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Top Banana At the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Bill Murray stole clothing, threw fruit--and once again demonstrated the importance of not being earnest

Feb. 17, 2003
Feb. 17, 2003

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Feb. 17, 2003

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Top Banana At the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Bill Murray stole clothing, threw fruit--and once again demonstrated the importance of not being earnest

It is time to acknowledge what has become stupefyingly obvious:
The tournament that used to be called the Crosby, after the great
crooner Bing, has become, for all practical purposes, the Murray,
after the man who last Friday gave a scalp massage to a female
spectator on the 15th tee and hit the Pebble Beach sign above the
golf shop with a well-flung banana. Bill Murray is a multisport
comedian. He oversees promotions as co-owner of a couple of minor
league baseball teams, and he's done play-by-play on a Cubs
broadcast. But it's his annual appearances at the AT&T Pebble
Beach National Pro-Am that provide spiritual refreshment.

This is an article from the Feb. 17, 2003 issue Original Layout

On that hallowed, ocean-kissed course Murray plays golf like
nobody else, but like golf was a game meant for playing. And
people find this irresistible. At Pebble Beach even Tiger Woods
gets eclipsed by Caddyshack's Carl Spackler. How else to explain
that advance ticket sales for this year, when Woods was out and
Murray in, outstripped last year, when Murray missed but Tiger
played?

You could call Murray the Meadowlark Lemon of golf, except the
Globetrotters had more set pieces. Murray flies blind and flirts
shamelessly. "Stick with us," he told two women on Friday. "Maybe
we'll find some beer and wine." Later he scored a blue scarf from
a female fan and wore it around his waist the rest of the round.
When eight teenagers in sombreros joined his gallery, Murray
cocked an eyebrow and said, "Are you here for the closing
ceremonies?" Then he added, "I thought we tightened up our
borders." Saturday was Murray's banana day: He tossed a peel at
his pro partner, Scott Simpson, on the 1st tee, which incited
Simpson and the rest of the foursome, actor Andy Garcia and pro
Paul Stankowski, to throw bananas back. This is not, you see, a
man who demands quiet on the course. "You!" Murray said suddenly,
pointing to a white-haired woman watching him on the 10th tee
last Thursday. "I need you in my posse!"

That's not exactly an exclusive group. The working-class kid from
Willamette, Ill., is the Pied Piper of Pebble Beach. Kevin
Costner had 25 fans behind him as he came off the 14th tee on
Thursday. Murray, playing just behind him, had at least 10 times
that number.

What makes the scene even more delicious is that the golf
establishment once opposed Murray even being in the Murray. In
their defense, PGA honchos circa 1992 were unprepared for a
golfer wearing bib overalls and a hat shaped like the Hubert
Humphrey Metrodome. Early on, Murray pulled an elderly woman out
of the gallery, danced with her in a bunker, then tossed her into
the sand. In '93 he yelled "Hurry Up!" at former vice president
Dan Quayle as Quayle was about to hit a shot. That brought the
wrath of then PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman, who blasted
Murray's behavior as "inappropriate" and "detrimental" to the
tournament. Murray responded by likening the Tour to "a Nazi
state" and demanded Beman's resignation, calling him "just
another screwhead too big for his britches." For once he wasn't
kidding. "Bill almost didn't come back after the first year,"
says Simpson. "Now he's embraced."

That's putting it mildly. Last Friday, when Murray hit his ball
into the rough on the 16th hole, a middle-aged woman stretched
out next to it. Murray promptly pounced on her, gyrating
spasmodically. A moment later he helped her to her feet. "You all
right?" Murray asked.

"I am now," the woman said, speaking for sports fans everywhere.
--Gary Van Sickle

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY STEVE BRODNER
"Does love affect hang time? The truth about two-sport
relationships." --SWEATIE PIE , PAGE 24