At Lake Tahoe’s celebrity golf tournament, children collect autographs. Galleries are entertained by the loquacious Charles Barkley. Sports fans wear the school and pro teams’ colors and watch for their players. There’s the drama of the competition, and there’s the spectacular scenery of the Sierra Nevada and its perfect July weather.
More than 50,000 attend the American Century Championship for a variety of reasons. But the most popular place is the 17th hole on the beach. In recent years, the spot has been spiced up by the presence of Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry.
Curry and backcourt teammate Klay Thompson are dubbed “The Splash Brothers” because they make three-point baskets look as easy as if they were tossing basketballs into San Francisco Bay. But if that looks easy, just imagine the 6-foot-3 Curry dunking on an eight-foot hoop that is set up next to the 17th tee. You might just call it “St-effortless.”
Word came out Tuesday – and organizers confirmed Wednesday morning – that Curry will make his seventh appearance at the annual American Century Championship, held July 9-14, at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. Sports book oddsmakers immediately posted Curry at 15-1 to win the 30th edition of the tourney.
Curry’s penchant for hot shooting streaks on the court is sometimes also displayed on the links. He made a run at the golf title in 2017 before finishing fourth for the second time. Last year, Curry was 11th.
Each year, Curry and father Del Curry have a wager, with the player posting the lower score taking a dip the lake. In 2017, dad jumped into the chilly water. Last year, son Steph made a splash.
The tournament began in in 1990 as a made-for-television event for NBC during a Major League Baseball season that began with a lockout. Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien was the first champion and basketball superstar Michael Jordan was the major attraction.
Rypien continues to compete, but Jordan hasn’t played since 2012. A three-time NBA champion and two-time MVP, Curry is now the top draw. Last year, a record 57,097 attended.
Eron McDonough of Clive, Iowa, will attend the tournament with his family for the second-straight year.
“It’s the chance to experience a heaven on earth, Lake Tahoe,” McDonough said. “It’s absolutely one of the prettiest places on earth. But it’s also fun to get close to celebrities, who for the most part, are extremely nice. It’s one of my favorite weeks of the year, no doubt.”
The field of Hall of Famers also features Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Marcus Allen, Tim Brown, Ivan Rodriguez, Charles Woodson, Brian Urlacher, Trevor Hoffman, Jerome Bettis, Terrell Davis, Mike Modano, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Athletes include 22 active players, among them nine All-Stars. Along with Mulder and Romo, past champions are two-time winners Mark Rypien and actor Jack Wagner.
Entertainers and comedians feature Larry the Cable Guy, Ray Romano, Alfonso Ribeiro, Willie Robertson, Wagner, Miles Teller, Rob Riggle, Brian Baumgartner, and Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts.
Four women will compete: Kira Kazantsev, 2015 Miss America; Dylan Dreyer, Today Show meteorologist; Lisa Cornwell, Golf Channel host; and Kathryn Tappen, NHL on NBC host.
Six current NFL head coaches will be taking their final break prior to training camp, including first-timers Anthony Lynn, Chargers; Matt Nagy, Bears; Frank Reich, Colts; and Mike Vrabel, Titans; with returnees Doug Pederson, Eagles; and Sean Payton, Saints.
Retired players John Smoltz, lead baseball analyst for FOX Sports, and Tony Romo, a CBS football commentator, are both listed at 3-1 at favorites over three-time champion Mark Mulder, who is at 7-2 at the Harrah’s and Harveys Race & Sports Book.
Ex-tennis pro Mardy Fish, whose golf game is solid, save for putting, is at 8-1. Land Shark Joe Pavelski, who led after both the first and second rounds in 2018 is 10-1. The soap opera guy and former champ Jack Wagner is 12-1, TV hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick and Rypien is 15-1, as is Curry. Ex-NBA deadeye shooter Ray Allen, who shot 6-under par the last two rounds in 2018, is 25-1, along with Sterling Sharpe.
Season passes and day tickets for the American Century Championship are available at http://bit.ly/ACC19Tickets. Season pass tickets for July 9 – 14, Tuesday through Sunday, are available for $70$. Daily tickets are $20 per day Tuesday through Thursday and $30 for competitive rounds Friday through Sunday. Two kids 10-years-old and younger get free admission with a paying adult. Further information is available at www.americancenturychampionship.com.
The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford format and features a $600,000 purse with $125,000 for the winner. In addition to high-stakes competition, the tournament will raise money for the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, a non-profit research organization dedicated to improving human health through innovative study of diseases like cancer. Regional Lake Tahoe nonprofits also benefit from the tournament, which has raised over $5 million for charity.
— Tim Parsons