Chuck Dunbar The pro at Pebble Beach wanted to be a game-show host but landed a role on golf's Broadway instead

June 11, 2000

What kind of guy plays Pebble Beach whenever he wants, for free,
shoots par and then says he doesn't enjoy it? The kind who takes
his job very seriously. Chuck Dunbar, Pebble's new head pro,
admits he never feels completely at ease when he's out on the
course. "If there's no water in the ball washers or the trash
cans need to be emptied, I get distracted," he says. "To truly
enjoy a round, I've got to play somewhere else."

Don't misunderstand. Dunbar's not complaining. "I'm grateful for
the way things have worked out," he says. So much so that when he
was offered the job last October, he cried. "I'm not an emotional
person," he says, "but I was overwhelmed." It's just that he's
really into his work.

Why not? This gig is the kind of job Dunbar, 36, had been
dreaming about since he got serious about golf 10 years ago. Back
then he made a living mixing martinis at the Fat City Bar & Cafe
in Sacramento, his hometown. Growing up, and all through college
at Sacramento State, where he majored in communications media
with a minor in theater arts, Dunbar rarely played golf. "I
wanted to be a game-show host," he says. "Chuck Woolery [the host
of Love Connection] had that big Rolex, and I thought he was
doing all right." Dunbar might have been sitting in Regis
Philbin's seat today if not for a fateful trip to San Francisco
with a buddy who had a job interview with Club Med.

While in the waiting room Dunbar was asked if he wanted to
interview, too. "Four days later I was on a plane to Cancun," he
says. For the better part of 1990 Dunbar blended away singles'
inhibitions by night and water-skied, boardsailed and snorkeled
by day. Back in Sacramento for Christmas, Dunbar was made an
offer he couldn't refuse. "It was one of those unusually cold
winters during which everybody's pipes burst," he says. So when
Club Med called with an opening behind the bar in Florida, Dunbar
checked with a friend there who told him, "It's a beautiful
thing. I play golf every day." So Dunbar signed on, and on his
way out of town he stopped at a Costco and paid $199 for his
first set of new clubs.

In Florida, Dunbar began to play every day and in 10 months had
shaved his handicap from 24 to six. He also met Clarice, a
hostess at the club. They married in March 1992 and moved back to
Sacramento, not sure what they would do next. While celebrating
their first anniversary, at his grandmother's beach house in
Santa Cruz, Calif., Dunbar saw an ad for an assistant pro at a
nearby course. He got the job, but during a trip to Arizona he
was exposed to high-end resort golf. "I realized I was in the
right business but in the wrong place," he says. Not wanting to
relocate, he had one option locally: the Pebble Beach Company.

After four months as low man on the totem pole at the company's
Links at Spanish Bay, Dunbar was transferred to Del Monte Golf
Course. Two years later he was promoted to head pro there. Then
last fall the Pebble job opened up. Dunbar expected a move to
Spyglass Hill or back to Spanish Bay and would have been thrilled
with either post, but when his bosses called him in, Dunbar says,
"They talked and I listened. I couldn't talk. I was floored."

"[Pebble Beach] is like a Broadway show," says Paul Spengler, the
company's senior vice president of golf. "Every day there's a new
audience that has high expectations, and that creates high
anxieties." Next week's U.S. Open will be particularly stressful.
Dunbar will help coordinate the locker rooms, player hospitality,
courtesy cars and the driving range as well as run the pro shop.

Dunbar admits that being the head pro at the most famous course
in the country can be nerve-racking, but you'll never see him
flip his ever-present grin. When the going gets rough, he'll pull
out pictures of his son, Taylor, 4, and daughter, Lorance, 1. Or
he'll grab a chicken-salad-on-wheat sandwich and a soft drink
from the Pebble Beach market, hijack a cart and have lunch next
to the forward tees on number 8. "To one side you can see Carmel
Beach down to Big Sur, and to the other is Stillwater Cove and
number 18," he says. "In between is number 7 and a whole lot of
ocean."

Those are the moments at Pebble he truly enjoys.

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK Dunbar (left) got serious about golf 10 years ago.
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)