One sure sign the celebrity tournament in Stateline, Nev., is really not serious: The most enduring image of last year’s edition was Dell Curry leaping into chilly Lake Tahoe, with his famous son (and Justin Timberlake) hooting and hollering nearby.
This is also one sure sign the event is usually rollicking good entertainment.
Stephen Curry headlines the field again in this year’s American Century Championship, starting Friday. This has become a summertime ritual, the highest-profile celebrity golf event in the land.
It’s also a perfect example of golf’s powerful allure. What else brings together a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player (Curry), many NFL heavyweights (including Aaron Rodgers, Jerry Rice and Steve Young), two baseball Hall of Famers (John Smoltz and Tom Glavine) and any number of actors and comedians?
Yep, even Larry the Cable Guy.
Former A’s pitcher Mark Mulder was on the driving range during last year’s tournament at Edgewood Tahoe when Larry ambled up and jokingly declared, “I’m coming after you today, Mulder!”
Here, it’s worth pointing out Daniel Lawrence Whitney — aka Larry the Cable Guy — finished 76th and Mulder won the event for the third consecutive year. This year, Mulder is the odds-on favorite at 5-to-2; Larry is 5,000-to-1.
“Everybody’s chirping at each other on the range, whether it’s making little wagers or whatever,” Mulder said, “because, hey, gambling is legal there.”
Given this backdrop, here are a couple of notable subplots this week:
•Curry family supremacy: Two years ago, Dell Curry collected 29 points in the modified Stableford scoring system, edging his son by one. Last year, Steph secured emphatic payback: He beat his dad 60-29.
That was enough for Steph to tie for fourth overall — he shot 4-under-par 68 in the final round, based on conventional scoring — and send Dell, fully clothed, into the water to pay off their friendly bet.
“We’ll have some kind of wager this year, but I don’t know if it will be jumping in the lake,” Dell said. “Steph will give me a few points — he’s a little better golfer than I am.
“But we go at it pretty hard when we’re on the course. And as soon as we walk through the door, both wives want to know who won. They can normally tell right away.”
•Mulder seeks four-peat: His dominance shouldn’t be surprising. Mulder is a terrific athlete with a modern tour pro’s frame (tall, lean, broad-shouldered). Plus, starting pitchers invariably make the best golfers because they have time to work on their game during the season.
Mulder, 40, likes to joke that his kids think Lake Tahoe is the place where they get to run on the green at the end. That has been the case the past three years, obviously, and now Mulder will try to make it four straight.
He savors golf as an antidote for the retirement blues. Mulder pocketed 103 wins in his major-league career (which ended in 2008), including 81 for the A’s.
“Your career ends, man, and you have nowhere to compete,” Mulder said. “And golf has kind of given that to us, especially this tournament. It’s like our Super Bowl.”
Senior Women’s Open on tap: Good on the USGA, finally launching a national championship for the country’s top 50-and-older women’s players.
The inaugural edition of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open begins Thursday outside Chicago. Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, from Los Altos, counts as one of the favorites, but she’s not the only player with deep Bay Area ties.
Golf Channel’s Kay Cockerill, a two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and San Francisco resident, also landed an exemption into the field. Cockerill has not played competitively in more than 20 years, but she will give it a whirl.
Four local players qualified last month at the Olympic Club’s Ocean Course: San Jose State women’s coach Dana Dormann of Pleasanton; Kathryn Imrie of Scotland (she now lives in Woodside); and amateurs Tina Barker of Fairfield and Julie Wirth of Lafayette.
American Century Championship
Where: Stateline, Nev.
TV: Noon Friday NBCSN;