Packers QB Aaron Rodgers can’t pass up fans at celebrity tournament

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers AP

Green Bay Packers fans usually aren’t quiet when they watch Aaron Rodgers play. The ones observing the star quarterback’s practice round at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship this week managed to keep their voices to a whisper when he approached the ball.

But they could barely contain their excitement when Rodgers stepped off the green after each hole. They politely clamored for autographs, photos or just a moment of personal attention from the two-time NFL MVP.

Rodgers did his best to satisfy all of them.

“That’s why I’m here,” Rodgers said while signing his name on tournament programs, hats and paper. “It’s about the fans.”

As usual, the annual celebrity tournament brought a boatload of retired athletes to the shores of Lake Tahoe this week. Rodgers was one of just a few athletes still in his playing career in attendance. The NBA’s reigning two-time MVP Steph Curry of the Warriors arrived Wednesday after celebrating his daughter Riley’s fourth birthday.

With other celebrities arriving later in the week, Rodgers’ practice round was unquestionably the main attraction Tuesday afternoon at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. About 100 people followed Rodgers’ golf cart on an uphill hike to the first hole. The group became smaller as some spectators left after getting their moment with Rodgers, but more joined every time the course wound back toward the clubhouse.

Rodgers, who grew up in Chico, stayed true to his roots by wearing a gray Pleasant Valley High School football cap. He played his practice round with Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould and retired baseball pitchers Derek Lowe and Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. They went relatively unnoticed while fans and souvenir seekers swarmed Rodgers.

Rodgers’ interactions with fans were characterized by the same unshakeable calm he brings to the football field. He spoke slowly and quietly, and rarely laughed. But he greeted everyone with a smile and spent several minutes signing items and posing for photos after each hole.

Some Rodgers fans traveled from Wisconsin to attend the event. Andy Zeinert of South Lake Tahoe remained loyal to the Packers years after leaving the Badger state.

Zeinert and his wife, Crystal, brought their five-month-old twin daughters to watch Rodgers golf. Adalyn and Amelia were decked out in Packers onesies and yellow foam Cheesehead hats, which Rodgers signed.

“They’re big Packers fans,” Zeinert said. “They don’t even know it yet.”

A fan from Wisconsin who worked in a cheese processing facility told Rodgers she didn’t like the tradition of “saying cheese” for photos. Rodgers sympathized with her – he’s lactose intolerant.

“...What am I supposed to do? Just get really bloated? I don’t know,” he joked.

Not everyone watching Rodgers was a Packers fan. Emma Chapman, an 11-year-old from Roseville, said she loved golf and football but wasn’t specifically seeking an autograph from Rodgers.

“Any signatures are fun,” she said.

At the next hole, Rodgers signed Chapman’s baseball cap and said he liked its neon-colored illustration of a Lake Tahoe sunset. An hour later, she was still walking on air.

“I fell over, pretty much,” she said.