NFL legend Jerry Rice set to tackle American Century Championship
Golf Culture

NFL legend Jerry Rice set to tackle American Century Championship

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1,549 receptions for 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns.

Yes, it’s perfectly OK to be impressed – and awestruck – at those record numbers put up by legendary NFL receiver and Hall of Famer Jerry Rice during the course of his incredible career.

These days, the three-time Super Bowl champion spends much of his time like so many of us – chasing a little white ball down a fairway. Rice was bitten by the golf bug years ago, somewhat by chance, thanks to a San Francisco 49er trainer .

“I was out working out one day, and he brought a club and a couple golf balls and after the workout – track work and stuff on the football field – I tried to hit the golf ball. I couldn’t hit the golf ball and I became obsessed with golf,” Rice said.

This week, Rice further feeds his obsession by teeing it up at Lake Tahoe and the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament, joining a star-studded lineup of more than 90 celebrities, featuring two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Steph Curry, actor and musician Justin Timberlake, NBA analyst Charles Barkley, NFL MVP and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, actor/comedian Ray Romano, NFL quarterbacks Carson Palmer, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Alex Smith, coaches Jim Harbaugh and Marvin Lewis and fellow NFL Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Marcus Allen.

In its 27th year, the tournament which runs Friday through Sunday features $600,000 in prize money and has raised more than $4 million for charity.

For someone known for having complete control over a football, Rice recalled his struggles and frustration when he first picked up the game of golf.

“I couldn’t hit the ball so well,” said Rice, who attempted a career on the Tour a few years ago. “A stationary white ball right in front of you and you can’t get that ball to do exactly what you want it to do.”

Welcome to the club, Mr. Rice.

If Rice had the opportunity to put together a dream foursome, the guys he would play with would certainly be able to provide a swing tip or two.

“I’m still a big Tiger Woods fan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus,” Rice said. “Just to be around those guys, those living legends who’ve made golf what it is today.”

A fan of several current PGA stars including Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Phil Mickelson, Rice said he has also had the fortune to meet Palmer and Nicklaus several times over the years. Rice recalls meeting Woods when the 14-time major winner was still an amateur at Stanford and turning down a round of golf with him.

“He wanted me to go out and play with him, but I had really just started hitting golf balls,” Rice recalls. “I told him ‘Tiger, I can’t torture you like that.’”


  • In other tournament news, Heather LeMaster – the 2013 women’s world long drive champion and a competitor in the American Century – unleashed a 336-yard drive at a promotional event. The shot is believed to be a world record for longest female drive at an elevation over 6,000 feet and has been submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records for verification.
  • Fans can experience the American Century Championship in 360-degree virtual reality, with ALLie cameras placed on the 17th hole and driving range that will stream live to YouTube. Viewers can use a virtual reality headset or check out the stream on their desktop and use their mouse to move around their live view.

About the author


John Lahtinen