Lemieux not sure what to expect in title defense | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Lemieux not sure what to expect in title defense

Considering all of the time Maro Lemieux has spent in his office negotiating for the ownership rights to the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, he’ll understand if he doesn’t repeat his Celebrity Golf Championship title this weekend.

“For the last six months I was in the office from 9 to 5 with lawyers and advisors trying to put this deal together and trying to find some investors willing to help us out and keep the team in Pittsburgh,” said Lemieux during a press conference for the American Century Golf Championship on Thursday at Edgewood Tahoe. “I was always optimistic that our plan would go through. It took most of my time for the last six months, so I didn’t play much golf. But I’m here to defend my title this week, have some fun and play as well as I can.”

The former Penguins all-star center’s deal was approved last week by a bankruptcy judge, so now he can focus on his second sporting love – golf.

“It was a great opportunity for me because the team owned me so much money. I was able to convert all of the money into equity,” said the father of four who helped raise $55 million in six months to purchase the Penguins. “I had about two days last week where I got to relax a little bit and practice.”

His emotional triumph last year should serve him well this weekend.

“This is one of the tournaments when I started playing years ago that I wanted to win,” he said. “It was really exciting last year coming down the stretch being five back with six holes to play. To come back and birdie four of the last five holes was a great feeling,” said Lemieux, who rolled in a 10-foot birdie on the final hole to defeat four-time champion Rick Rhoden and 1994 winner Dick Anderson by one stroke.

If Lemieux doesn’t defend, he likes recently retired Broncos quarterback John Elway’s chances. Lemieux golfed with Elway for 54 holes Tuesday and Wednesday, gaining insight into how well the 1999 Super Bowl MVP is playing.

“Elway was probably 12 or 13 under over 54 holes. He’s playing so well, so he has a good chance to win this week,” Lemieux said.

Last year, Lemieux was a 40-to-1 bet at Stateline casinos to win the tournament and naturally has dropped to 15-1 this year.

“I haven’t bet on myself this year or last year,” Lemieux said. “I haven’t played golf over the last six months, so I don’t have big expectations. I’ll just have some fun with the guys, play as well as I can and hopefully have a shot to win at the end.”

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