Public Access Pebble Beach Golf Links - COPIED
If you were at the U.S. Open 10 years ago, or witnessed it on TV, you can probably still see Jack Nicklaus sitting by himself on the wooden fence behind the 18th tee in what would be his final round of his final U.S. Open. With the surf pounding Carmel Bay’s craggy shoreline behind him, Nicklaus paused to soak in the grandeur.
In that moment, Nicklaus was more than the greatest player who ever lived. He might have been you. Or me. Or every man, woman or child who has fallen in love with the ruggedly spectacular meeting of land and sea that is Pebble Beach. He was as much spectator as player, mere mortal admiring the collaborative genius of man and a higher power.
“I’ve always said, if I had one round of golf to go play, I’d probably go play at Pebble Beach,” Nicklaus said again at the Memorial last week.
Ten years after Nicklaus’ farewell, I got to walk in a giant’s footsteps, just as you can. I got to play Pebble Beach, just as you can. Near the end of the round, I couldn’t resist wandering to the fence line behind the 18th tee to marvel, just as Nicklaus did. While I might not be able to hit the shots Nicklaus did, I got to make a memorable journey along the same path Nicklaus and so many other champions have marched.
Public access adds a dimension to a U.S. Open that isn’t there at Oakmont, Winged Foot, Shinnecock or other private venues.
It’s what makes this summer different from any major championship summer golf’s ever seen.
For the first summer in history, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship will all be played at venues open to the public.
The prices may be steep, but the common man’s never had more access to golf’s uncommon tests with Pebble Beach, St. Andrews and Whistling Straits hosting.
Chuck Dunbar, the head professional at Pebble Beach, learned the sacrifices the average working man is willing to make to play the game’s great tests. He was working the pro shop one morning when a middle-aged man marched in before his tee time to pay the $300 greens fee required back then. He marched in with a bundle full of rolled up quarters.
“He said he’d been saving a long, long time to play Pebble Beach, throwing spare quarters in a dish at the end of every work day,” Dunbar said. “That’s how he paid for his trip to golf’s Mecca, a quarter at a time, and he said it was important to him to actually pay for the round with those quarters. I thought that was dynamite, but I was also glad he didn’t pay with dimes, nickels and pennies.”
The greens fee today is $495. It’s expensive, but with more than 50,000 rounds played every year it’s a lush playground that’s not restricted to the world’s most gifted ball strikers, richest CEOs and most famous celebrities.
Hubert Allen was there along the 18th tee that day Nicklaus took up his seat on the fence before his final U.S. Open tee shot, but Allen can go one better with his memory in relaying the powerful draw that hole has upon the golfing public. He’s been the Pebble Beach Golf Links pro shop manager for 12 years, a starter for two years before that. Every time a new employee joins his staff, he passes along a story. He tells them about the day he escorted a brother and sister on a special trip to the 18th tee.
“Their father had died, and he wanted his ashes spread there,” Allen said. “We waited until play cleared, and they spread the ashes. They were crying. It was quite emotional.”
When they were done, Allen asked the son and daughter how often their father had come to play Pebble Beach.
“They said he’d never been here, but it was always his dream to come and play,” Allen said. “So bringing his ashes to Pebble Beach was their gift to him. That really hit home with me about what this place means to people.”
Pebble Beach is a patch of heaven even to those who’ve journeyed beyond earth’s realm. Astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space, had his ashes scattered from a helicopter above Carmel Bay.
When Allen, 52, began work at Pebble Beach as a starter, he was struck by the emotion he sensed in those who knew they were partaking in a once in a lifetime experience.
“One day this gentleman wandered up to me on his way to the first tee and asked me to pinch him,” Allen said. “He said he had been waiting his entire life for this moment, and he wanted to make sure he was really alive. You feel privileged and humbled to be part of the experience.”
Casey Boyns, 54, grew up in Pebble Beach two miles from the golf course. He won the California State Amateur at Pebble Beach in 1989 and ’93. He played countless junior and high school matches there and used to sneak onto the course with his boyhood pals, Neal Schlegel and Mark DeVincenzi, to play nine holes before dark.
For the last 29 years, Boyns has been a Pebble Beach caddie. While all that time on the course might make it easy to lose the sense of wonder Pebble Beach brings, Boyns says he’s reminded on the first tee every day.
“I see people shaking on the first tee, they’re so nervous,” Boyns said. “I’ve seen people who can’t put the ball on the tee because their hands are shaking so badly. You see them hit shots off the hotel or chunk shots fat. You see how much it means.”
Count this reporter among the nervous first-timers. After watching Dunbar, the head pro, pound his tee shot straight down the middle of the first fairway, I blocked mine right into the trees.
I didn’t feel so bad, though, when my caddie, Patrick Wood, relayed how he felt hitting his first tee shot back in the fall.
Wood, who used to own a hotel near the Old Course at St. Andrews, got a rare call to action when a foursome was a player short and asked if any of the caddies were available to play. Wood is a decent player who toured the Old Course 103 times in the four years he ran his hotel there, but he felt like a high-handicapper racing to the first tee at Pebble Beach.
“It was a very big deal to get to play,” Wood said. “About 25 to 30 caddies came out to watch me tee off, the pro and the assistant pro came out. My knees were shaking.”
Wood barely got a 3-wood off the ground but delighted in his chance to play.
Dunbar, 46, is the quintessential dream come true at Pebble Beach. He didn’t start playing golf until he was in his 20s but rose to become head pro when he was 34. After graduating from UC-Sacramento in ’88, his father tried to talk him into joining him in the insurance business.
A bartender at the time, Dunbar had other ideas, but they didn’t exactly bowl over the rest of the family. He wanted to be a game show host.
In a not-so subtle hint that it was time to find a career, Dunbar’s father bought him a suit upon graduation.
“It was a classic case of fight or flight,” Dunbar cracked. “I flew.”
Dunbar took flight in the Club Med chain, where he eventually landed as a bartender at Club Med Sand Piper in Port St. Lucie, Fla. At 25, he bought his first set of golf clubs.
“I asked a guy what they did for fun down there, and he said they played golf all day, so I bought a $199 set of Wilson golf clubs at Costco before I left home for the job,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar mixed drinks at night and played golf in the day, shaving his handicap from a 30 to a 12 in a year without a single lesson. After marrying, leaving Club Med and returning home to California, he faced another crossroads.
“I’m married, and I’m thinking I better find something I can make a paycheck in,” Dunbar said.
Vacationing in Aptos, Calif., he spied a want ad in a local newspaper. Seascape Golf Club was looking for an assistant pro. By that time, Dunbar was about a 6-handicap player.
“Somehow, I talked my way into the job,” Dunbar said.
From there, Dunbar earned his PGA certification, and that would lead to an interview with the Pebble Beach Co. in 1995 and a job as an assistant pro at Spanish Bay.
“I remember thinking, 'I’m out of my league. I have no golf pedigree. I didn’t play high school golf or college golf. How the hell did I land this job?’” Dunbar said.
But he quickly proved himself more than worthy, working his way to head pro at Pebble Beach in four years.
As head pro, Dunbar has met President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, actors Clint Eastwood and Nicole Kidman, rocker Bono and other famous people, but he understands what it was like for Nicklaus to sit on that fence at the 18th and gaze into Carmel Bay. He understands as well as anyone the wonder of a place like Pebble Beach, where we can all marvel at the uncommon path our lives can take us.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.
The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.
They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.
Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.
Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.
Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.
''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''
The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.
In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''
Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.
Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.
Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.
It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.
The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.