Pebble Beach's classic golf event honors greats 

This is the golf tournament less about golf than it is about people.

This is the one Bing Crosby started in the 1930s for his “fellas” in the entertainment business, the one that since 1947 has been as much a fixture on the Monterey Peninsula as the crash of the waves and the sweep of the fairways.

This is the one where handicaps and glasses both are raised and laughs are as prevalent as cheers.

This is the one they wish Tiger Woods again would enter, but also the one that misses him the least. Especially when, as now, the sun is shining, the breeze is light and the field includes Kevin Costner, Bill Murray, Drew Brees and the Giants’ Matt Cain — listed as “Matthew” Cain in the pairings.

This, of course, is the 71st AT&T Pebble Beach (nay, Bing Crosby) Pro-Am (the first six were in Southern California before World War II), where history and camaraderie are pals, and Jack Lemmon’s determined, and unanswered attempts to make the cut remain part of the plot.

This also is the first Crosby/AT&T since the Giants won a World Series, and that inescapable fact is unavoidable in the paraphernalia sported by fans and the selection of Giants announcers Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper for the Jack Lemmon Ambassador of Golf Award by the California Golf Writers and Broadcasters.

The award in the past has gone to the likes of Lemmon, Fuzzy Zoeller, Charles (Peanuts) Schulz, John Brodie and Lawson Little. It’s an excuse to recognize people deserving of recognition. For 2010, that category definitely included Kruk and Kuip.

“Golf is a humbling game,” Krukow on Tuesday night at the banquet reminded individuals who needed no reminding. “So is baseball.

“My first day in the big leagues [as a pitcher for the Cubs], Sept. 6, 1976, I’m running in the outfield and a guy in the bleachers keeps yelling over and over, ‘Hey 40, what’s your name.’ Finally, I tell him, ‘Go, buy a program.’ He yells back, ‘I did, and you ain’t in it.’”

Another with Giants connections, former owner Bob Lurie was presented an award named for longtime Olympic Club member John Swanson. Lurie has played in 37 Crosby/AT&Ts, 34 in succession.

The evening’s highlight was the introduction of Sandy Tatum, 90; Jack Bariteau, 87; Ken Venturi, 79; and Grant Spaeth as charter members of the new Northern California Golf Association Hall of Fame.

Venturi won the ’64 U.S. Open. Tatum, on the winning pro-am team in the ’61 Crosby, and Spaeth are former presidents of the U.S. Golf Association. Bariteau won 33 individual and best-ball amateur championships.

“I was a stammerer as a kid,” said Venturi, who eventually went to San Francisco’s Lincoln High and San Jose State. “A doctor told my mother I’d never be able to speak. I picked the loneliest sport I know, golf.”

He won the ’60 Crosby, the ’66 San Francisco Open.

“I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t have had a night like this. I know the pros make a lot of money today. I made a lot of friends. The greatest thing in life is to be remembered.”

He said it on a night no one will forget.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at typoes@aol.com.


This week

AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

Site: Pebble Beach

Schedule: Today through Sunday

Courses: Pebble Beach Golf Links (6,816 yards, par 72), Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Shore Course (6,900 yards, par 72) and Spyglass Hill Golf Club (6,833 yards, par 72)

Purse: $6.3 million; winner’s share: $1,134,000

TV: Golf Channel (Today, noon-3 p.m., 5:30-8:30 p.m.; Friday, 9 p.m.-midnight, noon-3 p.m., 5:30-8:30 p.m., 11 p.m.-2 a.m; Saturday, 10-11:30 a.m., 9-11 p.m.; Sunday, 10-11:30 a.m.; Monday, 9-11 p.m.) and CBS (Saturday, noon-3 p.m.; Sunday, noon-3:30 p.m.).

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Art Spander

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