The first National Pro-Amateur Golf championship was held in 1937 in Rancho Santa Fe, California, the brainchild of superstar Bing Crosby. Sam Snead won the first tournament and claimed his prize of $500. The tournament was suspended during WWII, and play resumed in 1947 in Pebble Beach, where it has been held ever since.
The seaside pro-am match was originally known as Bing Crosby’s clambake, or simply The Crosby. An invitation to Bing’s party was desired by movie stars, moguls, and golf professionals nationwide. Since then the championship has attracted professionals and superstars every year. In recent years golf pros attending the championship included Phil Mickelson, Mark O’Meara, Davis Love III, and Vijay Singh. Celebrities love to golf too, and the championship has been attended by Clint Eastwood, Jack Lemmon, Bill Murray, Glenn Frey, Kevin Costner, Steve Young, George Lopez, Tom Brady, and Carson Daly. Since its beginning, golf enthusiasts from every walk of life have come together at Pebble Beach to have fun, and show their love for the game of golf. The championship was and is today the best party in golf, for professionals and amateurs.
From its earliest days in Pebble Beach in 1947, the tournament has been known for three things: great golf, celebrities, and unpredictable weather. The rain and winds that frequently batter the course and players are as much a part of the championship’s character as the competition they interrupt. The inclement weather combined with the sometimes long rounds occasionally deters even the hardiest professionals. However, even the worst weather can’t drive away the enthusiastic fans that come to see their favorite game.
Some of the more memorable events at the tournament include Sam Snead’s request for a new partner when Roger Kelly, an amateur and enthusiastic drinker, got sick in the bushes beside the 1st tee. Snead was denied a new partner. The Snead-Kelly team went on to win the Pro-Am, and despite this rocky start, the team paired up successfully for many years to come.
In 1951 Phil Harris, a longtime bandleader and friend of Crosby, curled in a 90 foot putt on 17 to capture the Pro-Am title with his partner Dutch Harrison. Never at a loss for words, hard-partying Harris asked, “Ain’t this a heckuva blow to clean living?”
In 1957 “Champagne” Tony Lema lost his footing on the cliff on 9 and fell eighteen feet to the sand below, suffering several bruises and contusions. He survived to enjoy a great career and returned many times to play at Pebble Beach.
Competitive golf has a long tradition of mixing professionals, celebrities, extravagance, good times, stunning scenery and premier golf courses. The Crosby is a real celebration of golf as a game that brings people together from all walks of life. Here’s to Pebble Beach, AT&T, Bing Crosby and the good golf times they helped create, and the good times to come!