History of the AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am

The tournament currently known as the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am has been a fixture on tour since it began in 1937 as the National Pro-Amateur Golf Championship. The Pro Am was founded and hosted by crooner Bing Crosby, who thought it would be a nice idea to pair some skilled amateurs with the pros where were on the West Coast leg of their travelling road show. For the first tournament, Bing donated $3,000 for the purse, of which the winner, Sam Snead took home $700. Snead reportedly asked for cash.

Crosby’s Clambake, as the event came to be known, was interrupted for World War II but returned in 1947 on the Monterey Peninsula at the Pebble Beach Golf Links, Cypress Point Club and Monterey Peninsula Country Club. The change of venue was the work of Monterey civic leaders, who thought the event would help boost tourism. Crosby was named an honorary police chief for the event.

Bing’s star power, and the Hollywood crowd that gravitated to the tournament turned it into a media event. The Crosby Clambake was broadcast on television for the first time in 1958, making it one of the longest running sports events on television.

The importance of the Clambake to the popularization of golf cannot be understated. Bing was a music superstar, and in 1948 it was estimated that half of all radio airtime was dedicated to his music. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, he was routinely listed in polls as the man most admired. He won an Academy Award in 1948 for his role in Going My Way, and has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That fame, and his great interest made him at least as responsible as Arnold Palmer and President Eisenhower for the game’s growth.

Unlike his pal Bob Hope, Bing was no hacker on the links. He sported a 2 handicap and competed in both the British and US Amateurs. He won the Bob Jones Award in 1978 and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Bing died, appropriately, on a golf course in Spain in 1977.

In 1959, the event became known as the Bing Crosby National Pro Am, and remained so until 1985. Spyglass Hill entered the rotation in 1967, replacing the Monterey Peninsula Country Club. Cypress Point was dropped in 1991 for its failure to accept a black member, and was replaced by the Poppy Hills Golf Course. This year (2010), Monterey Peninsula Country Club will replace Poppy Hills.

In spite of being in California, the tournament has been famous for its bad weather. Rain, fog, and even snow (1962) have delayed, shortened or even cancelled the event (1996). In 1998, the final round actually was held in August. Crosby once quipped “Where else can you have the greatest golfers play on the greatest courses in the worst conditions?” The tournament also takes some heat for its six hour rounds.

In 1986, AT&T became the event’s title sponsor, and Bing’s widow withdrew his name from the event.

The Crosby Clambake is one of just three Pro-Ams on the Tour, and the only one where amateurs play on the final day. The format consists of two man teams—one professional and one amateur. Each of the first three days, the teams play on a different course. On the final day, the professionals and pro-am teams making the 54 hole cut play at Pebble Beach. The individual cut is the low 60 players, plus ties. However, players between 61st and 70th (and ties) will receive both official money and FedEx Cup points, as the cut for this tournament ensures the field is smaller than a standard tournament cut of 70. On the Pro-Am side, the low 25 teams, plus ties make the cut.

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1 thought on “History of the AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am”

  1. The Monterey Peninsula offers the most spectacular golfing I have ever experienced. I was pinching myself the whole time I was there just to make sure I was not dreaming. The Monterey region offers the best golf courses in the world! I just got back from the golf wonderland and must say this was the best golf vacation i have ever had!

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