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Six-time Champ Rhoden Ineligible for Tahoe Event

STATELINE, Nev. -- Rick Rhoden, who has won the annual celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe a record six times, is ineligible to play this year because of his status on the Champions Tour, sponsors said Monday.
It will be the first time since 1990 the former major league pitcher will miss the American Century Celebrity Championship, where he's won a record $812,289.

After failing to qualify the three previous years, the former major league pitcher earned a conditional card for the Champions Tour by tying for 10th at the Q-School last November.
NBC Sports, which televises the 54-hole tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course July 14-16, established the eligibility rules several years ago.
'We congratulate Rick on earning his Champions Tour privileges and everybody who has lived the American Century Championship experience over the years roots hard for him whenever he plays,' said Jon Miller, NBC Sports senior vice president for programming.
'We know he wanted to play, but can't justify it from a fairness standpoint with all the guys who try to come out and compete as celebrities and not touring pros.'
The same rule affected John Brodie, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who joined the Senior PGA Tour in 1985, the predecessor to the Champions Tour.
Brodie played on that tour off and on through 1998, earning $735,758. He was allowed to play in the celebrity tournament at Lake Tahoe only during years when he was playing with tour exemptions rather than with formal conditional or full status.
'When John Brodie was playing Senior PGA Golf on a regular basis, we chose not to invite him. Then, he was invited later when his Senior PGA starts were sponsor exemptions,' Miller said.
Rhoden said he would like to play at Lake Tahoe again because the event falls during an off-week on the Champions Tour, but he understands the rule.
'That's the rule, then that's the rule,' Rhoden told the (South Lake) Tahoe Daily Tribune. 'I knew when I got my card that it might cause a problem. You can't have a rule for one guy one way and another way for another guy.'
Rhoden, who turns 53 Tuesday, won the celebrity event in 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2003. He finished third last year.
So far this year, he's appeared in only three events on the Champions Tour because the number of tournaments has been reduced, making less space available for players with conditional cards. Last week, he tied for 22nd place in the Regions Charity Classic, earning $16,091. For the season, he is 85th on the tour's money list with $23,764.
Rhoden actually played more often on the Champions Tour in past seasons because of sponsor exemptions and weekly qualifying. Last year, he competed in seven events.
Rhoden will be allowed to return to the celebrity tournament if he fails to qualify for the Champions Tour next season.
Unless he wins one of the remaining Champions Tour events, Rhoden said he will return to an all-new Q-School in the fall. Instead of issuing full and conditional cards for the 2007 season, the tour will take the top 35 players at Q-School and let them compete each Monday in a qualifying round for nine spots into the tournament for that week.
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