Celebrities add strokes with pens, not putters
If Michael Jordan signs a golf ball and throws it to a crowd, watch out because it’s worth more than $250.
This weekend’s celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood delivered Jordan, John Elway and Charles Barkley to autograph seekers, some wanting signatures for profit, but most collecting them for fun.
Barkley, after his round Friday, parked a folding chair a few feet away from a throng of fans, gripped a blue permanent marker and signed hats and programs for more than 30 minutes. A signed Charles Barkley trading card is worth nearly $80, according to The Gallery of Legends, a sports memorabilia store inside Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.
Elway signed at least one football Friday. A man had to sneak his football past security because all sport-related items are banned from Edgewood during the tournament.
The football was already signed by a number of football greats. At first Elway refused to sign the ball, but then agreed to after he realized the man wanted his signature to keep, not to sell. If the man did sell it, he could have gotten $400.
Deputies securing this year’s tournament said there were fewer people trying to sneak cameras and sports paraphernalia into Edgewood, but still some people seeking signatures for profit did get in.
“There were probably eight guys set up with 3-by-5 cards,” Kathleen Farell, volunteer coordinator said. “They get them signed, then they scan the autograph onto photos and then sell an ‘autographed’ photo. The real serious ones go down and throw the paraphernalia over the fence in big duffel bags.”
Farell said sometimes the professionals hire children to get the signatures for them since the celebrities often know to avoid them.
But Kevin Fannan, a 12-year-old South Lake Tahoe resident, wasn’t hired by anyone. He was in business for himself. Fannan had the signatures of 14 celebrities on a tournament cap. He said getting Jordan’s autograph is tough.
“I went up to Jordan and there were seven security men around him,” he said. “Mostly, if you want lots of autographs, you go after people you’ve never heard of.”
Gripping Michael Jordan trading cards he hoped to have signed, Chris Foti, a 10-year-old from Zephyr Cove, waited patiently near the 18th hole for his favorite players to come by.
“I brought a football but they wouldn’t let me bring it in,” he said. “They’re holding it for me.”
Deputies and other security confiscated cameras, footballs and other goods not allowed inside Edgewood during tournament days, but cameras were allowed during practice round earlier in the week.
“We’ve gotten one basketball in three days,” said Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Phil Lesquereux. “Sometimes they deflate balls and put them in their back pockets. But this year it’s better – we’re not catching a lot at the front gate.”
Michael Milthorpe, an employee of SFX Sports and an organizer and promoter of the event, said having kids who really want autographs mixed in with people who want to sell them creates a tough situation.
“It’s a Catch-22,” he said. “But the celebrities are aware how much of a business it is. You’re seeing stuff on EBay more and more. We can only tell celebrities so much. I won’t tell a them not to sign something.”
Not everyone at Edgewood was looking to have their hat, program or golf ball signed. Some just wanted to get close to some of the best athletes in the world.
Steve Bullentini, a 27-year-old San Francisco resident vacationing at South Shore, followed Jordan for a few holes Sunday.
“That’s the greatest athlete in the world,” he said. “It’s strange to see him in real life. I just wanted to walk next to him.”
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