At&t: Fun And Sport
This year's Pebble Beach Pro-Am will feature clambake plus golf drama.
Thursday, February 6, 2003
It''s always a fun event, even without the golf. Many of the luminaries from the television and movie industries, the world of business and a whole lot of fun-seeking gallery members gather each year at Bing Crosby''s little Clambake in Pebble Beach, now known as the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. This year, the big story might have been Neil Young''s visit to Pebble Beach-perhaps a landmark in the evolution of the Clambake, as well as that of the king hippie rocker.
But if early PGA Tour Season results point to a trend, then the AT&T might just have sporting surprises in store.
The season opened in early January, with two tournaments in sunny Hawaii, the Mercedes Championships from Kapalua, Maui, and the Sony Open from Waialae Country Club on Oahu.
Only something funny happened on the way to the awards ceremony. The Plantation Course at Kapalua, where the Mercedes is played, yielded a stunning 31-under-par to the smooth-swinging Ernie Els, a record for low scoring over a four-day tournament.
I know for a fact the course is tougher than that, having played it several times in various conditions (the course, not me). It is one of the most difficult courses on Tour.
"The whales are jumping offshore, the sun is shining, it''s another picture-postcard day in Hawaii," reported Marty Keiter, director of golf and tennis for Kapalua Resort.
But Keiter did not expect the weather to remain quite so genial. Like everyone else, he expected to wind to pick up-this course is known for its windy play. "But we''re talking the best players in the world," Keiter said. "They can pull off shots that are remarkable to watch, wind or no wind." The wind never did pick up and thus we witnessed Els'' remarkable record.
But the fun and games were not over in the Aloha State. The following week at Waialae, known as a docile, flat course that they are forever trying to toughen up, Els again prevailed with the prize. But that week, it was Waialae that was windy and a tough cookie to conquer. Els'' winning score-in the past scores here have been as low as 28-under-par-remained in line at 16-under-par.
So now, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. (With a name like that it has to be good!) Kevin Costner, sure. Bill Murray, hope so. Phil Mickelson, yes. Tiger Woods, no. Neil Young, yes!
Last year''s winner, Matt Gogel will be there to defend his title, which was also his first PGA Tour victory. And although the winner gets a good share of prize money-$900,000 for Gogel-so do local charity organizations. Since the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am came to the Monterey Peninsula, more than $38 million has been donated to nonprofit organizations in Monterey County and surrounding communities.
The tournament is one of the most storied in golf. It''s still fresh and growing after many years of laughter, controversy and great golf. If you start going back into the "...then Jack said to Chi Chi..." kind of thing, you''ll be scratching the surface of what this tournament has meant to golf. Of course, maybe we just had funnier players back then.
The course itself has seen no major changes this year but, like Kapalua, it is subject to the sometimes-howling winds from the Pacific.
Perhaps given the wacky start to this year''s PGA Tour Season, the wackiest thing that Pebble could do is nothing at all. No threat of rain and the ensuing discussion of whether the dates should be moved to later in the year; perhaps Bill Murray will show up in a business suit; Perhaps Jack Lemmon and Bagger Vance will descend from above, make the cut and be content to disappear again; who knows?
This reporter thinks Pebble has some tricks awaiting for 2003.