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Get ready for celebrity golf

William Ferchland
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune file/ Michael Jordan golfs in last year's tournament.
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There are enough subplots at the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament this year that would make a soap opera look tame.

First of all, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, fresh off a Super Bowl and infamous motorcycle crash, is still slated to appear.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, who suffered a game-ending knee injury after he was hit throwing his first playoff pass, is also expected to tee off.

Then there’s seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong making an appearance July 13, smack dab in the middle of the race.

Don’t forget the appearance of Olympic skier Bode Miller, who had disappointed finishes but flashes of brilliant skiing during the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy. Miller, who won this year’s U.S. National Championships titles in the downhill and giant slalom, also accused Armstrong of using performance enhancing drugs with Armstrong telling reporter Tom Brokaw he’s “not a fan” of Miller’s.

Despite the story lines, the golf tournament from July 11-16 will likely draw the same masses of fans hoping for autographs and snapshots of some of the most famous and established people in the sports and entertainment world.

John Miller, senior vice president of NBC Sports, expects another engaging tournament among the 81 celebrity participants.

Besides the usual players such as NBA greats – and great trash talkers – Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, new invitees include Oscar-winning actor Aidan Quinn, All-Pro running back LaDainian Tomlinson, recent NBA champion Antoine Walker of the Miami Heat and actor Cheech Marin.

Many NFL players will make an appearance before jetting to their respective training camps to prepare for the start of the season. Donald Trump will be there and could ask celebrity chef Bobby Flay for some barbecuing tips somewhere at host hotel Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.

While some pundits doubt Roethisberger’s return for the start of the NFL season because of the motorcycle accident, Miller said the young quarterback is ready for golf.

“His people called up and said under no circumstances take him off the list,” Miller said.

Last year, retired quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver won the tournament, televised by NBC on July 15 and 16. Randy Fox, the head golf professional at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, said most players know they’re not good enough for the overall win but are competitive enough to wager among smaller groups.

“I’ve heard of a few out there,” Fox said. “I can’t name names but a few of the guys have a little individual action going on.”

The tournament format is based on a point system – one point for par, two for birdies and minus two for double bogeys – in part to save struggling celebrities from the embarrassment of free-falling in the standings, according to tournament director Michael Milthorpe.

Tickets are on sale at bluelaketahoe.com for $10 between Tuesday through Thursday and $20 for the weekend. A pass for each of the five days is available for $50. A list of all participants is at the tournament’s Web site, tahoecelebritygolf.com.

Autograph seekers are suggested to attend the days of July 11-13, which are before the official start of the tournament, since the atmosphere is more relaxed and celebrities are more likely to sign their names to memorabilia.

Although the golf course is teeming with people, the day most sports enthusiasts will circle on their calendar is July 13 when Armstrong will set foot at Stateline. Bode Miller will be there too.

“We should all watch that one,” said Miller of NBC Sports, who knows a good drama when he sees one.

American Century Championship

July 11-16 at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, Stateline


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