Some golf institutions seem immune from the economic woes afflicting the world. Pebble Beach is still one of the greatest public golf courses in the world, assuming the public is willing to plunk down $500 for a round of golf. But Pebble Beach, though pricey and not accessible to the masses, is still one of America's most recognized golf courses. It has hosted numerous major golf championships as well as an annual Pro-Am tournament early in the season that began as the Bing Crosby Pro-Am, but, depending upon sponsorship, has gone through several monikers.
Golfers everywhere, including me, are certainly envious of Zachary Michael Jack, an English professor at North Central College in Illinois. He persuaded a publisher to allow him to spend a year in Carmel, California, the home of Pebble Beach. During that period, he immersed himself in the Pebble Beach life. The result of that experience is LET THERE BE PEBBLE: A Middle-Handicapper's Year in America's Garden of Golf, an entertaining book that encompasses far more than golf. Books about Pebble tend to be about conquering the course and often include shot-by-shot discussions and descriptions. Jack accomplishes far more in his book, capturing the spirit of this golf cathedral in ways that are more than 300-yard drives and 35-foot putts.
During his year spent at Pebble Beach, three tournaments were held at the course. In addition to the AT&T National Pro-Am and the Callaway Pro-Am, 2010 saw Pebble hosting the U.S. Open. Jack was there for the duration, and his book is a series of observations of the various participants on the Monterey Peninsula during those events and throughout the year. Carmel's most famous resident and former mayor, Clint Eastwood, is the subject of a chapter in LET THERE BE PEBBLE. In many ways, Carmel is a typical resort community, albeit one with very large checkbook balances. Communities where the tension between residents and visitors is difficult to resolve are spread across America. The interviews in this chapter with residents of the Pebble Beach community capture that tension and present the difficulty created by the differing views in a reflective fashion.<
Another name associated with Pebble Beach is actor and comedian Bill Murray. His appearances at the national Pro-Am have done more to establish the event than those of any other celebrity. There is a wonderful chapter in which Murray describes his feelings toward the event and his history. Initially the stodgy golfing executives of the PGA and USGA looked with disfavor on Murray's irreverence. At one point he called the tour a "Nazi state." Eventually, as often occurs when there are mutual benefits available, both sides mellowed in their view.
One wishes that there might have been an addendum to the chapter on Murray. In 2011, he teamed with professional golfer D.A. Points to win the Pro-Am portion of the AT&T. Points won the professional portion of the event, but Murray's accomplishment and contribution were substantial. This was a major achievement for Murray, and I would have loved for him to have had the opportunity to discuss the victory with the author.
LET THERE BE PEBBLE is a wonderful compendium of material on golf, life and the Monterey Peninsula. Many thoughtful people shared their views with Jack to paint a vivid portrait of this golfing Mecca. If you have been to Pebble, I think you will find the book enjoyable. If you are still hoping to make the trip, it will certainly whet your appetite for the journey.
Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on June 1, 2011