The Legend & Lore
Spanning over half a century, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am has undergone changes in latitude as well as attitude. But the core of the tournament remains not only the exceptional golf by the world’s best players, but also the lore surrounding each yearly winter extravaganza.
It is the pull of this lore that helps account for the tournament’s continued popularity. Part sporting event and part Northern California social event, the AT&T has a devoted following, including thousands of volunteers who give of their time year in and year out. Many have been inducted into the Forty Year Club for their volunteer service.
The concoction of roughly four parts professional golfers to one part show business and sports celebrities has gone down as smoothly as a well-chilled libation in The Tap Room. Entertainer Phil Harris, a pal of Bing Crosby’s, is credited with setting a certain tone by accompanying his golf with a glass of his favorite whiskey. One year Harris announced that he was the pro from “Jack Daniels Country Club.”
The fun actually began at the very first tournament, in 1937 at Rancho Santa Fe, near Del Mar. It rained so hard for three days, some tournament contestants wound up shooting ducks on a pond near the 18th green. And when the ducks flew away, the players shot at Larry Crosby’s hat. Sam Snead won that first tournament, but when he saw a $500 winner’s check coming his way said, “If you don’t mind, Mr. Crosby, I’d rather have cash.”
In 1948—the tournament’s second year on the Monterey Peninsula—Lloyd Mangrum won and put in solid nightly sessions at two long-gone bistros, the Blue Ox and Biff’s EI Estero. In 1951 Harris sank a 90-foot putt at the Pebble Beach 17th green to win the Pro-Am with partner Dutch Harrison. “How about that, Bing. Ain’t this a helluva blow to clean living?” Harris said.
Ed “Porky” Oliver’s name became part of the lore in 1953 when he took a 16 on the famous, over-the-water 16th at Cypress Point. A 50 mile-an-hour gale—just another chapter in the book on “Crosby Weather”—was blowing at the time.
In 1952 golfing dentist Cary Middlecoff, complained to Scottish-born Pebble Beach golf pro Peter Hay that windy conditions precluded the use of tees. Hay replied: “Show me in the rule book where it says you have to tee up the ball. Now get back out there and play.”
In 1969, ABC’s Jim McKay told a nationwide television audience: “And now here’s Jack Lemmon, about to hit that all-important eighth shot.”
When the rains hit in 1960, Pro-Am contestant Johnny (Tarzan) Weissmuller, once the world’s greatest swimmer, declared: “I’ve never been so wet in my life.” And in 1962 golf pro Jimmy Demaret got off one of the tournament’s most famous lines. Peering out from his room at The Lodge at a blanket of snow on the ground, he said, “I knew I got loaded last night, but how did I wind up at Squaw Valley?”
It was in 1915 that Samuel F. B. Morse, distant relative of the inventor of the telegraph, first envisioned a golf course on the shores of Pebble Beach. Since its opening on February 22, 1919, Pebble Beach Golf Links has been recognized for its superb layout and incredible beauty. More than eight decades later, it is a course lauded worldwide by professionals and amateurs alike.