Cox Celebrity Championship Swings Into Action

NFL Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk putts for a birdie on the 18th hole at Morgan Run in the Cox Celebrity Championship.

Scene and heard around the course on the opening day of the Cox Celebrity Championship at Morgan Run Resort and Club in Rancho Santa Fe:

Jerry Rice practices sand shots before his opening round.

— The atmosphere for this charity event is relaxed and fun, giving fans an opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with dozens of former and current players from across several sports. And while there is a $100,000 purse at stake, no one is here trying to make money to meet the monthly mortgage payment. It is interesting, however, to observe contrasts in players’ approaches to the game. Take former NFL wide receivers Jerry Rice and Andre Reed, for instance. Rice, who has aspirations of playing golf professionally, already had his game face on an hour before his noon tee time. Walking from the driving range to another practice area to work on some sand shots, Rice waved off a fan wanting to make some small talk. “Not right now, man,” Rice said. “I’m warming up.” Reed, meanwhile, was encouraging spectators to speak up. “It’s quiet around here,” Reed said before teeing off on the back nine. “You all need to start talking.” After a solid drive, Reed signed several autographs before getting into his golf cart and driving off. Looking at one action photo of himself presented for his signature, the former Buffalo Bills receiver said, “That’s a good picture there. I might have scored on that one.”

— NFL Hall of Fame place-kicker Jan Stenerud, who played the majority of his 20-year career with the Kansas City Chiefs, was greeted by a number of well-wishers and autograph seekers as he prepared to tee off on the 10th hole. Asked one fan: “How’s your leg doing? Said Stenerud: “The leg is fine. My back isn’t.”

— Actor Jack Wagner, the event’s defending champion, knows how Stenerud feels. Wagner was seen at the course but not on the course. Seems he tweaked something in his back and was forced to miss the first day of play. Sounds like he may need a trip to General Hospital for further examination.

— Speaking of place-kickers, former Chargers kicker Rolf Benirschke is playing in the event. His presence was duly noted by one of the two volunteers seated at the driving range. One gentleman was very impressed with the extensive background information provided on the players in the tournament. Reading through the bios, one said to the other: “I didn’t know Rolf Benirschke hosted the Wheel of Fortune in 1989.”

Joe Morgan and Rick Rhoden visit on the practice green.

— Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan wasn’t having much luck finding the bottom of the cup on the putting green when former pitcher Rick Rhoden, a four-time champion in this event and runner-up last year, walked up and provided a welcome distraction. Morgan greeted Rhoden with a big grin and some small talk, then watched with envy as Rhoden stroked putt after putt into the hole.

— There’s one in every crowd. Positioned off the side of the green on the par-3 18th hole was a fan who after each tee shot for one particular group shouted: “Get in the hole.” To which another fan said as an aside, “I wish that guy would get in a hole.”

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About Kirk

About: Kirk Kenney

I first gripped a baseball at the age of six. The game has had its grip on me ever since. I enjoy watching and writing about Little League, high school and college as much or more as the major leagues. I would be consumed by golf if it wasn’t for this voice in my head whispering “pay the mortgage, pay the mortgage, pay the mortgage.” I enjoying reading a good book, but I’m more likely to watch a good movie. I was born and raised in San Diego. If not, I’m sure I would have moved here.

What would you do on your ideal San Diego Day?

I’d join three of my buddies at sunrise in the first group off the tee at Torrey Pines, then head up the coast a few miles to enjoy Mexican food for lunch at Las Olas in Cardiff. We’d drop down to Del Mar after that, grab our Boogie boards (waiting an hour after eating, of course, before going in the water) and catch a few waves, then wash off the sand and head downtown to Petco Park to catch a Padres game.

What is your favorite San Diego outdoor activity?

There’s no way to pick just one. It doesn’t get much better here than playing a round of golf — especially a twilight round where the last putt falls just as the sun sets — because you can do it year-round. My wife and I also enjoy kayaking on Mission Bay or riding bikes along Crown Point Shores.

Do you prefer burgers and beer or linguine and red wine?

Burger and a beer. Make that a root beer. Nothing beats Mug Old Fashioned poured over two scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Latest music purchases for my iPod player are...

Crazy Heart: The Weary Kind (movie soundtrack)

Lady Antebellum: Need You Now

Eagles: Long Road Out of Eden

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