Fans flock to Elway |

Fans flock to Elway

Michael Traum

It wasn’t difficult to know where John Elway was at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course on Wednesday.

You simply had to follow the crowd.

Make that a huge crowd, easily the largest during any of the practice rounds so far this week for the Isuzu Celebrity Golf Championships.

“We’ve followed him since the 10th tee. Ever since he got out of college, we’ve been following him,” said spectator Vince Sakowski, 69, of Bakersfield, Calif., on the 17th tee.

It is the second year in Tahoe for Sakowski and his wife, who joined about 100 kids and adults in tracking Elway’s round. “Mike Jordan is usually the crowd’s favorite when he’s here, but now it’s John.”

With Jordan not attending the Tahoe event this year, Elway has become the most anticipated celebrity for the fans.

Joe and Jamie Smith, longtime Denver Broncos fans from St. Louis, Mo., make the celebrity tournament their annual trip. They had been watching Elway’s practice round from the beginning.

“I’ve been a John Elway fan for the last 15 years. I’ll follow him all weekend, nobody else,” said Jamie, 29, who was wearing an Elway No. 7 jersey, has a room back home dedicated only to Broncos memorabilia and recently purchased a Broncos birdhouse. “It’s the way he handles himself, the way he approaches people – and the way he looks. He’s the ultimate man for me.”

Joe, 26, seemed secure in his wife’s fascination.

“I knew how she felt before we got married,” he joked.

Elway, the quarterback of the reigning Super Bowl champions and fresh from an appearance at the 1998 Major League All-Star game at Coors Field, played a practice round with Trent Dilfer, Mike Shanahan, Dan Quinn and Mario Lemieux.

While the other four guys could easily garner as much attention as their famous quarterback golfing buddy, Elway was the utmost draw in the group. He did his best to accommodate the kids, fans, moms and dads who were literally tugging his shorts from an autograph or photo.

“I’m all done for now,” Elway told some ink-hungry fans at the 14th tee, encouraged to hurry up and hit by his playing partners.

“Are you coming,” queried Lemieux, called “Sixes” by Dilfer in reference to his former No. 66 with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I’m trying to be a nice guy,” answered Elway.

But as soon as he smacked his drive, the QB was back to pen-in-hand, signing jerseys, programs and other permeable items.

Still, Elway smiled and talked with nearly every wide-eyed kid and grinning wrinkled face in the gallery.

“He’s never changed, from as freshman at Stanford to being a superstar. He’s charismatic, giving of himself and a family man. Plus, he’s got a gift of athletic ability, ” Sakowski said. “We’ll follow him for the next few days. We’ll probably keep coming until John doesn’t play anymore.”

Famous names fill the fairways

With today’s celebrity-amateur tournament the official start of the tournament’s events, stars of sports and screen began showing up and practicing in earnest on Wednesday.

Faces spotted at the course included: Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench, former 49ers quarterback John Brodie, 1980 Olympic hockey team captain Mike Eruzione, former Pro Bowl running back Marshall Faulk, NFL tight end Brian Kinchen, former All-Pro quarterback Jim McMahon, All-Star guard Dan Majerle, television host Maury Povich and Pro Bowl quarterback Joe Theismann.

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