ACC celebrity golf tournament breaks attendance record |

ACC celebrity golf tournament breaks attendance record

J.P. Kelsey
Charles Barkley signs an autograph for a strategically placed youngster at the exit of the 18th green Friday.
Brad Coman |

Another American Century Championship (ACC) celebrity golf tournament is in the books, with former Oakland Athletics pitcher Mark Mulder taking the top spot for the third consecutive year and a $125,000 chunk of the $600,000 purse.

The 28th annual July tournament held at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Stateline is one of the summer’s biggest draws for Tahonians, as well as the thousands of others spectators who travel to catch a glimpse of the celebrities out on the links.

This year had a record number of attendees at 55, 801, which was a 16-percent increase compared to 2016’s 47,109, according to tournament officials.

“It’s a team that puts this together,” said Phil Weidinger, of Weidinger Public Relations. “A lot of people are involved that make it successful. It’s fun to be part of a group that works so hard and is so bright. The tournament has found its niche and continues to build on it.”

Weidinger has been handling public relations for ACC since 1993.

The tournament has gained in popularity, according to Weidinger, not just because of the celebrities, but because it has become such a unique thing offered to the region.

“People look at this as a fun event,” said Weidinger. “And it’s at Tahoe so it’s outdoors where it’s beautiful and the weather is great. You have all of these factors that add up to make it special.”

Weidinger said that the community support and support from local organizations like Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority are also big helps in turning the ACC into one of Lake Tahoe’s premiere, national events.

One of the celebrity highlights this year was the return of former Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo, Weidiner explained. Although there wasn’t a shortage on notable golfers, Romo hadn’t played the ACC in four years, which made his appearance a little more significant.

“Obviously, the celebrities that were there are the attraction and always will be,” said Weidinger. “With the leaders out there like [Steph] Curry, Justin Timberlake and with Romo back, that really made a difference. With Romo’s move from football to the broadcast booth, people are interested in what’s going on. He hasn’t been here in four years. He’s always been a popular player, a very good player and has been great with the fans.”

Weidinger went on to add that volunteer help is probably one of the biggest puzzle pieces in making the ACC run as smoothly as it does. There were hundreds of people who volunteered their time and effort during the July 11 through 16 event. Actual tournament play was held from July 14 through 16.

“You have almost 400 volunteers to begin with,” said Weidinger. “You can’t have a tournament if you don’t have volunteers and that’s the glue.”

Weidinger said that the volunteers, combined with American Century as the title sponsor and NBC on programming, creates an environment of people who are excellent at what they do.

Bryan Davis, Edgewood Tahoe’s director of marketing, said that even with the near 56,000 people that attended, his staff was able to accommodate the needs of the tournament and that there are early indicators of how many people will be coming out.

“The attendance was so high and [the tournament] still ran operationally,” he said. “Our staff has been involved with the tournament for years so there are little indications that you have throughout the early part of the week that let you know that there will be an increased demand.”

Davis said that the increased numbers during the early week practice rounds gave a pretty good indication that this year was going to break the 2016 attendance record.

“You get a feeling for things like the amount of ice you go through, the amount of food that sold, beverages sold. Going through Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, you get a feel that things are really starting to build so you plan ahead for it.”

Davis said that the timing of the tournament just after the Edgewood Tahoe Lodge had opened in June gave people a taste of what the course and its property has to offer.

“We had some great feedback from customers as they walked through and checked out the building,” said Davis. “It was really fun to expose the new property to a lot people.”

Davis is in agreement with Weidinger in that what really draws in more and more spectators is that this tournament, unlike a typical golf tournament, is all about having fun and scores often tend to be less important.

“Number one, it’s a lot of fun,” said Davis. “There may only be one out of 10 people that know during the week who’s winning the tournament until the very end. NBC does an incredible job of bringing in the right talent and celebrities to the event.”

This was something that Weidinger also mentioned, explaining that there is such a diverse blend of athletes and entertainers, but it still works and people enjoy seeing a different celebrity for a different reason.

“There’s just all kinds of things to entertain and amuse all kinds of people,” said Weidinger. “That’s what [spectators] want. They want to have a good time. The great thing about this event is that it’s not formulaic — that’s what makes it fun. Every year there’s more things that come on board. There’s more opportunities with sponsors, more opportunities with publicity platforms … to see how it’s morphed and expanded to open more doors and provide opportunities for creativity is what fires me up.”

Weidinger said he doesn’t know if the tournament is going to grow even larger, being that the past two years set records in attendance, but Edgewood’s 235-acres would probably allow for it.

“The acreage at Edgwood is a lot larger than the average golf course,” said Weidinger. “From that standpoint, it can handle the flow. What you have to look at is concessions and all the things that take care of fans. The amount of concessions or tents and services would have to be expanded, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t be. That would be a wonderful problem to have.”

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