Rhoden invited back to celebrity event | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Rhoden invited back to celebrity event

Little has gone right in Rick Rhoden’s 2008 golf season, but the former major league pitcher can take comfort in knowing that he’s been given the green light to play in the American Century Championship in July.

NBC has included Rhoden in the ACC’s 89-player field since celebrity golf’s career victory leader has limited playing status on the Champions Tour this year.

“The bottom line is Rick does not have playing privileges on the Champions Tour, and we are happy to have him compete in the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe,” said Jon Miller, executive vice president of NBC Sports.

Rhoden, who has won the ACC six times, was ineligible to play in the 2006 tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course because he was a regular on the Champions Tour. He played in 15 Champions Tour events that year, earning $142,714.

The former Dodgers’ pitcher had hoped to become more active on the pro golf tour for men 50 and older after sharing medalist honors at the Champions Tour National Qualifying Tournament last November in Coral Springs, Fla. In past years, Rhoden’s first-place finish in Q-School would have given him full tour playing privileges.

But the top 30 players only received spots into the weekly qualifiers prior to each Champions Tour event. As a result, Rhoden has participated in one tour event – a 73rd-place finish at the Turtle Bay in Kahuku, Hawaii. Rhoden has entered just four qualifiers, the last of which was three months ago.

“There’s no reason to go if you’re not healthy. It’s hard enough to do if you’re healthy,” Rhoden said.

Rhoden has been troubled by lingering pain in the back of his neck. He had surgery in January of 2007 to fuse a ruptured disk, leaving him almost pain-free for 13 months. But in February, Rhoden began experiencing pain below the area that was repaired.

His neck problems stem from a 2002 accident, when a cement truck rear-ended Rhoden’s vehicle.

“I don’t know what I’m dealing with. I’m trying to take care of it without doing anything,” he said. “I just want to get back to sleeping (without discomfort) again.

“I’d still like to play more, but I’m getting older, I’m hurt and it’s harder to get into these events. All of those things combined don’t make for a good chance to get on the seniors tour.”

Rhoden, however, did put his neck to test on April 26-27 at the San Diego Celebrity Classic hosted by Stan Humphries. He finished in a tie for second place with Grant Fuhr, as former major league catcher Mickey Tettleton won the 36-hole tournament by one stroke.

If the ACC were two weeks away instead of two months, Rhoden said he’s be ready to go.

“I feel good enough to go play in Tahoe,” said Rhoden, who turns 55 on May 16. “I know all of the players look forward to going there and seeing each other again and meeting each other’s families.”

The July 11-13 tournament field includes Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, Tony Romo, John Elway, Dan Marino, Ray Romano and Dennis Quaid. Among the new players expected to participate are Rick Reilly, Ozzie Smith, Darryl Strawberry, Jason Taylor, Dale Jarrett and Jay Cutler.

Rhoden has heard rumblings that the Champions Tour may alter its qualifying procedure for next year.

“They’ve been doing it this way for two years, and I don’t think it’s working great,” Rhoden said.

Either way, Rhoden plans to go through qualifying again. And if the Champions Tour doesn’t work out, he can always count on the ACC to deliver his golfing needs.

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