Celeb Golf Notes
Just like he has walked off many a football field after connecting on a game-winning field goal, NFL placekicker and defending American Century Celebrity Championship winner Al Del Greco hopes to walk off No. 18 Sunday as the tournament’s first repeat winner.
“It’s nice to come back as the champion,” Del Greco said Tuesday during practice rounds.
Del Greco, who has been playing golf since the age of 11, feels like he has as good of shot as any this year.
“I’ve been the hitting the ball very good,” Del Greco said. “Sometimes my decisionmaking has been a little suspect, but if my caddie and I can keep that in check, I think I have a good chance.”
However, if history repeats itself, one might tend to put their money for the 2001 championship on five-time victor Rick Rhoden’s odd-year winning streak (’91,’93,’95,’97,’99).
“Well, that definitely has happened,” Del Greco said in regards to the odd-year streak. “But I’m looking at it like I’m trying to be the first guy to repeat two years in a row.”
Diversity great for the game
Hideo Nomo tossed a no-hitter for the Red Sox this year, Seattle’s Kazuhiro Sasaki leads the major leagues with 29 saves and teammate Ichiro Suzuki was the top vote-getter in this year’s All-Star balloting. All three are countrymen from Japan who have made a mark on the first half of the Major League Baseball season.
While many American players have gone to Japan to try and resurrect their careers, it seems the trend is reversed as many Japanese players have recently come to the states during their prime.
“Ichiro and Sasaki were both superstars when they left Japan,” said former Major League manager Davey Johnson during a practice round for the celebrity championship Tuesday. “Sasaki was unhittable as a closer over there and he’s still one of the best here, and what Ichiro is doing is fantastic.
“I think it’s been great for baseball to see someone come over and be as prolific as (Ichiro’s) been,” said former Major League All-Star catcher Gary Carter. “It adds a different flavor, it makes it worldwide.”
Major League Baseball currently has 12 Japanese players in the league and with the success of Ichiro and Sasaki, some believe it may open the floodgates for more Japanese players to come into the majors.
But Johnson thinks that the popularity of baseball in Japan will keep most of the Japanese talent from crossing the Pacific.
“Baseball is very big in Japan and they need their superstars. We’re not going to let our superstars and top prospects go over there just like they’re not going to let theirs come over here.”
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