I love the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, so it killed me not to be there last week. But the Super Bowl, which was played in Miami, was later than usual, forcing the Champions tour to reshuffle its schedule. I had to make a choice: Pebble or the ACE Group Classic in my adopted hometown, Naples, Fla. I went with the ACE.
It wasn't easy. Personally, I think the Pebble Beach Pro-Am is the most important event on the PGA Tour. If I had my way, player attendance would be mandatory. Pebble is the best place for players to spend time inside the ropes with corporate sponsors, the people who make the Tour what it is. Without them, the fans and the volunteers there is no PGA Tour. So it's inconceivable to me that any player would skip Pebble Beach. I say that even though I was in Naples, but I'm not a full-time PGA Tour player anymore.
There's no better stage than the AT&T Pro-Am. I was fortunate enough to have Jack Lemmon as a partner for years, and I'll remember one moment with him until the day I die. Jack hit a bad tee shot on the par-3 16th at Cypress Point, and the rest of us had to form a human chain so he could hang over a cliff to play his next shot. Clint Eastwood grabbed the back of Jack's belt, I grabbed Clint's belt, Greg Norman grabbed mine and Pete Bender, Greg's caddie, held on to Greg. It went from pretty scary to pretty cool when Jack hit a phenomenal shot back to the fairway. He had a 60-yard wedge shot from there, which he promptly shanked into the ocean. I think we all fell down laughing.
Another year, after fighting rain all day, Jack hit a good drive on the 15th hole, then asked if he should take off his rain suit. I found out why he had asked because when he took it off, he was dressed head to toe in peach—a peach hat, peach shirt, peach belt, peach pants with peach-and-white patent leather shoes. People started cheering. On his next shot he hit three inches behind the ball, splattering mud and water all over his beautiful wardrobe. He played the last few holes looking like a spotted owl.
February 22, 2010
Jack never made the cut in the Pro-Am, not even in 1995, the year I won. But he walked with me that last day and kept me loose. The mix of amateurs and celebrities makes great theater and is part of why this event is special. Here in Naples, I imagined putting on the practice green by the Lodge, with the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks by the 18th green. Next year the senior schedule will revert to normal, and I'll play at Pebble Beach. I'll be honest—I can't wait.
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