Pebble Beach for pros only this year because of COVID spike

AP – The only stars at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am this year will be the players and the golf course.

The spike in COVID-19 cases in California led organisers to cancel the pro-am portion of a tournament with a long history of entertainers, celebrities and CEOs mixing with the pros on one of the most famous and picturesque landscapes in America.

That means no antics from Bill Murray, Justin Timberlake breaking out into song while waiting on a tee box or even the latest fashion statement from rap singer Macklemore.

The tournament also is losing one of its golf courses. The 156-man field on February 11-14 will be held only at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. It typically includes the Shore course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.

Tournament Director Steve John said the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, Pebble Beach Company, longtime sponsor AT&T and the PGA Tour were involved in the decision.

“I know we did the right thing,” John said. “We had to come to this decision. It’s still disappointing.”

Bill Murray massages a volunteer’s shoulders during the second round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament in Pebble Beach, California last year. PHOTO: AP

Coronavirus cases in California have risen sharply since Thanksgiving, though the numbers have levelled off in recent days. Even so, new cases over the last week in the nation’s most populous state are far greater than Texas and Florida.

Pebble Beach, which already announced it would not have spectators, is the second PGA Tour event to lose a pro-am format during competition. The American Express next week in La Quinta, California, previously announced it would have only professionals on two courses instead of three in the desert.

“This was a very difficult decision, but the right one given the recent surge in COVID-19 cases,” Pebble Beach Company CEO Bill Perocchi said.

The tournament will have a pro-am on Wednesday at Pebble Beach, as other PGA Tour events have done in recent months. John said that would primarily be for the secondary sponsors that have helped the Monterey Peninsula Foundation raise more than USD176 million for charitable contributions in three neighbouring counties.

The tournament still plans a charity component targetting COVID-related needs such as food, health and education.

This was to be the 75th anniversary of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am since moving to the Monterey Peninsula in 1947 as the Bing Crosby Pro-Am, and celebrities have been a major part of the scene ever since.