The fans are back, the players all hope to catch the big Fish (Mardy) and there’s a new Curry (Seth) at Lake Tahoe’s celebrity golf tournament, the American Century Championship.
Missing is the famed snow cross on Mt. Tallac, melted away by early July for the first time since Charles Barkley could fit into skinny jeans. A line of motorists traveling to elevation to escape 100-degree-plus temperatures spread from Stateline to Echo Summit on late Wednesday following the ACC’s first practice round.
Ostensibly, the format was shamble, a hybrid best-ball team format, but different groups played by various rules on a casual, festive day.
“It’s a shamble?” Larry the Cable Guy shouted as he ran to his cart, arriving too late to take any practice shots. It was odd to see comedian wearing shirt sleeves.
“I figured I’d dress up,” he wisecracked as he hopped into the cart.
Justin Timberlake was there, as was Jack Wagner, who, along with Jim McMahon, has played in every Tahoe celebrity golf championship. Joe Theismann was feeling chipper, back at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course after missing the tourney for just the fourth time.
The largest gallery followed a group with defending champion Mardy Fish, brothers Steph and Seth Curry, father Dell Curry and super middleweight boxing champion Canelo Alvarez.
As the golfers waited to tee off on No. 9, older brother Steph, the mischievous Golden State Warrior, struck a boxing stance and squared off with Canelo. Curry had the height and reach advantage and was very quick on his feet. Canelo played along and cut off Curry’s angles at every step. Finally, Canello found an opening and feigned a punch. Curry spun on his heal and laughingly retreated. He’s very good with the step-back.
But the competitiveness of the Curry family is no joke. Father Dell, who turned down a professional baseball contract to pursue the NBA, nailed a long birdie putt on No. 8, acknowledging cheers with a wave and not a smile. On that same hole which has a severe slope, Seth Curry nearly did the same using an extreme break. Back on No. 7, Seth blasted from a bunker and his ball landed 2 feet from the hole.
After 2019 set the attendance record — 60,530 — last year’s tournament was played in front of no spectators due to the Covid-19 crisis. The tournament began in 1990 during a Major League Baseball strike. It was a made-for-television event, and the 2020 version had a similar ambiance.
Fish, who came close to winning in previous years but struggled with his short game, shot a record 10 birdies in the second round, leading to a decisive win in 2020. The prize money from the entire field was donated to charity.
If he can play the same way in front of crowds, it could be an easy win for the former tennis player. Across the street at the casinos, he’s the betting favorite.
“Mardy Fish, what he did last year, how could you not take him?” said Smoltz, who has finished in the top 10 in 10 of his 11 ACC appearances.”
The three-round tournament opens with its latest Friday start, 9:54 a.m. A weather forecast called for a high temperature of 86 degrees and a 12 percent chance of afternoon thunderstorms.