Women competitors at American Century Championship hold their own in male-dominated field
Of the 89 celebrity golfers competing in the American Century Championship’s (ACC) 28th annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe golf course, only four are women.
Just because they are few in number, however, doesn’t hinder their performances or popularity with the crowd. Blair O’Neal, Paige Spiranac, Kathryn Tappen and Lisa Cornwell often outperform their male counterparts. And judging by fan reaction, the spectators are all about the forceful display of girl power.
“Growing up, since I started playing at 11, I’d go out to the golf course and I’d get paired with three other men, so I’m kind of used to it,” said O’Neal. “The guys can crush the ball and a lot of them are really great players. I think it’s fun and I enjoy the challenge.
“I love the atmosphere out here and all the other players that are competing in this event are so nice and welcoming. It’s been great. I’ve made a lot of great friendships.”
O’Neal played on scholarship at Arizona State University after winning a 5A state championship in high school. While in college, she was known for her ability to smash the ball on the driving range and won the NCAA women’s long drive competition twice.
O’Neal played professionally after college, but has spent the past several years focusing on her modeling and multi-media career.
In its 28 years of existence, the ACC has yet to crown a female winner, but on the course it’s anyone’s game and a female winner is something Cornwell said would be a win for the tournament.
“I’d love to see it,” she said. “I’m a woman so I think that would be great. Blair and Paige have really good games and would be able to do it even though they don’t hit it 320 yards. Short game wins tournaments.”
Cornwell said she doesn’t get to play as often as before, but feels pretty good about her fourth appearance at the tournament.
“I hit it well yesterday and made some putts so hopefully I can do that again today,” she said.
Cornwell played golf at the University of Arkansas and was also a four-time Arkansas Women’s State Amateur champ. She has been a Golf Channel host and personality since 2014, but has also worked with NBC, CBS and ABC.
Most all of the women agreed that it’s just about impossible to have a bad time at the tournament, even if not faring so well points wise.
“Just being a part of this tournament is such an honor,” said Tappen. “Playing with all of these amazing people and meeting new friends.”
Tappen said that the fans really give a boost to the overall experience.
“It’s just a joy to be out here,” she said. “The fans are great and they’re having so much fun. You can really feed off of the energy.”
Tappen played several sports in college and was an All-American track star at Rutgers University. She has worked for various media outlets as a sports host and reporter since 2003.
The youngest of the group is Spiranac. But at just 24-years-old, she has already forged quite a name for herself in golf. Spiranac played golf at the University of Arizona and Sand Diego State University before playing professionally. She is also a model and works with various media outlets.
She said that one of the highlights of being a golf celebrity is that she gets to work with children and be a role model to both young boys and girls.
“It means so much to me,” said Spiranac. “Especially since I gave up competing this year to focus on growing the game for young girls and boys. I’m an ambassador for Cybersmile, which is an anti-bullying organization, so I try to incorporate all of that together in my clinics and when I speak to them. It’s really cool seeing [young boys and girls] out here. So even if they don’t know golf and are here for the celebrities, they’re seeing golf for the first time. That’s pretty cool for this event to happen.”
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.