The tournament now known as the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am started out in Rancho Santa Fe, California when Bing Crosby invited some friends to play golf, enjoy a clambake and a raise a little money for charity.
Crosby came up with the idea of staging a pro-am competition to give Lakeside members and some other low handicap amateur golfers a chance to play with 50 or 60 professionals who were on the west coast during winter months.
Crosby selected Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club as the site for the first tournament in 1937 and was limited to 18 holes. Sam Snead won the initial tournament with a 68, while he and his partner, George Lewis, won the pro-am section with a 68.
After starting with some 60 players, the 1941 field grew to more than 300, necessitating two days for the first round. The final tournament at Rancho Santa Fe was held in 1942 with Lloyd Mangrum and Leland Gibson listed as co-winners of the event, even though an amateur actually was the low score. The core of the tournament revolves around the exceptional golf by the world’s best players, the ability of amateurs to compete with the professionals and the lore surrounding the presitigous event.
Part sporting event and part Northern California social event, the AT&T has a devoted following, including thousands of volunteers who give their time year in and year out. Many have been inducted into the Forty Year Club for their volunteer service.
For many years, The Crosby, as it was officially known then, was a gathering of professionals and friends of Bing Crosby. Each year many would put on a special entertainment night for the volunteers. This special night became known as the Clambake and fun was had by all. Entertainer Phil Harris, a pal of Bing Crosby’s, is credited with setting a certain tone by accompanying his golf with a glass of his favorite whiskey. One year Harris announced that he was the pro from “Jack Daniels Country Club".
For years, the tournament was played at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course and Cypress Point. Poppy Hills Golf Course replaced Cypress Point and then a couple of years ago, the tournament moved to Monterey Peninsula Country Club, replacing Poppy Hills Golf Course.
The format continues to be the same as when Bing Crosby started with one professional and one amateur playing three days together to qualify for the low 25 teams to play in the Sunday field. The tradition and the lore of the tournament continues every year and is one of the fun events on the PGA Tour.
At the Brandenburg Historical Golf Museum at Cinnabar Hills Golf Club there are a number of interesting items from The Crosby/AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am. Come on by and check them out. You might as well play a round of golf while you’re here: