Quinn, Rhoden rivalry toughens field | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Quinn, Rhoden rivalry toughens field

Darin Olde, Tribune staff writer
Jim Grant/Tahoe TribuneChicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher watches his shot during practice for the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship on Wednesday at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

If you asked returning champion Dan Quinn what he could learn from Rick Rhoden, and what the five-time champ could learn from Quinn to better his game, the answers would be as tough as the rivalry they have with one another.

Rhoden will tell you they have pretty much the same game, supporting the Platonian philosophy about the forms of perfection.

Quinn will tell you learning the game and learning how to play in competition is a totally different animal, and that Rhoden’s ability to sink the money putt, which he has done five times in Tahoe, is what separates the money-winning professionals from those who go home with just receipts in their wallets.

Each can pick out small differences in the other’s game, but the truth is that the two have immense mutual respect, and that when it comes down to playing the game, they are rivals.

Only in this game, Quinn can’t throw a butt end into Rhoden’s underbelly and the former Dodgers pitcher can’t zing a fastball near Quinn’s BVDs to back him off the plate.

This is the kind of rivalry that exists between money-winning golf professionals in the 13th annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship.

“Sure there’s a rivalry, there are a couple of guys that are always trying to beat you. I enjoy playing with Rick and hope that everybody plays well,” Quinn said in a press conference Wednesday.

Usually the two players are playing side by side in the final round so there’s no mystery as to how the other plays and when the pressure’s on.

“I think we’ve had a rivalry here these last three or four years. When Danny quit playing hockey his game got a lot better. He got to play more and he started winning,” Rhoden said.

Most of the players know the four or five guys that have a chance at winning, not that the field is that much further back, but there is a limited number of players who take the game seriously.

Washington Redskins head coach Steve Spurrier will tell you that when it comes to football season, it’s time to put the clubs away.

In the last 13 years, there have only been seven Celebrity Golf Championship winners in Tahoe. Rhoden has won five times. Quinn has won twice, last year and in 1992.

But the pool of serious celebrity golfers is slowly growing in number.

Rhoden said his score last year would have won every celebrity tournament there ever was, except for the few that he shot below.

“Last year, Danny shot a great score and he won. Up until that time I think 5-under (par) was the lowest score that someone besides myself had shot. So players are getting better,” he said.

The course, too, is probably two or three shots harder. Some of the tees have been moved back, and the players have stepped up to the challenge.

Steve Kerr, Mario Lemieux, Billy Joe Tolliver and John Elway are playing strong and may be capable of earning the top spot.

Lemieux won in 1998, and Elway, who has played rounds of 18 the past two days, is making the kind of scores that could win, so long as he can do it all three days.

“Oh man, you never know,” he said. “This game changes day to day. We’ll see. If I can putt decent, I’ve got a shot.”

According to the scorecard from Tuesday, Elway shot 1-over, one stroke ahead of Quinn, who was at 74.

On Wednesday however, Quinn came back with a 1-under 71, six strokes ahead of Elway.

Jordan, too, has been shooting in the 70s according to his caddie, who has been hustling to keep up with the NBA superstar’s pace at 36 holes each day.

“Jack Wagner has probably made the most improvements,” Quinn said of his partner Wednesday. “So you never know. There are a lot of guys that can play well.”

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