AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP | Jordan part of opening act at Edgewood | TahoeDailyTribune.com

AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP | Jordan part of opening act at Edgewood

Jack Simon, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Steve Yingling / Tahoe Daily TribuneMichael Jordan works on his game on the driving range at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course after arriving at the American Century Championship on Tuesday afternoon.

STATELINE – The sun was bright and the sky was blue on Tuesday morning for the opening of the 21st American Century Championship.

“It’s all about getting loose,” Brian Baumgartner said as he twisted his hips before hitting the driving range for a few practice swings. Baumgartner is best known for his role as Kevin on NBC’s hit comedy “The Office.”

The first group of celebrities teed off for their practice rounds at 9 a.m. The group included Rick Rhoden, eight-time ACC winner and former MLB All-Star pitcher; Joe Carter, former MLB All-Star outfielder; Brett Hull, former NHL All-Star; John Smoltz, former MLB All-Star pitcher; Joe Theismann, former Super Bowl champion quarterback; Mark Rypien, former All-Pro NFL quarterback; Vince Coleman, former MLB All-Star outfielder; Sterling Sharpe, former NFL All-Pro wide receiver; Jack del Rio, head coach of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars; and former NFL quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver.

“The greens are hard,” Carter said while signing autographs near the ninth hole. “It’s like playing on cobblestones, you just gotta’ find the right cobblestone.”

Also coming out early for practice was four-time winner Dan Quinn. “Just playing a few holes,” he told fans. “Just practicing a bit.”

A former center in the NHL, Quinn is no stranger to the Edgewood course. He has been crowned champion of the ACC in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2004.

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Chris Chandler, former NFL All-Pro quarterback and 2007 ACC champion, was a crowd favorite during the morning practice session. Moving between the driving and putting ranges Chandler happily gave out his autograph to anyone who asked.

For spectators, the ACC is a great chance to see so many of their favorite celebrities in one place. “I’m a big sports fan, so I’m happy to see everybody,” Mike Reznick said.

A resident of Los Angeles, Reznick travels to Tahoe each year with his family. This year, however, is his first time attending the ACC. “I’ve played the course a few times,” he said. “It’s a really fun course. I wish I was out there playing with them.”

Reznick watched the opening practice rounds with his friend Joe Simminack, a native of Canada who came to Tahoe for the event. “It’s mostly the baseball guys I’m here to see. I’m a big baseball fan, I still play,” Simminack said.

On the top of Simminack’s to-see list are former MLB pitchers Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. “I wish (Tom) Glavine was here for the Big Three,” he said. “That would just be awesome.”

The friends disagreed on who they thought the winner of the tournament was going to be. “I like (Tony) Romo this year,” Reznick said. “Smoltz is going to take it this year. He’s going to surprise everyone,” Simminack said.

Agreeing with Reznick was Derek Yeager from Kansas City. “Tony Romo seems to be consistent,” he said.

Derek, along with his brother Nathan and father Ken, first attended the ACC in 2008. This year marks the family’s second trip to the tournament.

The ACC provides the Yeager family with the chance to see some of their hometown heroes in a much different setting. “Being from Kansas City, we’re looking forward to seeing Matt Cassel, Todd Haley and Trent Green,” Ken said. “And Michael Jordan, too,” Nathan added.

Not surprisingly, MJ’s appearance at the ACC was highly anticipated by most, if not all, of the spectators. After arriving at Edgewood, Jordan walked to the putting green using a tunnel below the clubhouse to avoid being swamped by fans.

Once he emerged from the clubhouse, however, fans of all ages rushed over to try and grab an autograph. Smoking his trademark cigar and sporting custom-made Air Jordan golf club covers, Jordan declined to give any autographs during the practice rounds.

The forecast for the tournament promises clear blue skies and a temperature hovering right around 80. Tickets are $15 per day for Wednesday and Thursday and $25 per day for Friday through Sunday. A season badge, good for all days, can be purchased for $60 and children ages 10 and under are free with a paying adult.