A.J. McInerney makes his PGA Tour debut at the Shriners in Las Vegas this week, and he is really happy to be there.
"You know, in the midst of everything that's happened over the last month or so, to get the chance to play here this week and kind of play for Las Vegas, and just see all these people out here in the Vegas community come together, it's an opportunity that I'll never forget," the 24-year-old Web.com tour player told reporters Tuesday.
McInerney, who is from Las Vegas and went to UNLV, finished No. 97 on this year's regular season Web.com Tour money list. He was with his girlfriend Alyssa Martine at the Jason Aldean concert less than a month ago in what turned out to be the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. McInerney spoke with Global Golf Post about the night.
"I saw people to the left and right of me get shot," McInerney said. "I could hear the bullets hit people. You could see the bullets hitting the ground right beside you. I don't know what a war zone is like, but it felt like we were sitting ducks. … It was a pretty gruesome scene.
"When we hit the ground, we tried to take as much cover as we could. I grabbed my girlfriend and her brother jumped on top of us. We try to protect the people we love. Then you just tried to run. Everyone has to go."
Saw a few people down and bullets hitting the ground everywhere. I'm lucky to be alive. Praying for everyone. #VegasStrong— AJ McInerney (@AJ_McInerney) October 2, 2017
Words don't describe how thankful I am for @AJ_McInerney.He laid right on top of me to make a shield & made me his #1 priority(Ant did too)— alyssa martine (@alyssamartine) October 3, 2017
In the aftermath of the shooting, McInerney pointed to the resilience of his hometown.
"The way that Las Vegas came together though is pretty incredible," he said Tuesday. "I had a friend that waited in line for 12 hours to donate blood. They were at a certain point kind of turning people away unless you had a certain type. Then just everything that went on that night, saving lives, I think, the heroic efforts of pretty much everyone that was there and the first responders that showed up saved a lot of lives that night. It could have been a lot worse than it was.
"Las Vegas is a very small community, when you think about it. Everybody kind of knows everybody. I don't think there's one person in Las Vegas who wasn't in some way affected by that night."
This week, McInerney knows, a lot of people are rooting for him—and he's doing his best to stay focused on the golf.
"Playing on the PGA Tour only does good things," he said. "I'm still going to be at the second stage of Q-School in Texas that starts on Tuesday. So unless I were to get a win here this week and get that two-year exemption to become a member of the PGA Tour, I'd need to go to second stage."
McInerney is sure to have a passionate local following when he tees off at 11:45 a.m. ET Thursday.
"When I registered Monday morning, I got all the tickets and took them to my mom," he said. "And I said, you're in charge. So I took care of my girlfriend and her brother and the few of my really close friends that needed a ticket, then as far as family and all the other tickets went, that's kind of my mom.
"I just wanted to be able to focus on golf starting today."