• Pebble Beach AT&T tees up … again!

    It’s more than just a bus ride to shopping
    by Jon Guthrie

    The Pacific Grove merchant shook his head, thinking about the upcoming Pebble Beach AT&T Pro-Am golf tournament. He was particularly impressed by the arrangements for transportation from places like Carmel, Pacific Grove … even the former Fort Ord. “The trouble is, those bus riders don’t bother to do any shopping,” he said. “They get on and off the buses, check out the golf, and never spend a penny.”
    Oh? Well, doesn’t it seem likely that those who come to the AT&T arrive here with shopping not at the head of their to-do list? They come to view the most-talented of the professionals and the most-famous of the amateurs out there on the links. Fans collect in galleries to watch the likes of amateur Dan Tibbets who, in 1992, fired his first drive twenty-five feet to the left and landed the ball in a tree. They also gather in silent awe to watch how the professionals handle the most difficult of shots.
    Then, after the sun slides into the sea, the galleries break up and head for the Mission Ranch or the Whaling Station or Fandango’s to enjoy steaks or seafood or pasta. Their collective glee marks them as having a darned good time while being primarily interested in golf.
    But then, it’s been that way for a long time, now.
    In 1946, Ted Durein, a Monterey sports editor and co-founder of what was then the Bing Crosby Pro-Am, defined this revered golfing event as: “…the most sensational, colossal, stupendous, breath taking spectacle in the history of golf.”
    Durein also noted that this “rich” tournament, which then offered a $10,000 prize for the winning pro plus many really good amateur prizes, had been expanded from two days of competition to three: Friday, Saturday, Sunday. The tournament would be played not on one golf course, as ordinary tournaments are played, but over the greens and grass and sand traps of three (count ‘em) courses, each considered among the world’s most challenging links.”
    One hundred forty eight contestants, described by Durein as the greatest names in pro golf and the most colorful figures in Hollywood, had signed on to tee off. The list of professionals read like a roster of golfing greats: Walter Hagen, Babe Didrikson, Calander Sherman, Louise Suggs. Among the amateurs were Bob Hope, Fred Astaire, Johnny Weismuller, Bob Burns. Durein also observed that: “all proceeds from this great event go to charity.”
    Bing Crosby himself noted that the event’s earnings had jumped from $18,000 the year before to $32,000 that year. Bing prophesized that similar increases in charitable giving would continue. Bing was right, with one notable exception. That infamous year occurred when the tournament decided to challenge the Super Bowl – Dallas Cowboys versus Baltimore Colts – for Sunday viewers. The Super Bowl won, hands down. Attendance for the golf tournament shrank 7,000 below the mark set the year before. Today, the AT&T is careful to avoid Super Bowl weekends.
    Arnold Palmer also lost, though not so ignobly. He fell four strokes short of making up Tom Shaw’s lead. Tom Shaw pocketed the winner’s check, made out in the amount of $27,000. Palmer, by way of second-place consolation, picked up $15,000. Palmer grinned and is quoted as saying: “Second place doesn’t mean a heck of a lot, but I can always use the money.”
    So can the many charities to which the Monterey Peninsula Golf Foundation makes contributions. Since 1971, the year in which the year’s contribution first topped the $1 million mark, the amount given to charity has climbed to more than $2 million each year. The director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Monterey Peninsula has said that without the help of the Monterey Peninsula Golf Foundation, the agency couldn’t run its programs as successfully as it does.” Other non-profits have also expressed gratitude to the peninsula’s golfing spectacular.
    Speak to a Foundation representative, however, and you’ll be told that the true heroes are the tournament’s volunteers. More than 1,800 volunteers show up for work each year. One volunteer said: “That’s because the event hasn’t outgrown its hometown appeal.”
    So what of the alleged, non shopping spectators climbing on and off buses without doing a lick of shopping? Complaining about them is like complaining about not being served a grilled steak dinner while watching the latest Clint Eastwood film. It shouldn’t be done.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on February 6, 2009

    Topics: Features


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