When its a good time to hold a golf tournament, its also a good time for the fat cats to come to the Pacific Coast with their barrels of money. Ergo ' the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am is held this time of year, with February bringing both the professional golfers and the bad weather. The summer and fall brings the hackers and the sunshine ' and the millions of greenbacks.
And so it was that in 1996, February came, the golfers came, and ' right on schedule - the monsoons came. Its been this way since 1937, when the tournament ' then known as the Bing Crosby ' was first played south of here near San Diego, but suffered the same fate. The rains poured down so hard and so often that the tournament was reduced to 18 holes. Sam Snead had the fewest number of strokes after 18, so he was handed the trophy and then everyone high-tailed it to the warmth and dryness of an indoor room.
In 1996, they didnt even award the trophy. Tuesday it rained. Wednesday it rained, then the tournament started and it was still blowing sideways on Thursday. It kept it up Friday, and Saturday morning tournament officials had had enough. Thanks for coming, they said in effect, but thats all the golf we are going to play around here this year. The tournament is officially over, no champion will be crowned this year, and come back for another try in 1997.
Jeff Maggert was the big loser. He led after 36 at 8-under, but he couldnt fault the officials. You cant change the rules of golf just to finish a tournament, he said. You cant control Mother Nature.
The big problem was the 16th hole at Spyglass, one of three courses used in the AT&T rotation along with Pebble Beach and Poppy Hills. All three of the courses are used for the initial three rounds, then all the pros go to Pebble for the final round along with the amateurs who have made the cut. This year, though, the 16th at Spyglass simply had too much water. There was no place to move the ball if a golfer hit on the left side during Round 3. On 53 of the tournaments 54 holes, the pros could squish around to their balls and club them toward the flag. At Spyglasss 16th, unfortunately, they found it unplayable.
Officials considered all sorts of ideas, even mats for the players to hit off of. But that would be unfair to the players who had played Spyglass the first or second days. They went through Spyglass in conditions which approximated the inside of a car wash at times, but they had managed to finish. It would be unfair, under the rules of golf, to suddenly have one-third of the field playing the hole with mats.
Maggert had a one-shot lead when it was cancelled, not nearly enough to project him a sure winner. Thirty players were crowded around him, within four shots of the lead. Id hate to miss the Tour Championship by $500, Maggert said. As it developed, he didnt ' luckily.
So instead of a winners check of $270,000, he got a consolation prize of $5,000 ' as did all the pros who entered.
Saturday afternoon, incidentally, cleared off to dry and beautiful weather. Who was there to enjoy it? The celebrities who played five holes to fill television time. Nick Faldo became famous for turning up to caddie for singer Huey Lewis. Faldo wore sunglasses and a wig to impersonate his bag-toter, Fanny Sunnesson. Before he went to the first tee with Lewis, the two had a hilarious conversation with Lewis playing the role of the ultra-demanding golfer and Faldo filling in beautifully as the meek caddie.
The week, though, was a washout. Tournament director Lou Russo has been around Pebble Beach for 50 years and noted that it was the first time the event had been scrubbed ' despite the winds and rain ' gasp ' even snow.
There was just too much water, he said. We just couldn't get it in.