Before there was Car Week, there was the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. For many years the golf tournament founded by crooner Bing Crosby was one of the biggest visitor draws of the year. The Monterey Peninsula’s typically sleepy winter streets burst into life as golf enthusiasts and celebrity watchers came to town. And that was the idea.
Bing had started his tournament in Rancho Santa Fe in 1937. It was a relaxed affair, a way for the singer to hang out with his celebrity buddies and pro golfers while getting in a few rounds (of golf and cocktails). A highlight of the event was the clambake--hence the tournament’s nickname. The shindig was suspended for the duration of World War II. After hostilities ended, Ted Durein, a Monterey Peninsula Herald sports writer teamed up with some community leaders to pitch the idea to Der Bingle of bringing the tournament north to Pebble Beach. In the late 1940s, Monterey’s sardine industry was waning, and tourism was beginning to become the economic engine of the Peninsula. But there was a drop in visitor numbers during the winter months and Durein and company thought bringing a bunch of movie stars to town might give the hospitality industry a shot in the arm. They were right.
The tournament, now known as the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, has changed over the years, most notably expanding from its original three days to a full week of golf-related events. But the core of the original is still there: it’s an event that draws A-list celebrities and top PGA golfers to the Peninsula, filling hotel rooms, restaurant chairs and shops with tourists. And it’s a huge help to local non-profits: the organization that manages the event, the Monterey Peninsula Foundation says the tournament generated $12.8 million that it has committed to charities in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties.
Now that day-trippers park their cars at the former Ft. Ord and are shuttled into Pebble, the former congestion that clogged Peninsula streets has been alleviated somewhat.
To learn more, and to purchase tickets visit www.attpbgolf.com.