Celebrity championship the biggest ‘freebie’ in sports | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Celebrity championship the biggest ‘freebie’ in sports

Steve Yingling

No wonder more than 300 celebrities long to play in the Isuzu Celebrity Golf Championship?

There’s all the golf your back can take on a course with one of the most beautiful locations in the world, accommodations for the week at Caesars Tahoe, dinner parties and drinks – all of which are free.

That’s why some celebrities call this week the best freebie in sports.

“They take care of us pretty well,” said former NFL placekicker Jan Stenerud. “Obviously everybody gambles a little bit, so (Caesars Tahoe) gets your room (cost) back, I suppose. They have dinners for the players, so you don’t have to spend much money if you don’t want to once you’re here.”

Besides gambling at the casinos and tipping, airfare to and from Lake Tahoe is the sole cost to players. Even airfare can be discounted if a celebrity has a tournament spot locked up well in advance.

“Airfare isn’t that much if you pay a month and a half in advance,” Stenerud said. “Besides, a last-place finish probably covers the airfare.”

Retired hockey player Dan Quinn, who won the championship in 1992, feels the tournament and all of its complimentary goodies make celebrities feel like professional golfers.

“We usually get accommodations at the other celebrity events, but this facility, this golf course, Caesars and the way they televise this event is second to none,” he said. “I love the practice rounds because I get to play with guys like John Elway, Mario Lemieux, Trent Dilfer, coach Mike Shanahan and Jack Wagner. I look forward to this event all year.”

And the fun doesn’t stop once the last putt drops on the 18th green.

“Everybody has different lifestyles. Most of the guys gamble, lots of us have dinners together and there are a lot of great parties put on by Caesars,” Quinn said. “I’ve taken a boat out on a Saturday afternoon and stayed out after dark and had a few beers. It all depends on where you are in the tournament if you let loose a little bit.”

Last year, former all-pro quarterback Neil Lomax almost missed his first championship since the tournament’s inception in 1990. It was devastating.

“The prize money is nice, but it’s a first-class tournament and they make you feel like a pro,” said Lomax, who has been welcomed back by NBC for the ninth successive year. “When I didn’t get the nod, I kind of felt bad. I still feel people know who I am and that quarterback is kind of a glamor position and all of that. I think NBC realizes that there might be too many quarterbacks already here, and then they have to go down a pecking order to decide what names are more important. That’s a hard decision they have to make.”

Of course, if you’re Quinn, Rick Rhoden or John Brodie, there is a lot of money to made for three days work in Tahoe. The winner receives $100,000 and even the celebrity that finishes last earns at least $1,094.

Not too bad for a relatively “free” week in Tahoe.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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