As you saw earlier today, Charles Barkley was handing out C-notes on Thursday during the final practice round of the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament. His generosity maxed out at $3,000, most of it doled out on the seventh hole at Edgewood Country Club.
So, what was with that? Barkley is a regular at this tourney, but he’s usually desecrating the game of golf, not his wallet.
Well actually, that’s not entirely true. Barkley has given away a lot of money here: his home away from home.
Barkley arrived at Lake Tahoe on Thursday (pictured) feeling pretty good — would this be the year he climbed out of last place? Probably not, even considering that Larry the Cable Guy is in this year’s field. But Barkley has lost a lot of weight, and he’s been lifting. No, not beer bottles and his beloved Patrón tequila; he’s been lifting actual weights.
And that was the problem. “I was lifting before I got here, and I tweaked something in my shoulder,” Barkley told me today. “I only took a few swings (during Friday’s practice round) for it to start up again. No way I can play, man.”
So Barkley worked out a deal with American Century officials.
“His new title is Ambassador of Golf,” American Century Publicity Director Phil Weidinger said. “He was just a few swings into Friday’s round when his shoulder started acting up. So now he’s going to wander the course, meet with people, he’s going to be on TV (NBC is televising the event today through Sunday), he’ll be everywhere.”
Or as Barkley said, “This place needs a lot of work.”
First order of business? Handing out century notes at the American Century. It happened mainly at the seventh hole at Lake Tahoe’s Edgewood Golf Course. Barkley decided to walk the course after he got hurt, and only made it to the seventh.
Barkley handing out money is actually a pretty common sight here. In 2009 he wrote a check for $25,000 for the Angora Fire Relief Fund — two years previous a forest fire had swept through a large portion of the southwest side of the Tahoe basin, displacing upwards of 3,500 residents and causing about $160 million in damage. Barkley also got Michael Jordan and a few of the other American Century golf celebrities involved, and before they were through they had raised $190,000 for relief efforts.
“If we stay over there at the golf and casino, we’re not going to think anything is going on here,” Barkley said in 2009 while touring the fire zone. “That’s why I wanted to come here with a camera. When you live in different parts of the country and they show you two houses burned down, you don’t get the full effect.”
Tahoe has been the scene of many Barkley escapades: he’s often found after hours at Harrah’s Casino — a sponsor of the tournament — chugging tequila, buying drinks and abusing eardruns with his karaoke renditions until the sun comes up. But in 2009 he was on a different mission.
“I didn’t think it was appropriate for us to be out here just having fun playing golf when so many people experienced such devastation,” Barkley said. “After seeing the fire area, I wanted to do something for them.”
His generosity didn’t stop there. That weekend he took 200 firefighters to dinner at Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Club at the Hard Rock Cafe at Harveys, picking up the entire check. In tow was Dan Quayle, giving Barkley an impressive double-double; bringing out the philanthropist in both Michael Jordan and Quayle on the same weekend.
In 2010, South Lake Tahoe paid tribute with Charles Barkley Day, planting a tree at Edgewood course in his honor, which Barkley promptly hit when he teed off on No. 1.
So come on out this weekend — chances are that Barkley is still handing out cash, or at the very least, a little wisdom. The best part about all of this is that no one has to be worried about being beaned by his errant drives.