Celebrities have been strutting and putting across the greens at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am this week. Stars have been part of the tournament since its inception in 1937.
The Pro-Am got its start 83 years ago when avid golfer and entertainer Bing Crosby gathered his Hollywood friends and golf comrades for a tournament and a clambake. It was the beginning of an annual tradition that raised money for charity.
The first events took place in Rancho Santa Fe, north of San Diego. The tournament was suspended during WWII. Then, in 1947, the “Crosby Clambake” or “The Crosby” for short found its new home at Pebble Beach.
AT&T became the title sponsor in 1986, changing the official tournament name to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Crosby had passed away in 1977, on a golf course in Spain, but some of the traditions he started decades ago have stayed the same - including the celebrities.
Today, about 30 celebrities participate each year. Some partake in pre-tournament charity events, like the 3M Celebrity Challenge. For the challenge, eight celebrities are divided into two teams: Team Clint Eastwood and Team Bill Murray. Each celebrity plays for a charity of their choice. The team that wins the most money gets the Eastwood/Murray Cup.
This year showcased some newcomers, like Minnesota Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph who played for the End Zone at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. Familiar faces included stand-up comedian Ray Romano, playing for Harvest Home, actor Josh Duhamel with the African Community & Conservation Foundation, and country music star Clay Walker with Band Against MS. And of course, there was local legend Clint Eastwood supporting the SPCA Monterey County and award-winning actor Bill Murray supporting Save One Life, Inc.
They play what’s called a whiskey run, holes 1, 2, 3, 17 & 18. According to golf lore, it takes a bottle of whiskey to finish five holes.
Along the way, fans get to tag along. Sandy Dear from San Jose is a regular. The event falls on her birthday.
“Last year, on my actual birthday, I got a kiss and hug from Bill Murray. And a few years ago, I got a hug and a kiss from Andy Garcia. So I keep coming back. We'll see who I get to kiss today. Maybe Josh,” Dear said.
Bill Murray is a fan favorite, disappearing into the crowd between shots for comedic conversations and selfies. At one point, he even offered support to John and Alicia Deleray from Long Beach.
“One of my very best friends is battling stage four pancreatic cancer. And Bill Murray is one of her favorites. We thought it'd be awesome if he could send her a message. And he did. And, you know, that's so nice. We videotaped it and he said that he hopes she gets better,” Alicia Deleray said.
Following their appearances in pre-tournament charity events, the celebrities continue the week teamed up with pro golfers for the actual PGA golf tournament.
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Tournament Director Steve John says the Pro-Am is the only PGA tour event that includes celebrities in the full tournament.
“So it's unique. The spectators love it. The TV audience loves it,” said John.
Tournament leaders are trying to get more female celebrities in the mix. Kira Dixon with the Golf Channel was the only woman playing in this year’s 3M Celebrity Challenge.
“There's a lot of pressure, but I'm feeling a lot of love from the crowd, lots of ladies. So it's just nice to be out here and represent,” Dixon said. She supported Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Alfonso Ribeiro, a Dancing with the Stars champion who is known for his role in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, played for Fresh Start Surgical Gifts.
“I feel honored and blessed that I get this opportunity to be a part of this,” he said.
Ribeiro said he likes the fact the fans are right out there with him, having fun even while witnessing the bad shots.
“It’s cool that we've kept this alive. It's part of the heritage of this tournament. And hopefully, you know, it remains,” Ribeiro said.
A heritage that would make Bing Crosby proud.