The contrast is striking between AT&T and Johnnie Walker golf tourneys
Some of you remember when the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Tournament was known as the Bing Crosby Pro-Am. The crooner started the event as an informal get-together with his Hollywood friends and some pro golfers in 1937. Sam Snead won first prize of $500 at the first tournament at Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. - and probably never spent a dime of it.
After World War II, a deal was struck to bring the tourney to the Monterey Pensinsula, and it was Crosby’s brilliant idea to play it at three golf courses. Bing died in 1977 and a foundation took over the leadership until AT&T got involved in the mid-1980s. Bing’s widow Kathryn, who I knew briefly, fearful that the once-friendly clambake would become a corporate sideshow, withdrew the Crosby name.
The AT&T remains a telegenic golf tournament; the Monterey Peninsula’s natural scenery looks so gorgeous on the tube. And those three fabulous golf courses - Pebble Beach, Spyglass and Poppy Hills - who can complain? But Kathryn Crosby’s fears were well-founded, it turns out.
Except for a few all-too-familiar golfing celebs - Bill Murray, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Bolton and Rush Limbaugh - most of the amateurs are overfed corporate CEOs whose six- and eight-handicaps look extremely dubious. There’s just no escaping the fact that the AT&T is the PGA Tour’s wet smooch on corporate America’s rear end. Okay, it’s inescapable. Sponsors must be serviced. But let’s not delude ourselves by calling this tournament a “pro-am.”
Meanwhile, this week’s Johnnie Walker Classic at the Vines Resort and Country Club in Perth, Australia is another corporate-sponsored event, but it isn’t so in-your-face. Like many of the PGA European Tour events, the Johnnie Walker is a low-key affair that’s great fun to watch. The AT&T has the Pacific Ocean crashing against the rocks, but Johnnie Walker has kangaroos making whoopee in the rough.
I receive both tournaments on satellite TV here in Thailand. The Johnnie Walker airs in the afternoon; the AT&T comes on live at 3 a.m. I think the Johnnie Walker field led by K.J. Choi, Retief Goosen, Angel Cabrera and Adam Scott is about equal to the field at the AT&T. (Colin Montgomerie, probably having second thoughts about his $14 million divorce settlement to a woman suspected of having an extramarital affair with Hugh Grant, missed the cut, his second in a row.)
I wish more Americans would come to Asia and see first-hand how people live here. They’d also get a look at the European Tour, which is held on this continent during Europe’s cold weather months, November through April. It’s got a laid-back charm all its own.
|« Mike Weir unraveled at AT&T Pebble Beach but he's too tough to stay down||Newly divorced Colin Montgomerie needs a Johnnie Walker win - or a good bottle of Scotch »|
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