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Remarkable run has Morikawa on top of global golf world

It’s remarkable to consider the journey Collin Morikawa has been on over the past 16 months.

In July 2020, the second-year pro and new Las Vegas resident had a single win on the PGA Tour in a second-tier event. And then, boom.

Morikawa beat Justin Thomas in a playoff at the Workday Charity Open for his first top-tier win. Three weeks later he won the PGA Championship, and when the calendar turned to 2021 he added a World Golf Championship, the British Open and a stellar Ryder Cup to his resume.

And now, over the weekend, he became the first American to win the season-ending DP World Tour Championship and the European Tour’s Order of Merit. He’s also creeping up on Jon Rahm in the world rankings to the point where his next win will most likely make him No. 1 in the world.

“Two-and-a-half years ago when I turned pro, I had no idea what life was going to put in front of me,” Morikawa said last week. “Obviously the world has gone through many changes.”

When he turned pro, Morikawa had ambitions to play globally, but never in his wildest imagination did he picture becoming the first American to win Europe’s top honor or to get an honorary lifetime membership to the tour.

“It’s very special. It’s an honor, really,” he told reporters in Dubai. “To be the first American to do that, to put my name against many, many greats — Hall of Famers — it’s special.”

Now Morikawa can sit back and enjoy the holidays in Las Vegas and plot out 2022 and a plan to climb even higher in the golf world.

“The way my head’s wired, I’m always looking for what’s next,” he said. “But I’m going to try to enjoy this one.”

UNLV signs two

UNLV’s women’s team has signed two players to letters of intent, including one who will join the Rebels for the 2022 spring season.

Toa Yokoyama, a Japan native who attends IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, is graduating early and will be eligible to compete in the spring.

“We are very excited to have Toa be able to join us early,” coach Amy Bush-Herzer said. “Her playing experience from around the world will add to our lineup for our spring season. We are excited to have her competing for us.”

UNLV also signed Thienna Huynh, a Georgia high schooler who is 56th in the American Junior Golf Association rankings. Bush-Herger said adding Huynh goes beyond her golf talent.

“We knew from the beginning that she was the right fit for UNLV,” Bush-Herzer said. “Thienna’s academic and athletic accomplishments will help us continue to be a top-ranked program.”

Charity event

Eight local pros each will play 72 holes in a single day as part of a fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Southwest PGA Chapter Foundation.

The second annual Birdies for Good will take place Monday at Eagle Crest Golf Course. For each birdie made, a donation is made to the two charities via pledges the golfers receive.

Pledges can be made by visiting birdiesforgood.org/snv2021, finding the player you want to support, and making a pledge for each birdie they make or a maximum donation total. The 2020 event raised more than $31,000.

Players taking part this year include Kristen Allard (Bear’s Best), Thom Blinkinsop (Red Rock), Jim Delaney (Southern Highlands), Matt Henderson (TPC Las Vegas), Andrew Loving (GolfTEC/Henderson), Mike Magnera (Legacy), Tim Sam (GolfTEC/Spring Valley) and Sean Solodovnick (Five Iron Golf).

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.

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