July 18, 2013 (South Lake Tahoe Calif./Nev.) – Sidelined by an injured right shoulder, Charles Barkley will serve as an unofficial tournament ambassador this weekend at the 24th American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament.
One of the most popular attractions at the annual midsummer gathering of professional athletes and entertainers in Lake Tahoe, Barkley will spend the weekend walking the golf course, signing autographs, doing media interviews and interacting with the players on the golf course.
“I was lifting weights and felt something snap. It was a freak thing. I tried it today and it was ‘no go’,” said Barkley while walking with his assigned group in the celeb-am tournament Thursday. “I’m going to stay for the weekend and hang out. The people here are fantastic. This is one of my favorite weekends every year.”
“Charles has been a favorite of the fans here since 1993,” said Tournament Director Michael Milthorpe. “Fortunately, he’s going to stay the weekend and put his indelible stamp on the 2013 competition in a different way. The tournament appreciates it and we’re going to make him part of the scene here at the golf course.”
The 54-hole tournament begins Friday with 80-plus players competing for $600,000 in prize money and raising funds for various local and national charities. The field includes contenders John Smoltz and John Elway, newcomer Michael Phelps pursuing his new passion of golf, and scores of Hall of Fame and All-Star athletes.
The first round of The American Century Championship airs Friday on NBC Sports Network from 4-7 p.m. (ET), with continuing coverage on NBC from 3-6 p.m. (ET) throughout the weekend.
Barkley has a powerful tradition with the Lake Tahoe community following his response to devastating wildfires that ravaged the area in 2007. He donated some $200,000 to local relief organizations and took 80 first responders to dinner during tournament week that year.
He is the perennial longshot at the event with oft-reported odds of 500-1 to win the tournament and he has embraced his reputation playfully, always competing and bantering with the crowds on the golf course and then interacting with fans in the Lake Tahoe nightlife.
“Charles is fan favorite. We will miss his swing but we are happy that he’ll be an unofficial host for the weekend,” said Carol Chaplin, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.