‘Dream’ fivesome plays in relative obscurity
They’ll crowd around them come Thursday, but no one seemed to pay them mind Tuesday, not the sparse spectators or the arriving NBC crews.
John Elway, Mario Lemieux, Jack Wagner, Dan Quinn and Trent Dilfer were given some of those rare moments of privacy, allowing them to frolic like boys during a practice round for the American Century Celebrity Championship at Edgewood Tahoe.
The good-natured banter between competitors and friends spared no one’s feelings. Wagner of “Melrose Place” fame imitated Elway’s jerky walking motion, while the group collectively seized the opportunity to chide the fivesome’s only entertainer when he failed to follow through on a tee shot on the 13th hole.
“We’re all friends, but it’s good to have some competitive matches on Monday and Tuesday. Sometimes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are our funnest days here. How can you beat this?” said Quinn, who was brought to tears last year when his buddy, Lemieux, won the tournament for the first time.
“It helps everybody playing together. You have to hit good shots to win a little bit in the practice rounds. We do this every year with John, Dan, Jack, Trent and myself,” Lemieux said.
Competition has been a daily component of their lives. To eliminate that drive now isn’t possible. Even though only a few people saw Elway chunk his approach shot into the water on No. 10, the recently retired Broncos quarterback washed down the shot with some self-deprecating humor.
“That was a $400 bite,” said the two-time Super Bowl winner who was distracted by a hamburger before his ill-placed shot and lost skin.
Don’t be too surprised if the winner emerges from this fivesome. Quinn won the tournament in 1992, Lemieux won last year and Elway has been knocking on the door the past couple of years.
Quinn has won three of the past five celebrity events he’s entered and Elway nearly won his first title earlier this month at Lemieux’s tournament in Pennsylvania. He bogeyed two the last three holes and lost by a stroke to four-time championship winner Rick Rhoden.
“I’ve played pretty good the past couple of weeks. I just hope I play well here, and I hope that’s good enough,” Elway said.
On 18, Lemieux magically reenacted the 10-foot birdie putt he jarred to beat Dick Anderson and Billy Joe Tolliver by one stroke.
“I was thinking about it,” said Lemieux, flashing a smile. “I’m just coming this week to have some fun and play as well as I can. If I win, great. If not, I’m still going to have a good time. You can’t put too much pressure on yourself because there are too may good players who can shoot good scores. I’m just going to try to relax and play the best that I can play.”
As for Wagner, the top playing entertainer in the 80-player field and a consistent finisher in the top 10, he’s blaming no one but himself for his missing championship trophy.
“I’m a choker. I’m a big choker. I’m never in position on the last day to win. I have one bad nine holes on the first day or two. I have to make up six shots on the last day, and I’m never quite in the right position.”
However, he was in the right spot on Tuesday with Lemieux, Elway, Quinn and Dilfer.
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