By: Blaine Newnham

Back to blogging after a round at Edgewood Tahoe, the well-known and nearly stately course in Stateline, Nev., home of the annual summer celebrity tournament that makes everyone who plays the game appreciate that they've got a better swing than Charles Barkley.

"He wants to be better, he was better," said Phil Weidinger, the publicity director of the tournament. Barkley seems to have a plain case of the yips with the driver - and all his other clubs.

As a couple of dozen writers make their way around Lake Tahoe - we are staying the night at the Resort at Squaw Creek at the base of the home of the 1960 Winter Olympics - we took time to interview Digger Phelps, the former Notre Dame basketball coach and current TV analyst. "I think about the tournament all year," said Phelps who has played in all but one of them dating back to 1990. "It is like extended family for me."

Sponsored by American Century Investments, the tournament will be played July 8-13 and be televised by NBC Sports, which owns it and always has. It's made-for-TV, the grandeur of Lake Tahoe, and the presence of big-game athletes and entertainers.

"Realistically," said Weidinger, "there are probably only 12 (the field is 78) who have a chance to win." They play for $600,000, however, with the winner getting $125,000.

There is some quality golf. Former major league pitcher Rick Rhoden has won it six times. He recently tied for the top finish at the Champions Tour Q School and may or may not play at Edgewood Tahoe again this year. "It is open to non-tour regulars," said Weidinger.

For the most part, the best golfers among the big-name athletes are quarterbacks and hockey players. Dan Quinn has won three times and Mario Lemiux once. Last year's winner was former University of Washington and star NFL quarterback, Chris Chandler.

But it's really not about good golf. "Just make sure Charles is here, everybody feels that way," said Phelps.

Barkley will play despite the problems he recently encountered with a Las Vegas gambling debt. "Two years ago, during the big fire we had," said Weidinger, "Barkley took 100 firemen out to dinner and sent us a check for $100,000 to help those in need."

Weidinger smiled. "Last year he almost hit my wife on one hole. He apologized and told her she'd be safer in the middle of the fairway," he added.

Edgewood Tahoe does most of its business with the neighboring casinos. It's a big-time golf course and green fees are more than $200 in the summer.

But no one seems to care. The party not only goes on, but gets bigger. Boats are tying up en masse along the 17th hole where everyone wants to recreate Phoenix in Tahoe. The par-3 is so close to the beach that you can play a shot from there.

The big news this year is that retiring Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre is supposed to play. Where else would you rather start retirement?

Blaine Newnham has covered golf for 50 years. He still cherishes the memory of following Ben Hogan for 18 holes during the first round of the 1966 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. He worked then for the Oakland Tribune, where he covered the Oakland Raiders during the first three seasons of head coach John Madden. Blaine moved on to Eugene, Ore., in 1971 as sports editor and columnist, covering the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. He was to cover five Olympics all together - Mexico City, Munich, Los Angeles, Seoul, and Athens - before retiring in early 2005 from the Seattle Times. He covered his first Masters in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman, and his last in 2005 when Tiger Woods chip teetered on the lip at No. 16 and rolled in. He saw Woods four straight major wins in 2000 and 2001, and Payne Stewart's birdie putt to win the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. Blaine plays golf at Wing Point Golf and Country Club on Bainbridge Island, Wash., where his current index is 12.6. In 2005, Blaine received the Northwest Golf Media Association's Distinguished Service Award. He and his wife, Joanna, live in Indianola, Wash., where the Dungeness crabs out-number the people.

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