Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has played plenty of golf, but his appearance in the America Century Championship will be the first time playing in front of fans.
Ken Whisenhunt has played plenty of competitive golf, but what the Cardinals' coach hasn't done is play his second-favorite sport in front of a crowd.
That changes this weekend when Whisenhunt takes part in the American Century Championship, a made-for-TV tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada that has become – after 20 years – the biggest celebrity golf tourney around.
"Normally you are focused on playing golf and what you are trying to do, but this is a different arena," Whisenhunt said. "There are so many more distractions, whether it is the crowd or even if you are playing with a guy who is
When: Friday through Sunday
Where: Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, South Lake Tahoe, Nevada
TV: ESPN2 Friday 5-7 p.m.; NBC (Ch. 12) Saturday and Sunday Noon-3 p.m.
a big celebrity. I have never been involved with that in golf, so I am curious to know how I will handle that."
Whisenhunt left Tuesday afternoon for Tahoe. He'll play in pro-am events today and Thursday before taking part in the three-day tournament starting Friday. He doesn't yet know who he'll be paired with, although he knows it won't be another Cardinal. Quarterback Matt Leinart had been invited to play, but Leinart had to withdraw because of a conflict.
Whisenhunt had been invited last year, but the invitation came late and he was unable to attend.
As for this year's invitation, "I am sure going to the Super Bowl helped my chances a little bit," Whisenhunt said.
On vacation for most of the last few weeks, Whisenhunt said he has been playing a little more golf than normal in preparation for the event. Even when he doesn't play a complete round, he said he has made sure to play a hole or two or just hit some extra balls and work on his game.
Admitting the competitive part of the tourney (it uses a modified Stableford scoring system, so points are awarded for birdies and subtracted for bogeys rather than using a player's score-to-par) is the best part of this "celebrity" tournament, Whisenhunt would like to vie for a title. He's only played against one of the top golfers in the tourney however; former teammate Mark Rypien won the inaugural tournament back in 1990.
Whisenhunt had opportunities to play with some top celebrity golfers when he coached in Pittsburgh because NHL legend Mario Lemieux – who won in 1998 and will be participating this weekend – hosted a tournament. But Whisenhunt said he was never able to play because of scheduling conflicts.
Former Major League pitcher Rick Rhoden, who has won seven of the previous 19 tournaments, is the favorite. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is considered the strongest challenger. If Whisenhunt won, he'd become the third winner with Cardinals' ties, after former quarterback Chris Chandler(who won in 2007) and former kicker Al Del Greco (who won in 2000).
Among those in the star-studded list of players are Wayne Gretzky, John Elway, Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice and Ben Roethlisberger.
"It's a much different pressure than sitting at half court of an NBA playoff game," Houston Rockets forward Shane Battier told the Associated Press.
Whisenhunt knows it will be different than playing almost a decade in the NFL too. He's been in front of big crowds before, but not while trying to keep it in the fairway.
"This is just you and not a team," Whisenhunt said, before adding with a smile, "and there are so many things that can go wrong."
As expected, the deadline came and went Wednesday for franchised linebacker Karlos Dansby to sign a contract extension past 2009. Dansby must now wait until after the season to sign a new deal with the Cards, although negotiations can go on during the season. Dansby is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March.
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 7/15/09.