Excitement is already building for 12th celebrity championship | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Excitement is already building for 12th celebrity championship

With the 12th American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course only a month away, there are a number of storylines brewing.

Will Michael Jordan compete for the second straight year after jilting the Celebrity Players Tour’s preeminent tournament for four years?

Can out-of-work placekicker Al Del Greco possibly repeat?

Can a basketball player or entertainer finally win the big one?

And this being another year ending with a one, three, five, seven or nine, can someone finally deny Rick Rhoden his sixth odd-year title?

Who has the worst political views – I mean golf game – between Jesse Ventura, Rush Limbaugh and Dan Quayle? Perhaps we’ll get to see that one unfold next month at Edgewood. Wouldn’t that be something?

The official list of players for the tournament’s 12th edition won’t be released until Wednesday, but precedent has shown us that NBC will unveil some new entries for the July 6-8 event.

Each year, NBC tries to freshen up the field, while retaining staple stars like John Elway, Mario Lemieux, Charles Barkley, Jerry Rice, Mike Schmidt and Johnny Bench. For years, NBC has been lobbying with Joe Montana to join the field, but he has declined each time. Maybe this is the year!

Last year, newcomers included Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz and Sacramento Kings forward Chris Webber. If the difficult game doesn’t scare them off, maybe we’ll see Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders or Eric Dickerson in Tahoe soon. They’ve already teed it up in at least one tournament this season.

For obvious reasons Jordan is the most-sought-after player for any celebrity event. But Jordan’s burning golf passion of the early 1990s has flamed out and he rarely plays more than a few events during the summer.

However, the five-time NBA league MVP pleased tournament officials by ending a four-year absence from Tahoe last July.

“When he’s played in the past it’s meant 2,000 to 4,000 more people have come through the gate,” said Mike Milthorpe, the sole tournament director since the event began in 1990.

While Jordan has rarely committed to the Tahoe event more than a week in advance, he will be in the neighborhood the week before. The former Chicago Bulls guard has announced plans to play in Elway’s tournament June 30 and July 1 in Denver.

“We’re hopeful he’ll play,” said Phil Weidinger, whose public relations firm promotes the three-day Tahoe tournament.

Without any NFL minicamps to attend, free-agent Del Greco should make a solid defense of his title. In fact, on Sunday he won the Troy N’ Emmitt Charity Classic.

If Del Greco putts like he did during last year’s final round when he ran in seven sizable birdies en route to a record-setting 65, then Rhoden’s odd-year sweep could be in jeopardy.

Rhoden has become so dominant in odd-numbered years that the streak is becoming as much of a liability for the other players as it a confidence builder for the former Dodgers pitcher.

“Every other year is all right with me,” said the five-time champion.

What the tournament really needs is for Jordan to win the title. With only one top-10 finish – ninth in 1990 – that doesn’t seem likely. Besides, a basketball player hasn’t won in the tournament’s 11-year existence. For that matter, an entertainer hasn’t either, even though actor Jack Wagner has flirted with the championship.

Oh well, maybe someone will break Webber’s three-round total of 163-over-par 379.

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