It didn’t take long for Jack Wagner, a two-time American Century Championship winner, to be questioned about the inclusion of former LPGA great Annika Sorenstam to this year’s tournament.
Sorenstam, who is the only golfer to play in the annual event from both the PGA or LPGA Tour, was made a 2-1 favorite for the 25th annual event scheduled for July 15-20 at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. Wagner, a two-time champion of the event and the only non-athlete to ever win it, is listed at 7-1 along with former NHL star Jeremy Roenick.
Wagner, who won in 2006 and 2011, said he didn’t have an issue about competing with the former LPGA star.
“I think it will elevate everybody’s game,” said Wagner, who was in town on Tuesday. “It’s going to take anywhere from 4-under-par to 10-under-par to beat her. If she is playing well and I’m playing well, it will be a helluva match. If I play well, I have a chance.
“I don’t see it as a male-female ego thing. I think the word is challenge. I’m looking forward to it.”
So are Roenick and Charles Barkley, but for different reasons.
“Having Annika in the field is a great wrinkle for us, because we know Annika’s history.” Roenick said. “We know her past. We know what a golf phenom she is. I’m going to have a great time running around the golf course trying to chase her down or hopefully have her chase me down to finally find a way to win this tournament myself after 21 years.”
Wagner, along with John Elway, Mike Euruzione and Jim McMahon are the only four players to compete in the previous 24 ACC events. When asked why he keeps coming back, he hesitated only briefly before answering.
“I was talking with Brian Baumgartner (The Office) and Marcus Allen recently (about the ACC),” Wagner said. “It’s our Masters, our U.S. Open. Everybody gets pumped for it. There is a gallery. We play under PGA rules. Clearly we aren’t as good as the PGA Tour guys, but guys enjoy joking with the crowd which you don’t see on the PGA Tour. Guys that have a chance of winning are serious. At the same time, it’s a fun event for NBC and the people that show up. The main difference in this tournament is NBC.”
“This is the best weekend of the year every single year for myself,” Roenick said. “To be able to play golf competitively and do it in the realm with the fans and in a place like Lake Tahoe, there’s no event like this for celebrities and for pro athletes in general. I’m really excited again for this year.”
Barkley agreed the camaraderie is what makes it special for the participants.
“This is the first thing I put on my schedule every year,” Barkley said. “I look forward to it, seeing all the guys. It’s great hanging out with the guys throughout the week, playing golf and just having fun.”
Wagner is one of the celebs with a chance to win every year. Because his musical career takes a lot of time, he considers himself just a “seasonal golfer” now. A member at the prestigious Bel Air Country Club, Wagner has been a club champion six times and a runner-up 11 times. He has won more than $500,000 in his last 22 ACC appearances. In his first two appearances, he played as an amateur, and thus wasn’t eligible to win any prize money, though he finished third and seventh, respectively.
“I’m 53 now,” Wagner said. “I don’t grind all year long. I hit balls in the evening at a driving range, and I go out in the mornings (when I have time) and chip and putt.”
Wagner, who was nominated in 2005 for best lead actor for his work on “The Bold and the Beautiful,” appeared in the Broadway run of “Jekyll & Hyde.” He also played Tony on “West Side Story” (1987) with a national touring company, and he was Danny Zuko in the 1988 production of “Grease.” Wagner said the Broadway role was his most fulfilling, but that he had the most fun with his role of Dr. Peter Burns on “Melrose Place” (1994-99) because Burns was a character who could redeem himself.
Excluding his two wins, Wagner was asked about his favorite memories from his many trips to the ACC.
“It was either 2002 or 2003, I can’t remember the exact year,” Wagner said. “I birdied 16, 17 and 18 on Friday. I was 7-under-par on Saturday going into 18. I hit it to the right (around the trees). I had a little window where I could shoot 63 and break (Lee) Trevino’s (course) record. I decided to go for it, and hit it into the water. I chunked my chip shot and then four-putted for a quad (9). I ended up shooting 68. I was 10-under for 20 holes (at one point) and then I threw up all over myself.
“My first year here (1990). I went from the blackjack table to the first tee on Sunday. I went birdie-birdie and triple-bogey and finished third (7-over-par 223).”