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PEBBLE'S REACH

AN AMATEUR ON THE LINKS, PLIMPTON WAS ANYTHING BUT IN PRINT
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IN 1966 the writer George Plimpton, pencil behind his ear, deposited his tall and lanky self on the pro golf tour—t down, no registered trademark in those days. His first stop was Pebble Beach, for what was known as the Crosby, hosted by Bing Crosby his own self. This week the PGA Tour returns to the Monterey Peninsula, for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. (The AT&T, to the kids playing the PGA Tour today.) Plimpton was there in '66 as an amateur participant/SI contributor. Talk about your better boondoggles.

Plimpton was an 18-handicap golfer, but at charm he was scratch. At Pebble he told Dave Marr, a rising star, about a recurring nightmare in which a large insect descends on his ball during his downswing. Marr, in Plimpton's recounting, responds by saying, "If you don't mind, just don't tell us too many things like that." There could be a similar amateur-professional exchange this week, but it's unlikely.

Plimpton played in three California pro-ams that year and wrote about his experiences with pure Plimpton je ne sais quoi. His book about those events, The Bogey Man, started as a three-part series in SI.

Crosby played annually in his event and crooned at a tournament party. The game's leading pros were all regulars: Hogan, Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson. (This year, Rory McIlroy is playing his first AT&T.) The amateurs at the Crosby were Hollywood movie stars, Las Vegas comedians, East Coast business moguls, ballplayers headed for Cooperstown—stars. This year the tournament's website is touting the arrival of Chris Harrison, the host of The Bachelor. Bing ran the event by (gentle) force of personality. What carries it now is corporate cache.

Plimpton and his struggling pro, Bob Bruno, survive, vividly, in the SI Vault. So does Plimpton's WHEEZING CADDIE, the diminutive Abe, a former sardine fisherman. Rick Reilly, another former SI scribe, wrote a foreword to a reissue of The Bogey Man. He also played at Pebble as an am and wrote about it in the Feb. 15, 1993 issue.

Herbert Warren Wind wrote about Bing and his invitational for this magazine in the 1950s. In his '76 Crosby game story, Dan Jenkins mocked ABC's TV coverage and Johnny Bench's pink sweater, alongside some choice paragraphs devoted to the winner, 24-year-old BEN CRENSHAW, a fellow Texan.

Over the years the magazine has sent a Murderers' Row of writing talent to Pebble, including John Garrity, tall and lanky and graceful in all things; funnyman Gary Van Sickle; and Alan Shipnuck, who first got the attention of his future boss at SI, Mark Mulvoy, as a glorified Pebble Beach cart boy. Those writers went multiple times.

Plimpton went only once, and he killed it every which way to Sunday. He describes a morose Bob Bruno marching into a forest beside the 5th tee at Cypress Point and beating his driver against a tree stump. Plimpton tells us what he wanted to say: "Anything I can do to help, Bob?"

FROM THE PAGES OF SI

JAN. 30, 1967

"I noticed that, like many caddies [Abe] referred to his golfer as 'we' when things were going well. After a good drive he would say, 'We're right down the middle. Yessir, we're right down the damn pike.' In adversity, the first person 'we' was dropped and the second and third person would appear. The caddie would say after gazing at a duck hook: 'You're dead. You're off there way to the left.'"

FEB. 2, 1976

"When the last sparkling ray of sunshine had glanced off the last heavenly chunk of real estate known as Carmel Bay, Crenshaw had won the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am that everyone expected [Jack] Nicklaus to win, and Nicklaus, or someone posing as Nicklaus, had shot, in order, a 45 on the back nine at Pebble Beach, an 82 for the final round and, possibly, himself."