Stars align to discuss upcoming Celebrity Golf Championship |

Stars align to discuss upcoming Celebrity Golf Championship

Douglas Etten

Photo courtesy of Ray RivardAJ Hawk of the Superbowl champion Green Bay Packers talked about his recent surgery, Jim Tressel and who he feels has the best shot of winning this years ACC at Edgewood Tahoe.

LAKE TAHOE – With the 22nd annual American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament less than a month away, the excitement for some of America’s best athletes to arrive on the south shore built even more Wednesday.

Defending champion and three-time champion of the ACC, Billy Jo Tolliver, joined in with Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk and 2011 Canton inductee Marshall Faulk, stating that the excitement for each to get to Edgewood Tahoe is at a peak.

“I don’t play much this time a year just because Little League All Stars and everything; I’m coaching my kid. We’re real busy with work and with baseball so I try to get out there early and find my game,” Tolliver said. “I try to play a couple of times a week just to stay a little bit sharp, but I always figure out how to find it when I get there. One of these years I’ll prepare a lot earlier and try to be ready when I get there and, you know, maybe I can play a little better. But I’m not sure I can play any better than I did last year.”

Hawk, who’s first round of the year since coming off the green at 18 at Edgewood Tahoe a year ago came Wednesday, joked candidly that off-season wrist surgery doesn’t seem likely to hamper the long-bomber’s 200:1 odds at winning the tourney.

He does hope though to have a shot at claiming his second Korbel Long Drive championship if he’s fortunate enough to earn an spot in the field.

“My football right now is of course the most important,” Hawk said in regards to his surgically repaired left wrist. “I always look forward to the ACC. Today is my first round of golf since Sunday last year in Tahoe. Hopefully I’ll do alright.

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“I don’t think my wrist has anything to do with those long odds, that’s my game. I’m trying to improve, every year I’m in this thing I want to improve. Last year was my second year in and I played a little bit better than I did my first year.”

Tolliver is a 4:1 favorite to win back-to-back championships and wasn’t shy about endorsing himself to do so.

“Well, I’m going to go out on a limb and say me. I’m not being selfish or anything but I’d like to say that it’s me. But John Smoltz will certainly have a say in it, you know Rick Rhoden, and some of these new guys that are coming in,” Tolliver said. “I mean there’s some really good players. It will be a dog fight. At the end of the day, you come up there to the American Century Championship and Jonathan Thomas and his group with ACC they do such a wonderful job of just showing everybody a great time, from their clients to the celebrities, to the people who just come out and watch. It’s just a wonderful family.

“I mean whoever wins has the best time but I’ve never gone out there and walked away thinking ‘man I didn’t win the tournament I had a crappy time.’ It’s just been unbelievable for all these years.”

Hawk agreed with Tolliver saying he too felt the former NFL quarterback and three-time ACC champ was the favorite coming into this year’s tournament.

“I am going to stick with his prediction,” Hawk said. “I remember watching his shot at 18 last year when he came in and stuck it within two feet to set the scoring record.”

Among a variety of topics each of the athletes touched on, Faulk, an analyst now for NFL Network, commented on his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the process of selection and who he feels should be in that isn’t.

“There’s a slew of guys. Chris Carter, Charles Haley, Andre Reed. There’s a lot of guys, and you know, after going through this process … It’s a tough process,” he said. “It’s a unique process, I can’t say that I agree with it. We have the only sport that when you step on the field your first day, you have no idea what it takes to be a Hall of Famer.

“In basketball, in baseball and in hockey you know that there are milestones; That if you reach those milestones you’re in. There’s no question about it. It doesn’t matter how good your team was or what happened. In football, you have no idea what it is, no idea.”

Tiger Woods was a topic that surfaced also. Both Faulk and Tolliver commented on the golfer’s game and what they feel has gone array with one of the best swings ever – both physically and mentally.

“I can’t speak for Tiger but it would be hard for me to say that his issue is physical,” Faulk said. “Just watching him play, just that mystique and that aura about himself; I don’t know if he believes in it anymore right now.”

Tolliver drew reference to the 2011 US Open where 22-year old Irishman Rory Mcllroy likely added a bit of added motivation for Tiger to get back to where he once was. Mcllroy torched the field for his first ever major championship as he was seven strokes better than the next closest competitor.

“McIlroy added a little fuel to the fire,” Tolliver said. “That will motivate him. He will go out and he’ll get healthy again and he’ll go out there and we’ll see the old Tiger again.

“I’m a Tiger Woods fan. To me his personal life is his personal life. Those are demons he’s got to deal with himself and with his family and all that other stuff. I just watch him for his golf and what he can do and all those years, all the excitement, and the growth he gave to the game. I’m a huge fan. Once you’re at the top like he is and with the work ethic that he has … He will come back.”

Hawk, who played with the Ohio State Buckeyes from 2002-2005, playing in 51 games, starting 38 of them, also approached the Jim Tressel discussion saying he hasn’t faced criticism in regards to his stint at Ohio State, but has come to bat for his former coach.

“I haven’t had to defend myself, but I chose to defend Coach Tressel,” Hawk said. “I think it’s a shame. Obviously he knew he made a mistake with not reporting everything he knew. It’s a shame such a great guy, a great person has to kind of go out that way. I’ve seen him a few times since he resigned and he’s handling it really well. He’s really classy and I hate to see that happen to him. I hope the program still thrives in the future. As for him, I think it’s going to take some time.”

Hawk ended up winning the Lombardi Award as best college football interior lineman his senior season before going onto be drafted by the Green Bay Packers, current Super Bowl champions.

Former Tressel coaching colleagues, Lou Holz and Steve Spurrier, have also committed to the 2011 American Century golf tourney.

The 22nd annual American Century Championship is a made-for-TV event owned and broadcast by NBC Sports. The event features a record purse of $600,000. The tournament is a 54-hole modified Stableford format that features some of sports’ and entertainment’s greatest celebrities and will take place July 12-17. For more information on the tourney, go to www.