It’s that time of the year again, as the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am becomes the focus of the golf world. With its mix of stunning venues, big-name pros and Hollywood royalty, no tournament in golf looks quite so good on TV, especially in frostbitten parts of the country where people endure a lot worse than “Crosby weather.” This year’s tournament—Feb. 7th through 10th, preceded by three days of practice rounds—will feature a handful of fresh faces, including 17-year-old pro Tadd Fujikawa, and a strong mix of celebrities. For all the details, visit attpbgolf.com.
Of course, here on the Monterey Peninsula we play golf the other 51 weeks a year, too. Whether it’s a casual game with friends or PGA Tour stars competing for millions, the common denominator is a love for the game and an appreciation of Pebble’s world-class courses.
Celebs on the Course
From Murray to Lopez, Who to Look For at The Pebble Beach Pro-Am
For nearly two decades, Pebble Beach has been Bill Murray’s town—and tournament—but this year the Pro-Am will have one of its deepest and most eclectic celebrity fields with or without Murray, a mercurial sort who never commits too far in advance. Pebble’s newest leading man is George Lopez, who owns a home by the 15th tee and regularly plays the course the other 51 weeks a year.
In a recent Golf Digest profile, Lopez credited golf as a form of therapy that has helped him appreciate his charmed life, and he radiates that good cheer during the tournament as he entertains with retro clothing and endless one-liners. Lopez is so smitten with golf that he has taken over the hosting duties at the PGA Tour event carrying the name of the late Bob Hope.
With the writers’ strike having shut down Hollywood, Lopez’s acting brethren will be out in full force at this year’s tournament. Among those committed to play are Don Cheadle, Kevin Costner, Andy Garcia, Kevin James, Chris O’Donnell and Ray Romano. Costner may be the only one of the bunch with an Oscar but Garcia has something just as coveted–a trophy for his victory at the 1997 Pro-Am.That was his first time competing at Pebble and he was generously given an 18 handicap, which helped Garcia and his pro, Paul Stankowski, shoot a tournament-record 43 under par, a mark that still stands. Garcia has been given a 10 handicap ever since, and 2007 was the first year he made the cut since his victory.
Says Garcia, “It doesn’t matter how Zened out you can make yourself as a performer, it’s still nerve-wracking to tee it up with the world watching.” For those who consider golf to be boring, the Pebble field offers the perfect soundtrack: Kenny G and Michael Bolton.These longtime competitors are often cited as evidence that the tournament’s celebrities are collectively a little too deep into their VH-1 years, but the lineup is edgier thanks to the inclusion of Carson Daly and Kelly Slater.
Daly launched his career as a glib VJ on MTV and now oversees a mini media empire that includes a late-night talk show, a record label, and an annual gig narrating the New Year’s festivities from Times Square. His credentials as a golfer begin and end with the fact that he played junior golf alongside Tiger Woods.
Slater, meanwhile, may be the luckiest guy on the planet. When not enjoying the endless summer of the professional surfing circuit or refining his single-digit handicap, he has been linked romantically with every hot blonde from Pam Anderson to Cameron Diaz. Slater is widely considered to be the greatest competitive surfer of all time, but he will not be the only Hall of Fame-caliber athlete on hand at Pebble, as NFL greats Emmitt Smith and Lynn Swann will be trading their cleats for Softspikes.
Since their playing days ended, each has gone on to a certain crossover fame; Smith displayed a different kind of fancy footwork en route to winning “Dancing with the Stars,” while Swan made a spirited run in the recent Pennsylvania gubernatorial race.
However accomplished all of these entertainers may be in their respective fields, they still have a lot to prove on the golf course. No one needs an image reclamation quite like Harris Barton, the former 49er who was once one of the most fearsome offensive lineman in the NFL. He was last seen in these parts playing a tournament with friends at Cypress Point. On the famed 16th hole, with his partner already in the water, big, bad Barton laid-up with an iron off the tee, and none of his buddies have ever let him forget it. A good showing at this year’s Pro-Am might help him salvage a little of what’s left of his pride.