It was only 9 a.m. on Friday at the beach next to the 17th hole at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, but beers had been cracked, reggae pumped from one of the dozen or so early-bird boats anchored near shore and at least one back flip had already been done from the top of a small houseboat.
The scene at the iconic hole during the annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship has long been unique in the typically staid world of golf. With temperatures expected into the high 80s this weekend, the beach is likely to again be a bustling spot to watch the golf tournament.
“It’s fun. It’s so offbeat,” tournament media director Phil Weidinger said about the festivities just off the 17th hole. “There’s nothing like it.”
Kings Beach residents Chris Bruening, Josh Crummy and Matthew Greaney have made a tradition out of parking themselves in folding chairs, beers in hand, on the sand next to the hole, staying for at least two days of the tournament each year.
“We’re sports fanatics,” Crummy said about the reason behind the annual affair. “We just like it. It’s a great reason to get on the beach.”
Greaney, a busser at a restaurant on the North Shore, said he doesn’t really get days off in the summer, but makes an exception for the golf tournament.
“Because look at this,” Greaney said, motioning to the lake and mountain backdrop. “Are you kidding me? This is great. This is my vacation.”
The interactions with athletes and celebrities, complete with a fair amount of heckling about the sometimes lackluster golf games on display, were also among the reasons the basin residents gave for returning to the tournament year after year.
Crummy was adamant about seeing Friday’s pairings, intent on getting football analyst and former NFL coach Herm Edwards to pay up on a $2 bet from last year’s tournament regarding whether the Miami Dolphins or New York Jets would finish with a better record.
The party had started well before any golfer had stepped onto the tee box, but once the golfers started making the rounds the party really got going, with the back and forth between athletes and beach-goers adding plenty to the beach’s atmosphere.
Early in the day former Major League Baseball pitcher Goose Gossage threw some pitches to spectators from the 17th hole’s fairway using a squishy baseball, getting one pitch absolutely crushed across the fairway by Reno resident Mike Van Blaricom. The knock delighted the crowd, but possibly not Gossage, who promptly beaned Van Blaricom on the next pitch.
Las Vegas resident Jennifer Doody said this is her fourth year at the tournament. Her friends and she got on the boat at 6:30 a.m. to claim a prime spot on the beach. Decked out in St. Louis Cardinals gear, Doody said she was looking forward to seeing famed shortstop Ozzie Smith in addition to just hanging out with friends and soaking up the scene.
“You get a day off at the beach in Tahoe,” Doody said. “It’s great.”
Weidinger agreed, saying the lively beach highlights Lake Tahoe’s summer.
“It’s a great spot to be and it really shows off what Tahoe is all about,” Weidinger said.