Dilfer seeks elusive American Century Championship title in 17th appearance
STATELINE — Trent Dilfer has had a number of close calls at the American Century Championship — but never captured the ultimate prize. Dilfer will tee off in the tournament for the 17th time this July at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course hoping to change that trend.
“I want to win this, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it,” the 14-year NFL veteran and Super Bowl XXXV champion said. “I’ve learned to appreciate over the years that this is about more than golf — it’s about the people, the atmosphere and experience.”
A native of Northern California, Dilfer hosted the tournament’s media day Tuesday and relishes getting the chance to appear in its 26th edition. He has eight top-10 finishes in 16 appearances — including coming in second place twice — and has won a total of $200,461.
“It’s the best week on the calendar,” Dilfer said. “You can ask anybody who plays in it in — good golfer, bad golfer, entertainer, athlete — this is the week that we all hope we get the invite on, and once we do it’s an immediate ‘yes’ and you circle it on the calendar.”
Dilfer has owned a house in Incline Village for the past two decades, and said he enjoys what the tournament offers the local community. He considers ACC the biggest event in the Tahoe Basin during the course of the year — and a big aspect of that is the interaction between the gallery and the golfers.
“The fan engagement is huge — it’s the gravitas of what the tournament is,” Dilfer said. “It’s more than just a golf tournament — it is ‘the’ golf tournament in celebrity golf.”
Listed at 12 to 1 to win the tournament, Dilfer is one of the favorites. But similar to last year when he finished 10th with a Modified Stableford score of 55, he said he likely won’t begin the tournament playing his best golf.
“I’ve still made a bunch of birdies, but I make so many more bogeys than I used to make — and for different reasons,” Dilfer said. “I’m driving the ball bad one day, bad irons the next and my short game has let me down at times.”
Lingering effects from an Achilles injury that forced Dilfer to retire from the NFL in 2008 prevent him from getting full rotation on his swing, limiting his distance from the tee. As a result, he relies on precision and strategy over power in his golf game.
“We’re not good enough to think we can go out and out ball strike the next guy or make it a skill thing,” Dilfer said. “To me you have to compete, you have to think well and you have to take advantage of your opportunities — if you hit it within five feet, you have to make it.”
Dilfer has a handful of favorite holes at Edgewood, including the three finishing holes along Lake Tahoe, the par-4 6th and the par-3 12th. He also likes the first hole, because of the scenery and strategy involved.
“It’s beautiful, it’s got a great shape to it and you can play it a lot of different ways,” Dilfer said. “I’ve seen guys lay way back and have 175 to 180 yards over water and make the tee shot easier, or challenge the bunkers with a cut, get it up there next to the water and have a pitching wedge in.”
If Dilfer wins, he’ll need to produce shots worthy of his popular Dilfer’s Dimes segment on ESPN. While he doesn’t have names ready for dimes he might leave on fairways and greens at this year’s ACC, he said a victory could earn airtime, possibly in the form of the “Walk-off Dime” or the “Monkey Off My Back Dime.”
“It has a life of its own — it’s fun that everybody’s having fun with it, because that is the point of it,” Dilfer said of the segment that airs weekly during football season. “The point was to have one term that describes perfect passes and nobody really had it — now we have it with dimes.”
Dilfer first used the term “dime” — typically used to describe a good pass in basketball — while with the Seahawks in the early 2000s in reference to a throw in practice from teammate Matt Hasselbeck. He continued to use it in stints with the Browns and 49ers, and then when he started working for ESPN in 2008.
“Every time I said it, it wasn’t to get attention — it was just a great description,” Dilfer said. “It perfectly fits — it fits almost better than it does in basketball.”
Soon after Dilfer got to ESPN, the term slowly began to slide into highlight shows and telecasts. Dilfer’s Dimes first aired during the 2012 season, and the ex-signal caller saw it as a way to celebrate quality quarterback play on Sundays that went largely unnoticed.
“Some people hate it and some people love it, but I sure do get a lot of comments about it throughout the week and people always trying to give me new names for them,” Dilfer said.
Dilfer’s favorite dime so far has been “Stayin’ Alive dime” during the 2012 season complete with the Bee Gees and disco-era graphics. As a father of three daughters and a brother to five sisters, he said the segment falls in line with his goal as a broadcaster to include women in the gridiron discussion.
“It’s important that they’re taught something so they can interact with their husbands and sons that are avid football fans,” Dilfer said. “I really try hard to make my information respected by the coach, player and GM, but understood by the housewife.”
Outside of the bright lights of television, Dilfer has recently coached with Nike’s Grassroots Football and Elite 11 high school programs. His latest venture is eCoach, a company that aims to bring video analysis coaching software to athletes and coaches around the country.
Established as a quarterback, analyst and coach, Dilfer acknowledged he still has room to improve on the golf course. That’s something he said he shares with the rest of the ACC field.
“We’re all wannabe golfers,” Dilfer said. “It’s our opportunity to get out there and feel like we actually know what we’re doing, when we actually have no idea.”
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Strong wind has led to multiple power outages Tuesday morning and a pair of Lake Tahoe ski resorts will not open due to the strong gusts.