he was in. Montgomery, 27, is a hard worker and great putter who went to UNLV and has kept grinding through good times and bad. He experienced heartache in 2021 (No. 26 on both the regular season points standings and Korn Ferry Tour Finals points standings) but left nothing to chance as he racked up nine Korn Ferry Tour top-10s in just 17 starts last season to secure his PGA TOUR card.
Turns out he was just getting warmed up. He came into this week at 11th in the FedExCup after top-15 finishes in six of his seven fall starts, and while he had never seen Waialae Country Club, he’s been owning the greens like he grew up here – 241 feet of putts made – not in Vegas.
And what about those stories from his formative years in Sin City?
We’ll start with a Michael Jordan anecdote.
“I used to caddy for the guy that (Jordan) was playing against,” Montgomery said, “and I was always trash talking to him. This was at the age I grew like a foot in a year. He’s like, hey, Bobby, who the hell is that kid? He’s like, ‘Oh, you dumb ass, that’s Monte’s kid.’
“Because I was just yapping the whole time,” Montgomery continued, smiling at the memory. “My guy kept chipping in and making putts and hitting it close and he was beating MJ pretty bad. Didn’t work out though. The back nine, MJ kind of did MJ stuff.”
Montgomery laughed. The idea of him talking trash is funny in itself; he is so unassuming that he thanks and shakes hands with his interviewers. He comes across as the antithesis of Vegas glitz, but he does have those quintessentially Vegas stories if you’re willing to pry them out of him.
Like the time Fred Couples shot a course-record 60 at Shadow Creek.
“He was playing with my dad and a couple other guys,” Montgomery said. “They were playing like a little match. My dad said he saw some of the coolest shots he’s ever seen that day.”
And where was Taylor during all of this? “I was out there,” he said. “I was practicing but I was super young. Like this was when Freddy was in his prime.”
Montgomery has also shot 60 at Shadow but doesn’t like his round to Couples’ masterpiece.
“They changed the golf course,” Montgomery said. “They made it a lot longer. It’s a completely different golf course than when Tiger and Fred Couples played it.”
His Woods story goes back to Diamante Resorts in Cabo San Lucas. Woods is designing a golf course there, Montgomery wears their logo, and they met through a mutual acquaintance who was trying to get Montgomery a spot in The Genesis Invitational in February.
“Tiger thought that I would make it into that event,” Montgomery said. “…He was a really cool dude. I mean, his foot didn’t look too good walking, but we were talking about his kid and kind of like the tour and the way the way guys play.”
Woods’ advice, according to Montgomery: Hard work trumps all.
“It’s really cool to talk to the best player ever, in my opinion,” he said.
Montgomery’s hard work has paid big dividends in Waialae. It’s a tight course, and short, which plays to the strengths of his game: driving, wedge play, putting.
Does he think can win?
“Yeah, I definitely feel like I could win at any time,” he said. “I hope to do that soon.”