It was an event to remember — and forget — during the 31st American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Stateline, Nevada.
Former professional tennis player Mardy Fish won his first ACC title over the three-day tournament that featured no spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic. All prize money was donated to Covid-19 relief and Lake Tahoe-area nonprofits. The ACC is built upon the interaction between celebrities and fans, a major reason why a record 60,530 people showed last year. This year’s event was a silent, tournament-style environment from the tee box to the green.
You could hear the birds tweet. Donald Trump was golfing, but not in Tahoe. Stormy Daniels was busy elsewhere, too.
Fourth place finisher and Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry said the fanless experience took some getting used to, but he found his stride over the course of 54 holes.
“Obviously with no fans, it’s a little different vibe,” he said. “It’s way too quiet. But once you get over that, it’s just kind of playing golf like usual. And I enjoyed it.”
To protect the safety of players and spectators, this year’s tournament lacked several memorable qualities. During any other year, Hole 17 is packed with fans and boats are docked on the shores of Lake Tahoe. Celebrity participants may sign autographs, try to dunk a basketball or launch a football to spectators in the water.
This year’s event was much different. Boat capacity was limited on the shore and sheriff’s deputies ensured beaches were empty for all three days. Hole 17 is a special experience for fans and participants, but it lacked that certain feeling.
“(Hole) 17 is just a unique experience. I don’t think there’s anything like it that I’ve seen,” two-time defending ACC champion Tony Romo said. “Scottsdale is probably the closest thing you can think of. But it’s just really — it’s just a passionate fan base that gets crazy. If you want everyone to be quiet when you’re hitting a golf shot, you’re not going to get it there.”
Despite the social aspect of this year’s tournament, several celebrities had impressive performances on the links. Fish finished with 76 points on the modified Stableford scoring system en route to a first-place finish. He scored a record 37 points on Day 2 and shot a 63, topping Lee Trevino’s course record of 65 in the mid-to-late 1980s.
“I’ve wanted to play well here for a long time,” he said. “It just doesn’t suit my eye very well. So I haven’t put it all together. And thankfully I put it all together yesterday, because it wasn’t today and it wasn’t Friday.”
Fish scored 21 points on the final day to hold off former Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who finished second with 67 points. Williams has made just two ACC appearances and set the all-time scoring record for a defensive lineman.
“It was a great week,” Williams said. “I had a lot of fun but just couldn’t get the ball to drop today. And that’s kind of how golf goes. I’m so proud of Mardy and happy for him. I know he’s been beating on the door for a long time. And for him to finally get one in there, I’m happy for him.”
Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz placed third with 58 points followed by Curry (56 points) and Washington Redskins quarterback Case Keenum (54 points) to round out the Top-5. Smoltz was in third place heading into Day 3 and stayed there with a 21-point finish.
The greens have a knack for being quick and difficult to read, which gave Smoltz fits on the back nine.
“I had a lot of chances to change the environment early on,” he said. “I was hoping to put some pressure on the guys early. But there was just no way those putts, they just weren’t falling.”
For the first time in two years, the Top-5 didn’t feature Romo and former Oakland Athletics pitcher Mark Mulder. The hurler had 52 points to finish in sixth place following back-to-back second place finishes the previous two years. Romo was tied for fourth place with 36 points on Day 2, but a left wrist injury forced him to withdraw on Day 3. The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback suffered his injury on Hole 16 and had his wrist taped to finish the round. He has dominated Edgewood and won the event the last two years.
Dell Curry, Derek Lowe and Vinny Del Negro all tied for seventh with 50 points. Jack Wagner rounded out the Top-10 with 48 points. Football players Carson Palmer and Adam Thielen finished 11th and 12th with one point separating them. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was 16th with 35 points.
Even without fans, there were several moments that made Lake Tahoe’s celebrity venue memorable. Charles Barkley finished 69th out of the 71-player pool with -68 points. He finished with a birdie on Hole 18.
At the end of the tournament, Fish joined Dell and Steph Curry and professional boxer Canelo Alvarez by taking a dip into the lake. It was quite a finish to an unprecedented 31st American Century Championship.
“We’ve had a lot of fun under these circumstances,” Dell Curry said. “Let’s see if we can make it even better next year.”