Armstrong one of many new faces at golf tournament |

Armstrong one of many new faces at golf tournament

Jeremy Evans
Seve-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will play in Wednesday's celebrity pro-am golf tournament at the American Century Championship.

Usually confined to the borders of France in July, cyclist Lance Armstrong will lead a list of high-profile newcomers at the 17th annual American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course next week at Stateline.

The seven-time Tour de France winner told a group of reporters that his “retirement” schedule next week includes hosting the ESPY Awards on Wednesday in Los Angeles, playing in the ACC’s Celebrity Pro-Am on Thursday, then flying to Europe by the weekend to crown his successor at this year’s Tour de France.

It’s an itinerary that has left one of the best endurance athletes of all-time breathless.

“I’m still trying to figure out this retirement thing,” Armstrong said during a teleconference call. “It seems to be I’m busier than ever. The life of an athlete … you sort of train or practice, you eat and rest, then you play the game. It’s a simple existence.

“Now life is full of travel and full of commitments and full of responsibilities. It is an adjustment.”

Celebrity chef Ming Tsai, San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson and actors Cheech Marin, Aidan Quinn and Dennis Haysbert are also involved in next week’s festivities. U.S. Olympic snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler was included on the initial player list but has since withdrawn. However, those in charge of attracting new celebrities are pleased with this year’s fresh faces.

“We are very lucky in that we have a great field of celebrities,” NBC Sports Senior Vice President Jon Miller said. “We constantly turn over the field. We try to bring in 20 to 25 new celebrity athletes and entertainers every year, as well as bring back the constants – the Michael Jordans, the Charles Barkleys, the John Elways, the Mario Lemieuxs.”

But this year’s most topical name remains Armstrong, a cancer survivor whose been linked to numerous reports that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his record seven straight Tour de France titles from 1999-2005. Even though he never tested positive for drugs before retiring after last year’s race, Armstrong has remained a focal point in an ongoing investigation.

In fact, hours before Thursday’s teleconference call, he dropped yet another defamation lawsuit. His latest action to defend his innocence means a trial set to start in October against the authors of the book “LA Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong” will not proceed.

“I think we’re 10-0 in lawsuits,” Armstrong said. “Right now my life is not about that anymore. I’ve answered all the questions. I’ve stood up to all the interrogations and investigations.

“I don’t need to go win another lawsuit. If I’m going to spend money, it’s going to be on a good cause and not on something like that.”

One of those causes is the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which has raised more than $10 million toward cancer research and development since its inception in 1997. Armstrong’s foundation was a natural marriage with American Century Investments, the title sponsor of the 54-hole golf tournament that is also raising money this year for Autism Speaks.

Armstrong, a self-described casual golfer, can’t play in the 54-hole tournament July 14-16 because of his other commitments, but he believes participating in Thursday’s Celebrity Pro-Am will be a stern test.

“I got a little worried when they told me there would be spectators,” said Armstrong, who took his children skiing at Sugar Bowl this past winter. “I just would warn them to get out of the way when I hit the ball. When you’re just not very good at something, it’s sometimes hard to justify spending six hours to do it. If I ever broke 100, I would be happy.”

While Armstrong may not be playing in the actual tournament, one celebrity who is participating is Tomlinson, who has rushed for 7,361 yards and 72 touchdowns in five seasons with San Diego. He doesn’t have grandiose dreams of winning the event, but he already knows one player he’s better than.

“I define my skills as a solid player, not good at all,” Tomlinson said. “But I bet I can beat Charles Barkley.”

If You Go

What: American Century Championship

When: July 11-16

Where: Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, Stateline

Cost: $10, Tuesday-Thursday; $20 weekend, $50 Five-day pass

Edgewood to host 7-time Tour de France winner

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