Fan ticket sales for 2017 ACC celebrity golf tournament surpassing 2016 | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Fan ticket sales for 2017 ACC celebrity golf tournament surpassing 2016

With the American Century Championship (ACC) celebrity golf tournament now in its 28th consecutive year of operation at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, the popular event is only showing signs of growth from its humble beginnings.

One of the more apparent signs of this growth comes in fan ticket sales, which have increased quite significantly since last year's tournament.

"It's going good this year," said Phil Weidinger, of Weidinger Public Relations. "Our fan ticket sales have doubled since last year.”

Although not solely from fan ticket sales, Weidinger said 47,109 people attended the ACC in 2016.

According to Weidinger, when the tournament started there was no intention of growing it into an entertainment behemoth — it was just a way to fill a programming gap.

"It was replacement programming for Major League Baseball the year it went out on strike," he said. "And what happened is that they caught lightning in a bottle."

Weidinger has been doing public relations for the tournament since 1993. He said one of the biggest boosts to the already-popular tournament came when NBC took over programming.

"When NBC took over the ownership a few years in, that's when it really got more form and function," he added. "They brought in the first sponsor, Isuzu, and then American Century.

“With NBC's connections in sports entertainment, obviously, they were able to reach out to a lot of different celebrities in sports and in the entertainment side as well."

Gary Quinn, vice president of programming at NBC Sports Group, is an ACC veteran, coming on board soon after the tournament’s inception. He said the foundation for the tournament was really formed when NBC partnered with American Century.

"They (American Century) really bought in, and are part of the family," Quinn said. "They want us to get better and better. They are going to be around for a long time." According to Quinn, American Century has a contract with the tournament through 2023.

Weidinger and Quinn both agree that having the tournament at such a beautiful golf course in a destination like Lake Tahoe doesn't hurt any of the popularity, either.

However, hosting the tournament in a densely forested region during the arid summer months makes wildfires a potential risk in the region. (June 24 marked the 10th anniversary of the Angora Fire — one of the most devastating fire’s in the Tahoe Basin’s recorded history.)

The past couple weeks have seen wildfires in both Nevada and California, with one of the most recent blazes sporadically shutting down portions of Interstate 80 northeast of Truckee. Firefighters are actively working to contain the blaze.

Weidinger said they will continue to pay close attention to any regional fires to prepare for any travel or tournament concerns.

"Obviously, we hope [the fire] gets taken care of quickly so people can travel safely and be safe," said Weidinger. "It's something we're always aware of.”

Those concerns outstanding, Weidinger said he's feeling good about the tournament and that the elements seem to be cooperating.

"So far, the weather is perfect, the forecast is perfect — the stars are aligning in more than one way and that's how I look at it."

Otherwise, Weidinger said this year's tournament is moving along smoothly. The official tournament doesn't begin until Friday, July 14, but the practice rounds this week have brought out the spectators in full force.

"I talked to a couple of the security guys that were out on the golf course with Timberlake and Romo and they said the crowds were already pretty strong," said Weidinger. "Comparative to what they've seen in past years, they're a little bit larger."