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Lake Tahoe golf event offers amenities, fan interaction that stars enjoy

Former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann signs autographs Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course Saturday. | AP

Former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann signs autographs at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course on Saturday. | AP

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Updated: August 23, 2012 10:59AM

STATELINE, Nev. — Former Blackhawks star Jeremy Roenick, who retired from the NHL in 2009, remains busy, juggling his family and assorted jobs and passions.

But Roenick relishes the five days he allocates annually to the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe. He plays golf in the daytime (on Friday with Broncos Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway), and he can play blackjack at night (maybe with Charles Barkley).

“This is my favorite weekend of the year,” Roenick said. “You don’t find an atmosphere like this, and people have a great time out here, including myself.”

On Thursday, American Century Investments, NBC, Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course and the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority announced a contract extension through 2015.

“We feel like we’re just starting to hit our stride,” said Chris Doyle, the vice president of corporate communications for American Century Investments. “We feel we need a few more years to get this perfect.”

Some would argue it already is, the ideal marriage of nature and nurture.

There are the mountains and lakes juxtaposed with the casinos and courses.

And, of course, the near perfect weather, usually in the 80s and low 90s.

Tournament officials consistently draw A-list celebrities by enticing them with a legitimate competition and family-friendly activities.

Asked why her family makes the annual trip, Denise Coleman widened her arms and said, “Look around.”

Her children were having a snack in a VIP area while her husband, two-time All-Star outfielder Vince Coleman, was practicing his putting.

Former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said he enjoyed the camaraderie with other celebrities, and former Super Bowl-champion quarterback Joe Theismann noted he and his wife like to take part in water sports or go horseback riding.

Other appeals, several celebrities said, are the substantial money generated for charities (Livestrong received more than $400,000 last year) and the interaction with their fans.

Ultimately, though, Theismann loves to play in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship because of the competition, which features a $600,000 purse, of which $125,000 goes to the winner.

“My garage is like an Edwin Watts store,” said Theismann, who practices or plays every day. He said he has 25 putters and seven full sets of clubs.

Roenick (tied for 31st after two rounds) and Theismann (tied for eighth) embrace the challenge of mastering another sport.

“It’s a different animal because it’s not our specialty,” Roenick said. “We’re out of our element. But I’ve learned to get into it, and my golf game has gotten better.”

In fact, Roenick has led at one point in each of the last three tournaments, but he couldn’t earn the victory. He was so confident Wednesday night that he placed a $2,000 bet on himself at 8-1.

“This is my year, man,” he said. “It’s my time.”

Others, though, acknowledge they have no shot.

“There’s about 15 or 20 guys who have a chance to win this, and I’m not one of them, by any stretch of the imagination,” Edwards said.

Barkley, after posting the worst first-round score, was as upbeat and gregarious as usual.

After a strong start, NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin struggled at the end of the round, not coincidentally when the number of fans swelled, particularly around the famed 17th hole. Hamlin has become friends with Michael Jordan, and they regularly play together. But he admittedly cracked with television cameras and hundreds of fans watching him as part of Jordan’s group.

It’s mentioned to Hamlin that he drives a car 200-plus mph inches from a wall and other cars in front of hundreds of thousands of people.

“For me, it’s tough because you’re out of your element,” he said. “In a race car, I can put on my suit and drive in front of a 150,000 people and have no problem and not have a nervous moment at all.”

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