Media day for the upcoming American Century Championship golf tournament might as well have been an NBA playoffs conference.
With basketball hall-of-famer and current NBA analyst Charles Barkley on the line, questions ranged from the Clippers $2 billion price tag to an upcoming 1984 NBA draft documentary to his predictions of the Heat over the Spurs in seven games. But through all that, Barkley still managed to talk about the tournament to be held at Edgewood this July.
“I play golf pretty much every single day, I love it, but Lake Tahoe is obviously a unique situation,” Barkley said. “I would love to be better at golf. I would love to compete in this thing and have a chance to win, but obviously I’ve got some issues.”
This will be Barkley’s 16th year at the American Century golf tournament and he has never won the event. But he continues to return to Tahoe for the friendly competition, and this year he’s hoping to meet Annika Sorenstam.
“Listen, I’ve had the best teachers in the world work with my game. I have a mental block. First of all, I want to meet (Sorenstam). I want to meet one of the greatest female players ever, and I’ll probably get an autograph and take a picture with her. Because it’s cool, like it’s really cool. I’m a sports junkie. I love meeting somebody who was great at sports,” said Barkley, who sat out last year’s tournament due to a shoulder injury.
Sorenstam, a favorite to win, is one of few women participating and Barkley is expecting her to raise the competition across the field.
“These boys, man, these boys ain’t going to give that trophy up too easy. Think about it. These guys all got pride, too. They especially don’t want to lose to no woman,” Barkley said, adding, “This is shaping up to be a fun event even more now because Jeremy (Roenick) touched on it, he don’t want to lose to her. And I haven’t even talked to some of these other guys. That’s going to make it more fun and more competitive.”
Roenick, a nine-time NHL all-star, is favored at 7-to-1 odds to win, compared to Sorenstam’s 2-to-1. He recently had knee surgery, but doesn’t expect that to slow him down.
“I’m going to have a great time running around the golf course trying to chase her down or hopefully trying to have her chase me down to finally find a way to win this tournament myself after 21 years of competition, So this is going to be a great field. I’m extremely excited,” Roenick said.
Besides the scenery in Tahoe, both agree that meeting and playing with other athletes and celebrities is one of the best parts of the weekend.
“You know what, this is the first thing I put on my schedule every year,” Barkley said, adding, “It’s great hanging out with all the guys throughout the week playing golf, just having fun with the guys. I get to play with a couple of different jocks every day or actors, which is fun, guys you would never play golf with in your normal life,” Barkley said.
After the Angora fire of 2007 burned down 254 homes in South Lake Tahoe, Barkley donated $100,000 to South Tahoe’s Community Disaster Resource Center for relief efforts and hosted a dinner for about 100 local firefighters.
“I told NBC, you know, it’s not right for us to come up here and just have fun, play golf and then leave,” Barkley said. “And it was emotional. I’ve never seen anything like that before. I have to be honest with you, I’ve never been around an area where a fire had devastated.”