AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP | 17th hole like no other |

AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP | 17th hole like no other

Sylas Wright / Tribune News ServiceBoaters swarm the beach adjacent to the 17th hole on Saturday at the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. The hole has earned the reputation as the most festive in the celebrity golf tournament.

STATELINE – It’s no secret where the hot spot is during American Century Championship weekend.

The 17th hole, a short par-3 that parallels Lake Tahoe’s sandy shoreline, crawls with action during the annual celebrity golf tournament, giving it a well-earned reputation as the most lively and festive place for fans to post up for a day.

“The 17th hole is the place to be,” said Taylor Bakios of Reno, clutching a beer as she made the short walk from her party’s boat to the ropes separating the celebrities on course.

Her friends couldn’t agree more.

“You can sit on your boat, get drunk and watch from the beach,” said Kellie Soule of Sparks, sipping a brew.

There’s another reason the beach swarms with party people: Access to the 17th hole is free of charge, so long as people stay on the beach side. That brings out American Century Championship fans like Jason Kosich of Truckee, who annually makes the haul via boat from the North Shore.

“The scene is awesome,” said Kosich, who estimates he’s attended the 17th hole party for each of the past 10 years. “We always rally down here with three or four boats, do a little drinking, camp on the East Shore, and just relax.”

Asked about some of the entertaining events he’s seen from the beach, Kosich recounted a time when a scantily-clad woman – described with a “crazy body,” which she flaunted in a G-string – bent over as Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway played the 17th hole.

“It was funny. John Elway got all fired up over it and wound up tripping over his own feet looking,” Kosich said.

Longtime American Century Championship volunteer Paula Rafailedes, who splits time living between Incline Village and Canton, Ohio, recalled her own humorous story.

Last year, she said, a woman who was part of a bachelorette party bolted down the beach with an inflatable doll – one assumed to be inappropriate for public display. Sheriffs and event staff gave chase as the scene unfolded in front of all to see.

“It was hilarious,” Rafailedes said. The humorous memories are just part of why she prefers volunteer duty on the 17th hole, which she has had for the past 16 years.

“It’s really the best hole you could be on. It’s a party hole, and it’s grown tremendously,” Rafailedes said. “It’s really a lot of fun.”

The 17th hole, more than any other, also is a place where celebrities and fans have been known to interact. The fans have learned the best way to get an autograph is to toss a celebrity a ball – be it a football, golf ball or even a volleyball – in hopes that it will get signed and thrown back. It works. Rosalind Smith discovered just that on Saturday, as the South Lake Tahoe resident and Green Bay Packers’ fan threw a golf ball to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who returned it signed.

“We love it,” Smith said of the 17th hole. “The celebrities, the drinking – and it’s free on the beach side.”

And no one can argue about the scenery, whether it’s the clear blue water, towering Mount Tallac or simply the quality people-watching.

“It’s just so beautiful,” said NBA analyst Charles Barkley, a fan favorite at the ACC. “I just like looking out there. No. 1 there’s some nice bathing suits out there. But I just like the experience of looking out over the water.”

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