Kathryn, Bing and Nathaniel Crosby at the 1967 Crosby Pro-Am.
Kathryn, Bing and Nathaniel Crosby at the 1967 Crosby Pro-Am. (Herald Archive)
When entertainer Bing Crosby established what was essentially a "garden party" pro-am golf tournament in1937, little did he know that it would grow into the mega-event and regular PGA Tour stop it has become.

What began as an intimate group of 60 players in 1937 (which, by the way, was immediately plagued by what became known as "Crosby" weather) grew to over 300 entries in 1941, the last year at Rancho Santa Fe near San Diego before it was suspended for World War II.

In 1946, Ted Durein and Dan Searle approached Crosby about reviving the tournament and moving it to Pebble Beach. They were apparently persuasive enough that in 1947 the inaugural Bing Crosby National Pro-Amateur Golf Championship was held on Pebble Beach, Cypress Point and Monterey Peninsula Country Club.

The first three rounds each year have rotated among three courses, with Pebble Beach the one constant, ever since. In 1986,AT&T came on board as the title sponsor for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, scheduled in 2011 for February 7-13.

In 1977, Bing Crosby died on a golf course in Spain. His widow, Kathryn, and son Harry kept the tournament going but it had to go the way of all major events and AT&T signed on as title sponsor. The first thing they wanted to do was drop Bing Crosby's name from the title.

That did not sit well with Kathryn and she moved to North Carolina to establish a new tournament. Harry remained here and on the board of directors for the AT&T.

Through the years all the greats have played in the Crosby/AT&T and a ton of memories have been built up, some good, some not so good and some scary.

In the last category, Tom Tebbs, who was a sports writer at The Monterey County Herald from 1973 to 2001, recalled the late actor/comedian Jack Lemmon nearly killing himself trying to make a shot on the cliff at the famous over-the-water 16th hole at Cypress Point.

Lemmon was determined he was going to make the shot and, as he tried to line it up, nearly fell over the cliff.

Cypress Point during the 1981 Crosby Pro-Am.
Cypress Point during the 1981 Crosby Pro-Am. (Herald Archive)
Tebbs wasn't positive, but he thinks it was Clint Eastwood who grabbed Lemmon before he could fall. Then a group of a half-dozen or so guys linked arms and held on to Lemmon as he made the shot.

That was in his younger days and Lemmon would spend more than two decades trying to make the Pro-Am cut (after 54 holes) at the tournament, coming up empty every year.

For Tebbs, another favorite memory came when he and a photographer from the Watsonville newspaper were assigned to cover the tournament in 1972. Tebbs was standing next to a man, then walked away. Sam, the photographer, chased Tebbs down him and asked if he knew he had been standing next to Bing Crosby. Tebbs had no idea and the interview opportunity was lost.

At Cypress Point, a hole-in-one on the famous 16th is about as rare as can be but Tebbs got to witness one. Tebbs is colorblind and uses yellow balls when he's on the course.

He crossed over to between the 16thand 17th fairways and watched as Jerry Pate aced the 16th to join a select group of maybe a half-dozen, including Bing Crosby. Pate was playing with an orange ball, so Tebbs was able to see it.

One rather infamous event occurred in the 1981 Crosby. The tournament had been shortened to 54 holes (instead of 72) because of rain, one of a number of times that happened over the years. John Cook was playing Spyglass Hill and finishing his round on the ninth hole (he had started on 10), paired with TV star James Garner, who was the star of the PI series "Rockford Files."

As Cook was lining up his par putt that would put him in a five-way playoff for the championship, an obviously inebriated fan began yelling "Hey Rockford."

Once the fan was finally quieted down, Cook went on to make the putt and, as fate would have it, he won the playoff and the tournament.

By now, however, Garner was steamed and, as he stormed up the hill toward the clubhouse, the man yelled out again. Garner asked who was the drunk with the bigmouth and the crowd parted like the Red Sea. Garner stormed up to him, asked if he wanted a pop in the mouth and, when the guy responded to go ahead, Garner let him have a straight right that lifted the man clear off his feet and deposited him on his back.

(Herald Archive/Vern Fisher)

By the way, an attorney got hold of him, seeing dollar signs from a big-time actor, and sued. Garner offered the guy a reported $3,000 to go away. His attorney refused and, after trial, got stiffed. The attorney, in turn, stiffed the reporter who had been standing next to Garner taking notes during the incident of his witness fee.

Thanks for the memories, Bing, of the Crosby Clambake and those that have been and are yet to be established in the Corporate America era.

The 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am will be held from Feb. 7-13. For tournament details and additional information, go to www.attpbgolf.com.