RENO, Nev. (KOLO) – For the 31st straight year, the stars will descend on Lake Tahoe. But the latest edition of the celebrity golf tournament will be unlike any before.
The American Century Championship enters its fourth decade July 8-12 from Edgewood in South Lake Tahoe. But this year’s event nearly didn’t happen because of COVID-19.
“It was very close to not happening,” said Phil Weidinger, public relations director for the ACC. “13 years ago, we had the Angora Fire. The question was, should we do the tournament? Was it appropriate? Those same questions came up.”
Ultimately, American Century Investments and NBC decided it could be done in a safe manner. No spectators will be allowed (roughly 62,000 were on-hand in 2019) and players can only bring one guest (a caddie). They’‘ll receive daily temperature checks and any normal social events around the tournament will not take place.
“There’s no functions, no big parties, no shows or anything like that,” said Weidinger. “It’s a different game. But hey, we’re all in a different world right now.”
The crowd numbers aren’t the only ones dropping. Weidinger says there’s normally around 2,100 people with credentials on-site – from the players, to Edgewood staff, media and more. This year, there will only be around 230.
“It’s bare bones. But it needs to be. That’s how serious everyone’s been taking it.”
Despite the unprecedented times, there’s still a large field of players – around 75 comprised of athletes, actors and coaches. A normal year is in the 80s. Two-time defending champion, and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Tony Romo returns in search of a three-peat. Warriors all-star Stephen Curry will be back, as will America’s Funniest Home Video’s Alfonso Ribeiro.
And a new addition announced the week before: Super Bowl MVP and Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“Once they found out how the event was going to be conducted – the safety protocols and precautions – it made them comfortable, too,” said Weidinger.
An estimated $600,000 will be raised for foundations supporting COVID-19 relief as well as the Equal Justice Initiative. A significant portion will also stay in Lake Tahoe.
Charles Barkley is set for his 25th celebrity tournament. In 2007, The NBA Hall of Famer donated $100,000 to local fire fighting efforts during the Angola Fire.
“Some of the stuff we’ll be doing ‑ number one, for equal justice, but also for COVID‑19,” said Barkley via conference call. “I know it’s had a detrimental effect on the black community. And I’m glad we’re doing something like that.”
While spectators are not allowed, boaters are likely to still pull up alongside the course – especially at the always popular 17th hole. Weidinger says unlike past years, they won’t be allowed to get out of the water and fill the beach along the course.
“Tahoe’s going to be on a national stage next week,” said Weidinger of the 18-hours of coverage on NBC’s family of networks. “We want people around the country to see this and say ‘these guys know how to do it right. They know how to have fun, but do it properly.’”
For more info on the American Century Championship, head to their website.
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