In previous summers in Lake Tahoe, the common lament among sports fans wasn't "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?" It was more like "Where have you gone Michael Jordan?"
That disappointing sports void was filled Wednesday as the six-time NBA Finals MVP announced plans to play in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship July 7-9 at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
The Washington Wizards owner hasn't played in the Lake Tahoe event since 1996, flustering South Shore business leaders who hoped to benefit from his superstar appeal at the gate and with TV viewers searching for future vacation spots. Obviously, anyone promoting the 54-hole $500,000 tournament is pleased to welcome back Jordan as were Bulls' fans when he came out of his first retirement to lead the team to their sixth title in 1998.
"Michael Jordan with a backdrop of Lake Tahoe, that's a pretty good combination," said Phil Weidinger, whose publics relations firm has promoted the tournament nationally for the past nine years.
"Having a Michael Jordan play in your tournament brings a lot of attention to your event."
Jordan's presence will likely increase attendance as well.
"It's a huge addition to an already strong field. When he's played in the past, 2,000 to 4,000 more people have come through the gate," said tournament director Michael Milthorpe.
In past years, Jordan has skipped the Lake Tahoe event because of family obligations during the Fourth of July weekend and concerns that his golf game wasn't where he wanted it following the long NBA season.
Like Jordan, some of the brightest stars in the field are recent retirees. Charles Barkley, Dan Marino, John Elway and Mario Lemieux are all expected to play.
Jordan's most recent tournament appearance was June 8-11 in the Mario Lemieux Celebrity Invitational. He shot rounds of 81, 80 and 79 and finished in a tie for 27th place.
Tickets will be available at the course each day of the event. Tuesday and Wednesday practice rounds are $10 per day; Thursday's Celebrity-Amateur and tournament play on Friday, Saturday and Sunday are $15 per day. For advance tickets, call the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Central Reservations at (800) AT-TAHOE.