Charles Barkley can make you laugh, and cry, with a single swing of the club.
His broken swing would be considered a balk in baseball. He must have been a gifted basketball player because few people, much less athletes, could survive his swing without cracking a few bones.
And, along the way, he entertains. Every time.
"There are worse things to suck at in life than golf," Barkley has said. He may be right, but few have sucked that bad.
The TNT basketball analyst will fall back on his work as a weight-loss pitchman, humanitarian, blunt everyman and, well, just resign himself to his inexorable fate in golf.
By the way, he's a 500-to-1 longshot to win the 23rd American Century Championship this week at Edgewood Tahoe. It's only 500-to-1 because the oddsmakers wanted to give him some company with Kevin Nealon and Dennis Haysbert.
Barkley's presence on Lake Tahoe's southern shore he'll be seen everywhere from casinos to the 18th green sets in motion one of the nation's most entertaining golf events. There are reasons why NBC covers a made-for-TV golf tournament live nothing but 80-plus athletes, celebrities and fun amid a glorious Tahoe backdrop.
Golf fans from the valley flock to Tahoe each July to get a close look at Michael Jordan, Tony Romo he could win this year John Elway, Jerry Rice, Aaron Rodgers, Marcus Allen, Oscar De La Hoya, Emmitt Smith, Ray Romano, Herman Edwards, Dan Quayle and many others.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who nearly guided his team into the Super Bowl last season, is one of the featured first-time entries. Training camp starts July 26, but Smith will warm up with a few trips around Edgewood.
Others who are making their first appearance in the tournament are Priest Holmes, Sebastian Janikowski, Miles Austin and Urban Meyer.
As for Barkley, he's just bigger than life. Five years ago during the tragic Angora fire near Tahoe, Barkley helped victims with $190,000 in donations and treated 100 firefighters and their families to dinner.
He'll continue to headline a good cause. The tournament has raised more than $4 million for a variety of national local charities since its launch in 1990. For the seventh straight year, the tournament will support Lance Armstrong's LIVESTRONG foundation, which empowers people affected by cancer.
Actor Jack Wagner, the defending champion and two-time winner, is the only non-athlete ever to win the American Century. He'll probably receive an argument from former pitcher and eight-time champion Rick Rhoden.
Tickets, which cost $25 for tournament rounds Friday, Saturday and Sunday, are discounted at all local Raley's stores. Kids 10 and under are free when accompanied by a paid adult. Visit tahoecelebritygolf.com.
And if you place a bet on Barkley, we'll accept it as an attempt at humor.
THE SHAG BAG Modesto's Laura Arellano still basks in the afterglow of her week at The First Tee Open at Pebble Beach. Not only did her professional partner Kirk Triplett win the Champions Tour event, Arellano and Triplett also tied for eighth in the pro-junior division. This has given her a handy conversation piece as she works in the pro shops at both Creekside and Dryden Park this summer. Question: Did she receive a raise from Director of Golf Sue Fiscoe? Quipped Fiscoe, "At least I owe her a free lesson." ... The dates for The First Tee Open will be changed to Sept. 27-29 next year. Officials hope for better weather, though there wasn't much wrong with this year's morning fog and partial clearing in the afternoon typical summer fare on the Monterey Peninsula. ...
Mike Bender, one of Cal State Stanislaus' first golf stars, has become one of the nation's most respected golf instructors. He's also versatile. He caddied for Zach Johnson, one of his top students, during Johnson's victory last week at the John Deere Classic. ... Happening this week: The U.S. Girls' Junior at Lake Merced CC in Daly City. ...
Julie Shutler of Manteca, the Big West Conference Player of the Year as a senior for Sacramento State, reached match play of the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links last month in New Jersey. The Sierra High graduate tied for 28th in stroke-play qualifying but dropped her first-round match. ... Golf in the Sierra will continue with the Reno-Tahoe Open, a PGA Tour event tournament at Montreux Country Club south of Reno on Aug. 2-5.
HOLE-IN-ONE Jeff Virgil, Modesto, 185-yard eighth, Del Rio CC (Bluff), 4-iron.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2302.