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Tolbert starts firing well before celebrity debut

Steve Yingling

American Century Celebrity Golf Championship rookie Tom Tolbert didn’t disappoint a teleconference Tuesday, providing the colorful commentary the former Golden State Warrior has become well-known for on NBC and KNBR.

The retired NBA player joined former Atlanta Falcons and Cal quarterback Steve Bartkowski for the phone conference, answering questions regarding the July 16-21 tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

“I want to go out there and B.S. with some people in the gallery and I don’t want to ricochet the ball off any people’s noggins.”

About the night life he expects to wholeheartedly throw himself into in Stateline, Tolbert has only worry.

“If they stick me with a 7 a.m. tee time, they damn well better have Bloody Marys at the first tee,” said Tolbert, who guesses his handicap ranges from 14 to 16. “I’m hoping to get a late tee time, or it could be one of those things where I’m grabbing my last cocktail and stuffing my 21 hand under the table (to make my tee time).”

Tolbert went on to give his opinion that golf really isn’t a sport.

“I would say no because you don’t have to be an athlete to play golf, and that’s not to say guys like Tiger (Woods) and (David) Duval aren’t,” he said.

“What is an athlete? Is it hand-eye coordination?”

Despite his rookie status, Tolbert wasn’t at a loss at making several guarantees.

“I guarantee I can hit them in the rough and I can hit them in the lake,” he said. “The only thing I can guarantee with confidence is I will have a great time.”

Bartkowski, who has played in every celebrity championship since the tournament started in 1990, even poked a little fun at the rookie.

“On that first tee Tom will rather be sitting next to Ahmad (Rashad), taking all his guff. It’s like you’re standing naked up there,” Bartkowski said.

Tolbert is already making the appropriate arrangements regarding his first round of golf in front of spectators.

“I will be passing out insurance waivers to people lined up for the first 50 to 60 yards,” he said. “To be honest, I might pull out a wedge and hit it 115 yards and get away from the fans and then pull out the big stick.”

That kind of foresight and understanding of the pressure of playing in front of spectators should keep Tolbert from breaking Sacramento Kings forward Chris Webber’s infamous 18- and 54-hole scoring records. Webber opened with a 59-over-par 131 in his debut round in 2000 and finished that tournament 163 over (379).

“I haven’t been over a 100 in years and years and years … that doesn’t mean I can’t pop off triple digits,” Tolbert said. “No, I’m not worried about being the worst player, because if it ever came to that, I’d just go John Daly and walk off the 10th. I would just take off somewhere and hide.”

Incidentally, Webber, whose Kings pulled even with Lakers at one game apiece Monday in the NBA Western Conference finals, will make his second tournament appearance in July.

Bartkowski is probably the best player to have never won the championship. Seven times the 1980 NFC Offensive MVP has cracked the top 10. That consistency, however, has come even though Bartkowski’s left-to-right ball flight doesn’t suit the right-to-left design of most of Edgewood’s holes.

“That’s what all players say when they lack a little bit of talent,” Bartkowski said. “It’s hard for me to compete, I have a full-time job. I’m competing against guys who this is their full-time job. The fact is that it’s been a shot here and shot there that has kept me winning a couple of times.”

A field of 78 stars, including John Elway, Mario Lemieux, Jason Kidd, Jerry Rice, Marshall Faulk, Warren Sapp, Mike Schmidt and defending champion Dan Quinn, are expected to play in the $500,000 tournament.

Note: You’ve heard the big boys say it, whether it be the Shell Houston Open or The Masters, ‘The more that you get in that position, the better prepared you are for that next time around.” I’m hoping someday soon I’ll be able to get up there and kiss the trophy like all the big boys do on Sunday afternoon in Lake Tahoe.”


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