Golf Writer Andy Reistetter continues his exclusive "Play-Write" series with a round at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, site of this weekend's American Century Celebrity Championship. The playground between Lake Tahoe and the forested slopes of the High Sierra will be occupied by the likes of Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Ray Romano. With boaters tossing footballs back-and-forth to celebrity quarterbacks on the lakeside links, the 23rd rendition of America's golf gala is not-to-miss television on NBC. Join Reistetter as he plays one of Fazio's best designs and gets excited about this year's premier celebrity tournament.
We all think of "golfing heaven" as someplace above the clouds where all golfers eventually go and play endless rounds on beautiful courses in perfect weather. If you ever have played golf in the High Sierra then you know that, like some par-5s, doing so is "reachable" right here on earth. Specifically this weekend, the "stars" align and come down to earth where we can see them play up close and personal at Edgewood Tahoe.
I found Edgewood Tahoe on my way to the U.S. Open this year, the day they had a media press conference with two veteran Tahoe celebrity golfers Ray Romano and Hank Haney and two first-timers Miles Austin (Dallas Cowboy wide receiver) and David Justice (two-time World Series champion).
After an incredible dinner at The Basil in Carson City, Nevada and a comfortable night at the Carson Valley Inn in Minden, I made my way up to golfing heaven via the NV-207 Kingsbury Grade Road. While the name does not sound spectacular, the view is as you take the switchback highway up to the lake nearly 1,500 feet above the valley floor.
As I ascended, all I could think about is that there is a whole lot of water up there being held back by a bunch of rocks. The average depth of Lake Tahoe is 1,000 feet. With a maximum depth of 1,645 feet, the reality is that the bottom of the lake is lower than where I slept the night before in the valley.
To completely disorient me, the Daggett Pass at top (elevation 7,334 feet) is not the mountain top. Once you arrive at Edgewood Tahoe, Monument Peak at 10,067 feet, which is the Heavenly Valley Ski Area, towers over you and Lake Tahoe. The offseason there is a ski heaven that complements golf heaven in the summer. Does it get any better than that?
There are no professional golfers in Lake Tahoe this weekend competing in the American Century Celebrity Classic. They are "across the pond" competing in the (British) Open in England. Not that golfers like Tiger Woods are not celebrities in their own right.
Technically, this is a Celeb-Am (Celebrity-Amateur), not a Pro-Am (Professional-Amateur). Nevertheless, this is the "major," where sports and celebrity entertainers compete for the right to be called the best American golfer in America—that is not a professional golfer.
Are you as confused as I am? Aren't they all athletes and celebrities?
There are a lot of professional athletes that would like to become professional golfers. It seems most of them are quarterbacks as there are 10 entered in this event by my count—Chris Chandler (Atlanta Falcons, lost 1998 Super Bowl); John Elway (won last two of five Super Bowls with Denver Broncos); Jim McMahon (won two Super Bowls with Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers); Carson Palmer (2002 Heisman Trophy); Aaron Rodgers (2011 Super Bowl MVP with Green Bay Packers); Tony Romo; (Mark Rypien (won 1992 Super Bowl with Washington Redskins); Alex Smith (San Francisco 49ers); Vinny Testaverde (1986 Heisman Trophy); Joe Theismann (won 1983 Super Bowl with Washington Redskins) and Billy Joe Tolliver.
Wait, isn't he an actor from Chickasaw County that jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge? Actually, Tolliver was a good quarterback and is a regular competitor at the American Century Championship, winning the tournament three times in 1996, 2005, and 2010.
Rick Rhoden, a former Major League Baseball pitcher, pursued golf as a second career and played on the Champions Tour with three career top-10 finishes, the most recent in 2006. He is the most prolific winner at Edgewood Tahoe, winning the American Century eight times, most recently back-to-back in 2008 and 2009.
Actor Jack Wagner became the first non-professional athlete to win the Celebrity Championship in 2006 and repeated the feat last year.
Even though there are about 10 guys (sorry Brandi Chastain) that can win it, this year's favorite is Tony Romo and he is endorsed by Rick Rhoden. From ASAP Sports:
"I think Tony's probably the best guy of the group that's come up in the last five or six years. He's a good player. It wouldn't surprise me if he won. I think he's going to win a few of them before he gets through playing," said Rhoden.
As far as my experience playing Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, well it was as spectacular as the scenery. The course design is really a Fazio PLUS with Uncle George doing the original design that opened in 1968 and nephew Tom renovating the course for the 1998 season. The first nine lead the golfer up a gentle slope through tall, towering pine trees while the second nine bring you quietly down to the lake. In a tranquil state, one plays the par-3 16th on the lake and putts out on the final green as gentle waves slap along the shoreline.
I wore knickers for the memorable round and played the iconic 16th with hickory-shafted golf clubs. Though considered a modern era golf course, Edgewood Tahoe seems to take you back to the early days of golf—water side, classic layout and playing the game for fun and having fun!
Wagner's testified to the reason why Edgewood Tahoe and the celebrity event are so popular (via ASAP Sports):
"It's an event unlike any other. I think anybody involved with it, celebrity‑wise, is grateful to come here, not only have we become friends but it's an event that I think the public looks forward to, people plan their vacations around, and certainly all the guys that play in this event plan their summer around."
Sounds like "golfing heaven" on earth to me. Go if you can and if not, experience it on NBC this weekend!
Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer as well as a Spotter, Research and Broadcast Assistant for The Golf Channel, NBC and CBS Sports. He spends time on all four major American golf tours- the PGA TOUR, Champions, Nationwide and LPGA Tours.
Reistetter resides within two miles of the PGA TOUR headquarters and the home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.
A lifetime golfer, Andy enjoys volunteering at the World Golf Hall of Fame and THE PLAYERS while pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it.
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Contact Reistetter by e-mail at AndyReistetter@gmail.com