Tolliver blows it |

Tolliver blows it

Michael Traum

It was Billy Joe Tolliver’s tournament to lose. And he did.

Riding a comfortable five-shot advantage after nine holes, the 1996 champ took a triple-bogey seven on the par-4 15th hole Sunday at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

It was a hole that ultimately cost him a chance at a second title.

”I’m stupid. That’s about it,” said Tolliver, who got into trouble when his tee shot on No. 15 hooked into a stand of trees. ”Looking back on it now, I should have just punched it out sideways” rather than try for the green on his second shot.

Tolliver, who fought back to birdie two of the last three holes, left an opening for the rest of the pack, which responded to make it the most action-packed finish in the tournament’s nine years at Edgewood.

Lurking the fairways within striking distance were John Elway, past champs Dan Quinn and Dick Anderson, sweet-swinging Mario Lemieux and four-time defending champ Rick Rhoden.

Elway was the first to make a run, birdieing four straight holes on the front nine to go 3-under after eight holes. But the defending Super Bowl champion quarterback three-putted from 10 feet on No. 9 to card a double bogey. He missed several birdie chances on the back before rolling in a five-footer on No. 16 to go 1-under. Needing an eagle on the reachable par-5 18th, Elway’s chance faded when his drive clipped the trees on the left side. After a second shot to within 100 yards, Elway’s eagle try landed eight feet from the cup, a putt that he made to finish 2-under.

Quinn, the 1992 champ, started the day at 1-under, three behind Tolliver. He finished the front nine at even par and never really threatened, despite Tolliver’s opening and a birdie on No. 18, and carded a 74 for a three-round 217.

Anderson made a solid move. After an opening-round 75, the former Miami Dolphin and 1994 champ shot 69-69, including birdies on No. 11 and No. 18 on Sunday’s back nine. But missed birdie putts on No. 16 and 17 made the difference. Still, Anderson had a share of the lead at 3-under after 54 holes while waiting for Lemieux to finish.

“Those two missed chances really hurt me. At least I posted a score that Billy Joe and Mario had to best,” Anderson said.

Lemieux, who most players said has the best swing on the course, was easily the hottest golfer on the back nine. He made three straight birdies, capped by a 10-footer on the final hole. The closing rally was part of a surge that saw him make up a five-stroke deficit in the last six holes. Lemieux, who had an opening-round 76, came back to shoot 67 and 69 in the last two rounds of the 54-hole tournament to finish at 4-under 212, one stroke ahead of Tolliver and Anderson. Lemieux was five strokes off the pace after 12 holes, but birdied four of the last five holes, including the pressure-packed one on No. 18.

“But once Billy Joe made 7 on the 15th, everybody was back in it,” he said. “I thought he showed a lot of character to come back like he did.

“It was a great challenge at the end to try to catch somebody and try to take the lead. I enjoyed it down the stretch. You try to hit some good shots and make some putts, and to be able to do that when you’re trying to do that is very satisfying.”

Former Dodgers pitcher Rick Rhoden, the tournament’s champion in all of the odd-numbered years, got to within three shots before Tolliver’s miscue. But a double bogey on No. 10 and an unpredictable early-round putter cost him a chance at his fifth win.

“I finally putted the ball good (Sunday). If I had putted it like that the other days, I’d probably be 10 under,” said Rhoden, who once again failed to win in an even-numbered year after victories in 1997, ’95, ’93 and ’91. “Well, I’ve got to win it next year to keep that going. I’ll be here.”

Local boy does good by champ

When Scott Rahbeck started the week, the Edgewood Tahoe employee was psyched just to be close to so many stars.

But when the final round ended Sunday, Rahbeck was a celebrity in his own right.

The 1997 Whittell High graduate was the caddy for tournament winner Mario Lemieux – a last-minute stand-in when the former hockey great’s regular club carrier couldn’t attend.

“I was working early one morning (this week) and my boss Rob comes up to me and says, ‘You’re really going to like me. Lemieux’s caddy isn’t showing up. He needs a caddy and you’re going to do it. Go get ready,'” said Rahbeck, who recounted the story on the 18th green while Lemieux was accepting the first-place check of $100,000. “He really didn’t say much. I just told him to swing smooth and he did and won. I’ve never really caddied or played with somebody that plays that caliber of golf.”

Caddies traditionally receive ten percent of a winner’s purse, which could mean at least $10,000 for Rahbeck. Still, he was just happy to be a part of the victory.

“I don’t know how much money he’s going to give me. The experience is just as fun,” Rahbeck said. “This is one of the greatest things to happen to me.”

Moseley gets up close with course, stars

Tournament newcomer Jonny Moseley got a lesson in stardom – and golf – during his three days at Edgewood Tahoe.

Moseley, the 1998 mogul gold medalist and part-time Squaw Valley resident, posted the worst three rounds of the tournament, 103-106-98, to finish 74th and earn last-place money of $1,185.

“I didn’t think I’d shoot as bad as I did. But at least I broke 100 on the last day. It was the most fun day. I was just relaxed. My hands were so sore because I was trying to grip the club too hard the first two days. I just couldn’t hold the club very hard. So I swang easy. I don’t know how to play too well but I figured out that if you don’t hold it hard it still works,” said Moseley, who passed out his trademark multi-colored ski hats during Sunday’s round.

“Overall, the whole experience was awesome and cool. I was hanging out with Marcus Allen and Kerry Collins and we were singing, ‘Hip, hop, hibby to the hibby,’ on stage Saturday night. It was hilarious. And they’ve all been very cool. Some guys were like, ‘Who are you.’ I’d tell them and they be like, ‘Oh, I saw you in the Olympics.’ Then I broke out the hats and they were, ‘Oh yeah. It’s you.'”

Moseley, 22, got his biggest dose of reality when he realized that he had been included among a list of the most recognizable athletes and performers in the world.

“I had a great, great gallery that was following me. It’s an incredible feeling to have people want to check you out and watch you play. I couldn’t go from the putting green to the building without hundreds of people wanting an autograph.

“And all of the players were really cool. I’ve never met many pro athletes in my life at all. People here are big time. It’s like being thrown into a sports hall of fame. But they’re just normal people. It’s very trippy to be out there with them. It’s weird. To be considered among this great class of athletes is a great honor.”

And as for Moseley’s scoring, the tournament usually requires a player to have a 10-handicap of better – a mark Moseley surpassed in Friday’s round alone with a bagful of errant shots.

“I definitely learned the rules of golf quickly, especially the drop techniques because I was in the water a lot,” he joked.

But Moseley still hopes he’ll be considered next year.

“Maybe they’ll invite me back as the entertainment clown. Seriously, I love to be able to do this every year. But the Olympics is a fleeting fame. You’re only in the spotlight for a short time. I had a great time and would love to come back.”

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