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Pebble Beach Links - Did You Know?

One of the greatest courses on the planet in close-up

Posted Jan 29, 2010 by Iestyn George

pebble beach

There might well be a ton of prize money won in tournament play during January, but as far as we're concerned the season doesn't really start until we get to see the waves crashing on the Californian shores of Monterey in mid-February. Here's some stuff about The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the tournament previously known as The Clambake. Now why on earth would you want to change a name like that...?

THE MAN FROM DEL MONTE: It seems a bit far-fetched that the company that brought us tinned peaches has strong links with one of the world's most renowned golf locations, but it's true. It all started when the quartet responsible for building a railway from one coast of America to the other opened a hotel near Monterey in 1880 and created a 17-mile drive along the stunning California coast. Such was the reputation of Hotel Del Monte that in 1891 the Oakland Preserving Company bought a license to use Del Monte for a range of tinned foods.

INSPECTOR MORSE: The first golf was played here in 1897 when a nine-hole course was opened. In 1915, it was extended to 18 holes and the brilliantly-named Pacific Improvement Club, hired Samuel FB Morse, a distant relative of Morse Code inventor Samuel Morse, to find a buyer for the estate. Three years later he bought the hotel and the two golf courses himself and set about creating one of the best-loved patches of golfing land in America. The Duke of Del Monte as he was nicknamed brought sheep on the course to maintain the grass and adhered strictly to the principle that what nature had created to them could not be improved upon by man nor machine.

OLD FLAMES: To say that Hotel Del Monte has had a chequered history is an understatement. It was burnt to the ground in 1887, 1917 and narrowly avoided a hat-trick of complete renovation when fire was halted in 1924 by a series of sophisticated controlled explosions.

OPEN ALL OURS: The US Amateur Championship (then considered a Major) was held at Pebble Beach in 1929 and was won by Harrison Johnston. Jack Nicklaus won the 1972 US Open at Pebble  -  sadly, Morse passed away three years earlier. The 1977 PGA Championship, was won in a play-off by Lanny Wadkins and Tom Watson holed memorably from the dense grass on the fringe of the 17th green on his way to win the 1982 US Open. The championship has been played there twice since - Tom Kite won in 1992 and Tiger Woods took the title in 2000.

CLAM ROCK: The Bing Crosby National Pro Am was first held at Pebble each for the first time in 1947. It was popularly known as the Crosby Clambake until 1986, when it was renamed the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament.

IN THE NAVY: The Hotel De Monte was used as a navy training centre during World War II and was bought by the US Navy for $2.2 million in 1948. It remains the Naval Postgraduate School. With eight courses within easy reach they must have a heck of a golf team.

WOOKIE OF THE YEAR: Anyone care to guess the link between Pebble Beach and a big hairy wookie? Chewbacca and his Star Wars chums made so much money for the 20th Century Fox Film Corporation that they hardly knew what to do the stuff. So they bought  the Pebble Beach Corporation in 1978. It has changed hands quite a few times since then, with Ben Hogan Golf Properties among the owners.

ON THE ROCKS: In the 1963 Pro-Am Arnold Palmer was disqualified after mistakenly playing a second ball on the 17th. Arnie thought his original shot had landed in the drink, when, in fact, it it was found in a playable condition on the rocks. A year later, he flew the green again, found the ball in a pool of water and was invited by the rules officials to play on. He shot a nine, the same score he carded on the 14th hole in 1967 when two consecutive shots cannoned of a tree out of bounds. In a reprisal by the golfing gods, the offending pine was apparently uprooted in a storm that very night.

TREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER: Every course seems to under go some reconstruction before a Major, but in keeping with the principles of Samuel FB Morse Pebble Beach has not been given a dramatic facelift. Trees have been added or moved on six holes, 16 bunkers have been altered or installed and the purists will be relieved that the total length of the course has not been dramatically lengthened, at 7040 yards. It'll be plenty tough, though, don't you worry about that.

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