The rains came and washed out the second round of "The Crosby" Friday on California's Monterey Peninsula. Nothing new there because weather has plagued this unique pro-amateur golf tournament ever since founder Bing Crosby moved it up the coast from Rancho Santa Fe in 1947.
However, the most prominent news recently has been that it is not "The Crosby" anymore. Rather, it's the "AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am." The background of the name change has been given ample publicity over the past nine months and involves more family infighting than a typical prime-time soap opera.
The tournament sponsor and prime recipient of the proceeds, the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, wanted to increase the prize money and also the amount of revenue generated for its charitable causes. Enter AT&T with an offer of co-sponsorship, more prize money and presumably more money for the charities.
If it sounds too simple to come true, it was. Bing Crosby's widow, Kathryn, has the sole right to the use of the late singer's name under the terms of his will. Mrs. Crosby thought a hook-up with AT&T would result in "overcommercialization" of her late husband's tournament and stated flatly that an AT&T sponsorship would result in a withdrawal of the Crosby name from the proceedings.
Her sons Nathaniel and Harry pressured her to relent on her decision, but she stood firm. When she wouldn't change her mind, the Crosby sons signed on as cohosts of the renamed event and have been much in evidence on the premises of the three host courses: Pebble Beach, Cypress Point and Spyglass Hill.
That covers the legalities of the situation. As a practical matter, the Crosby, AT&T National Pro-Am or whatever you want to call it still is unique on the professional golf tour. People from Jack Nicklaus to Jack Lemmon have said they'd come back no matter what you call it.
Aside from its venue -- one of the nation's most scenic stretches of golf real estate, and the vagaries of "Crosby" weather -- the tournament is the only one on the tour that allows amateurs to play three rounds with their professional partner during official competition. This feature attracts such diverse amateur golfers as Peter Ueberroth and James Garner to compete year after year.
"The entry fee of $1,500 is the greatest bargain in golf," said former network golf commentator Bob Halloran, who is playing in his first tournament. "The name may change, but it is the format and the courses themselves that make this the hardest invitation in the world for an amateur golfer to get."
Most veteran observers agree that the amateur field would be just as full if the entry fee were 10 times as high.
The name change has had little effect on the day-to-day functions at the tournament. The marshals, press room crew and parking attendants are the same. Even the patrons at the Pebble Beach lodges' famed Club XIX are occupying the same spots each evening they did when Crosby's name still was attached.
As for the players, they still love it. The field over the years has featured more of the game's top performers than any tournament outside of the "majors." The amateurs come from all over the country to play in weather that would see most of us keeping our golf bags in the trunk.
"It is the best tournament in which I play each year," said Lemmon, whose erratic golf antics are a feature on the tournament's third-day telecast each year.
"I never get nervous in front of an audience unless I'm up here with a golf club in my hand," Lemmon said.
Baseball Commissioner Ueberroth echoed the prevailing sentiment of the tournament's unique format. "You are actually competing with the professionals in their own arena when it counts," he said. "Anyone can play exhibitions and score there, but in this tournament you are playing the same golf course from the same tees while the professional golfers are earning their living."