Tournament Newcomers: The extreme and the versatile |

Tournament Newcomers: The extreme and the versatile

Marty Greenstein

STATELINE — Although clouds and rain engulfed the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course during Wednesday’s practice round for the 2002 American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, the stars still came out, and the newer ones were happy to be there.

This year’s tournament, the 13th annual event, features a variety of new faces. While these celebrities play different sports and come from different backgrounds, there is a certain theme that ties them all together.

Bode Miller, Jim Shea, and Dave Mirra can all be considered extreme athletes. Bo Jackson and Brian Urlacher are the definition of a versatile player. In all, they make up some of the newest stars to hit Lake Tahoe.

Miller and Shea both made their names known during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Miller captured two silver medals for skiing, one for Giant Slalom and the other in the combined alpine events. As a skiier, Miller is familiar with the area, but this is his first experience in Tahoe as a golfer.

“We had Nationals up at Squaw Valley in the spring, but it’s my first time as a golfer,” he said. “This area is real nice all year around, so I’m not surprised it’s a good place to golf.”

Miller has been golfing for 5 or 6 years and shot a 76 during his practice round. As a newcomer to the tournament, he doesn’t have a prediction on who will come out on top.

“I don’t have any favorites (to win), but I’ve heard there are some really good golfers here.”

Shea, a third generation Olympic gold medalist who took first in the skeleton event, is visting the lake for the first time after residing in another beautiful place, Lake Placid, NY. Shea is just starting to pick up golf, but he has a very familiar caddie on his side: his father, Jim Sr. Because of his lack of experience, Shea is just trying to harness his game and to enjoy the celebrity event.

“It’s kind of different that a skeleton rider is hanging out with pro ball players,” Jim Jr. said. “There’s a lot more limelight.”

Dave Mirra is possibly the most well known extreme sport athlete this side of Tony Hawk. He has won12 medals (nine gold, three silver) in freestyle BMX riding at the X-games, the most popular extreme sport event.

Because a BMX rider is a little different from the other celebrities at the event, Mirra calls himself “the underdog.”

“I don’t know how a BMX rider became a golfer; I just got lucky I guess,” he said. In truth, Mirra has been playing golf “all his life” and consistently shoots in the low 80’s. This being his first tournament, Mirra doesn’t have high expectations.

“Coming in here, I’m not expecting to shoot my best obviously, but I want to play good golf and have a good time. I’m just looking forward to seeing everything.”

Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears is not an extreme athlete like a BMX biker or a skeleton rider, but he plays football like he is one.

As one of the top linebackers in the league, Urlacher has a reputation of the ability to play in situations all over the field. In his first two seasons in the NFL since being drafted in the first round out of the University of New Mexico, Urlacher has recorded 313 tackles, 14 sacks, 5 interceptions (including ones returned for touchdowns), and a touchdown reception on offense. However, Urlacher said that his versality in football doesn’t transfer well to the golf course.

“I don’t think it helps me at all with my golf game. You got to be flexible to play golf and have good hips, and I don’t have that.”

Urlacher has been playing for four years and said he would be happy to be under 90 strokes in a round.

When asked if he intimidated any of the more than a dozen quarterbacks playing in the event, Urlacher said: “Quarterbacks? They’re not scared. They’re actually the ones who play good golf. They have nothing to do during the off-season; they don’t have to work out.”

Bo Jackson is about five times more versatile than Urlacher. As a former Heisman trophy winner and baseball all-star game MVP, Jackson is known for his ability to play multiple sports at the highest level.

Can he add a golf game to make himself a three-sport star? While Jackson wowed fans at the driving range with booming shots, he has a 14 handicap and shouldn’t be a challenger to Dan Quinn’s title. Nevertheless, Jackson had a following all over the course and is a good addition to the Celebrity Golf line-up for the fans.

Even before they played an official round, some of the newcomers were already talking about coming back.

“I like it here and want to come back, but I’m going to play so bad it won’t even matter, ” Urlacher said.

Mirra had a more postive outlook.

“I’ll definitely come back here. I’ve heard so many good things about the area, so to be here is amazing. My goal is to just have fun in Tahoe. That’s the most important thing.”

Another Miller

Former Nevada Governor Bob Miller is golfing in today’s celebrity-amatuer event. Miller, who now practices law, tries to golf every weekend and is currently taking lessons. Sometimes he can see improvement. “A good round for me is in the low 80’s, but I also shoot in the 100s. You never know who’s going to show up.” Miller picks Rick Rhoden to win this year. “He wins it every odd numbered year. I told him this would be his even numbered year.” He is also not surprised that the newcomers are hoping to come back. “That keeps happening to players. This place is so beautiful and looks good on TV too.”