Hockey celebs face off early |

Hockey celebs face off early

This may be an odd year, but five-time American Century Celebrity Golf Championship winner Rick Rhoden should have his work cut out for him this week.

Rhoden, gunning for his sixth title during the 12-year event, will face the toughest field yet.

Former NHL All-Star center Pierre Larouche is one of the hottest players on the Celebrity Golf Tour.

Larouche is coming off stellar performance at the Sun Microsystems John Elway Classic where he won the event by shooting a 6-under-par 138 for the two-day event.

“That was a great win because of two reasons: First, it was John’s event and second, all the money went to my charity the Children’s Foundation of New York,” Larouche said.

Hockey grouping tours Edgewood

Larouche played in a hockey group Monday afternoon as the quartet of Pittsburgh Penguins’ Hall of Fame wing Mario Lemeiux, former NHL player Dan Quinn and 1980 USA Olympic captain and gold medalist Mike Eruzione got an early peak at the course for the 2001 tournament.

“The course is in great shape,” said Lemieux, who returned to the NHL in 2001 after a four-year retirement. “But it is always great to play here on this amazing course.”

All four players competed in last week’s John Elway Classic, which helped prepare them for the altitude of the Sierra Nevada.

“You hit the ball the same both here and there because of the altitude,” Larouche said. “But here the greens are so much more difficult to read.”

Lemieux’s golf game takes back seat to hockey again

With his startling return to the National Hockey League halfway through the season this year, Penguins’ player-owner Mario Lemieux once again has shifted his energy to the ice and not greens and fairways.

But this isn’t to say his game hasn’t suffered because of it. He still hosts his own tournament in Pittsburgh and was in John Elway’s tourney last week.

“I didn’t have a chance to practice as much as I’d like,” he said. “It’s business first for now.

“There’s still plenty of time to play golf in the summer.”

Another Celeb-Am added in 2001

As usual Caesars’ Scramble and the American Century Celeb-Am are part of week-long buildup for the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship.

But this year, a second Celeb-Am has been added.

“There were so many requests for the Thursday American Century Celeb-Am that we added one on Tuesday,” said Jim Gluckson, Senior Director of Communications for SFX Sports Group.

Eight celebrities will play in the inaugural event, although the list has not been revealed.

Today will mark the first-ever Lake Tahoe Celeb-Am. Eight celebrities will compete in the event, which is sponsored by the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

“It should become one of the great events for the week,” Gluckson said.

Celebs feel added pressure this week

With every competitive tournament on the Celebrity Golf Tour, the pressure to do well is intense. But it is more so here in Tahoe.

The American Century Celebrity Golf Championship is considered by many of the players as the U.S. Open of the tour.

“There is a lot of pressure to play here because of the television and the great field of players,” former NHL All Star center Pierre Larouche said. “All of our friends watching back home always adds more pressure as well.”

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