Prop bet puts Barkley at top of his game (jokes, not golf)

Charles Barkley tees off at 17 in 2019. The shot landed in the sand. On the beach.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Charles Barkley, who says he’s playing “really well,” only has to beat a few players at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship to win a 15-1 casino prop bet.

Unfortunately for those who place money on “Sir Charles,” the field will not include Chris Webber, Jason Kidd, Lou Holtz, Bryant Gumbel or Engelbert Humperdinck. Those former dubious competitors are on an infamously short list of duffers who have lost to Barkley, a regular participant at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course since 1993.

The 32nd ACC, which was held last year with no spectators due to the Covid-19 lockdown, will be played July 7-11.

“I think the fans realize that life sucks without sports,” Barkley said at a telephone news conference. “Because if you don’t have sports, all you have is reality. Let me tell you something, most people know, reality sucks. But also I think the players learned, man, sports really sucks with no fans.”

On the bubble: Can Barkley beat 16 players this year?

Fans who attend the Tahoe golf event love Barkley, candidly humorous and eager to pose for photos and interact with anyone.

But would a fan like Barkley enough to put $10 on him to take home $150? A winning wager would mean Barkley finishing in the top 70 in a field — as of today — of 86.

“I am going to finish in the top 70,” Barkley vowed. “You need to put more than $100.”

The statement was not so much of a proclamation as it was a punchline.

The most players Barkley has beaten in an ACC was seven in 2002, the final year regular golf scores were tabulated. Ever since 2003, the Modified Stableford scoring system has been used, which prevents embarrassingly high scores. (Holtz has withdrawn before the final round four times. No wonder his son is named Skip.)

Barkley was somewhat decent at golf in the early 1990s, but his stroke developed into something “turrible.” Midway through the downswing he would suddenly stop and his face would change expression, as if the ball suddenly looked like a rattlesnake.

But he has shown improvement in the last couple of tournaments. He birdied the last hole in 2019 to beat Eddie George and not finish in last place.

I actually started playing well up there ‑‑ better, I shouldn’t say well, better the last couple of years,” Barkley said. “And my teacher, Stan Utley, we’ve come a long way. I can’t wait to get there and show it off.”

Listening to Utley, and not any more would-be instructors has helped, he said.

“He said, ‘Let’s just work on one thought. Don’t work on anything else. Forget what this guy said, or this guy said.’ And after about three hours of hitting balls … I was like, wow. So he just calmed my brain down said, ‘Hey, man, you can’t think 10 things over a golf ball.’”

But Barkley is simply to honest and glib to boast about his game.

“To say I’ve been struggling on the golf course is the biggest frickin’ understatement in the history of civilization,” he said. “When you get old and fat there’s only a couple of things you can do: golf and fish. And I’m a lot better fisherman than I’m a golfer.”

Barkley suggested betting more than $100 on him. He was joking.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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