A lot has changed since entertainer Bing Crosby first brought his tournament to the Monterey Peninsula 60 years ago in 1947.The galleries were smaller, as was the infrastructure. There were no bleachers, and parking was not a serious problem. Spectators simply paid their one-dollar fee for a daily pass, and went out and lined the greens and fairways to watch some of the greatest golfers playing with celebrities, sports stars and business leaders of the day. Richard Arlen, Johnny Weissmuller, and Del Webb were among the field that joined golf stars Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Lawson Little in the inaugural year at Pebble Beach.
That first year it was billed as the $10,000 Invitational National Pro-Amateur Golf Championship. The total purse, paid by Bing Crosby himself, was $10,000, with $2,000 going to the winner. Even then they used three courses, however, in 1947 the entire field played Cypress Point on Thursday, all the action moved to Monterey Peninsula Country Club on Friday, and the final round (there was no cut) was played on Pebble Beach Golf Links on Saturday. Later the field was expanded and split, and the tournament became known as The Crosby. Since 1986,we’ve called it the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. And while the purse has expanded (the 2007 purse is $5.5 million and the winner will receive $990,000!) the basic concept remains as Crosby designed it — a fun assembly of golfers and celebrities, gathered for competition and to raise money for charity (more than $55 million to date).
From the beginning, photographer Julian P. Graham was on the job at Pebble Beach Resorts as their official photographer, capturing the sites and stars of that first tournament and many that followed. Graham arrived at the famed resort in 1924 and stayed. He continued as the official photographer until his death in 1963. His partner from 1953 and successor until 1986 was William C. Brooks. There were earlier photographers at the resorts as well, dating back to their beginning with the opening of Hotel Del Monte in 1880.
Many of these black-and-white images were recently restored from the original negatives and compiled in a new art book titled “Pebble Beach Heritage Collection”. This work contains more than golf — everything from the scenic beauty of the area to the excitement of the once popular horse races, polo and dog shows. There are also many celebrity visitors scattered through the pages. The book is available exclusively at the shops of Pebble Beach Resorts or on-line at www.pebblebeach.com. In addition to the trade edition, Images of Pebble Beach offers a Gallery Edition, and a Limited Edition.
Through special arrangement, Carmel Magazine has arranged to show some of the golf images from the new book (especially those from past Crosby tournaments) in this special segment. We hope you enjoy.
Before Tiger Woods, the biggest name in golf was Bobby Jones — an amateur golfer who made his living as an Atlanta attorney. Jones helped bring fame to Pebble Beach Golf Links, when the 10-year-old course hosted the 1929 U.S. Amateur. As the defending champion, and already 1929 U.S. Open Champion, Jones attracted large galleries, but shocked the golf world when he lost his opening match to Johnny Goodman, a 19-year old caddy from Omaha. Learning from experience, Jones vowed to enter all future matches mentally down two holes. The strategy worked, as the next year the golf world created for him the term “Grand Slam” as he won the four majors of his day — The U.S. Open and Amateur and British Open and Amateur — in 1930.
Bing Crosby was also an avid amateur golfer, and enjoyed competing in the California Amateur Championship at Pebble Beach. This image shows him on the seventh tee in the 1946 Amateur. He was also a member of Cypress Point Club, and so it was perhaps a natural choice to move his tournament to the courses of the Monterey Peninsula when he resumed playing host after World War II. The tournament became a staple on the local calendar, and Bing soon built a home along the 13th fairway of the famed oceanside links.
As the leading money winner in 1946, Ben Hogan put on an exhibition before the 1947 Pro-Am tournament – perhaps over-emphasizing the weight shift. In 1948, Hogan and Amateur partner Johnny Dawson won the team competition, while Hogan finished third in the pro division. The next year the team finished third, and Hogan won.Two weeks later, a near-fatal car crash threatened to cost Hogan his career. Doctors said he’d never walk again. The champion did not agree and was back at Pebble Beach to defend his title in 1950. He finished tied for 20th and found the cold, damp seaside was tough on his injured legs, and he declined future invitations until 1956, his only other appearance in The Crosby.
Crosby’s most famous golfing buddy, Bob Hope, was so busy making films in the late 1940s that he could not fit The Crosby into his schedule until 1951. Crosby decided he’d better catch the appearance on film while he could. But not to worry, Hope became a regular in the tournament for decades, and nearly won it in 1952 when Hope and his professional partner Jimmy Demaret (who won as a pro) finished one stroke back in the team competition. Hope, always ready to steal a great line from his on-screen partner, started his own pro-am in the desert, patterned on Bing’s tour de force.
Another celebrity regular for many years at The Crosby was singer/entertainer Dean Martin, who teamed with comic actor Jerry Lewis for a number of movies. The 1952 release of “The Caddy”, which included a little footage on the Peninsula, prompted a bit of promotion at the pro-am. In the film, Martin, who was a good golfer, depicted a young golf pro trying to make it on the Tour. Lewis, who never played in the Pro-Am, portrayed his klutzy caddie.
While Bing Crosby never lost his passion for golf, because of the growth of the tournament, he shifted his role at The Crosby to that of host rather than golfer. The last year he played in his own tournament was 1956.This allowed him to spend more time with his guests, like Arnold Palmer, seen here. In more than twenty appearances beginning in 1958, Palmer had some close calls at Pebble Beach, but his best finish was in 1966, when he finished 2nd to Don Massengale, who birdied three of his last four holes to edge out Palmer by one stroke.
Jack Lemmon used to joke that he’d trade an Oscar just to make the cut at The Crosby. He first played in The Crosby in 1969, by which time he already had one Oscar and three nominations, and was at the time appearing on-screen as Felix Unger in “The Odd Couple”. Despite a propensity for hitting off-line, Lemmon remained a gallery favorite over the next three decades. He and his longtime professional partner Peter Jacobsen twice came within two strokes of the cut, and looked like a lock in 1998, until the amateur tournament was canceled due to the heavy rains of El Niño. While Jack Lemmon never made the cut, his son Chris added salt to the wound by making the cut himself in 1994.
Clint Eastwood, who first achieved fame as Rowdy Yates in television’s “Rawhide” (1959-1966), once joked that the reason he did not get an invitation to play in the Pro-Am was perhaps because Bing Crosby didn’t like cowboys. The next year, 1964, he received an invitation with a P.S. from Bing: “By the way, I do like cowboys”. Eastwood has played in countless pro-ams in the years following and first made the cut in 1973, with his frequent professional partner Raymond Floyd. Eastwood has taken an active role in the annual event and now chairs the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, which Bing Crosby set up many years ago to manage the tournament and its charities. In 1999, Eastwood also became a part-owner and managing partner of Pebble Beach Resorts. He is always a big part of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, whether he is playing or not.