The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is right around the corner, taking place February 5-11 on the Monterey Peninsula, on the courses at Pebble Beach, Spyglass and the Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
The tournament features 156 professionals teamed with 156 amateurs. As you can imagine, the logistics involved with the tournament are involved and being the person in charge is a tremendous responsibility.
It all falls to Steve John, the Chief Executive Officer of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and Tournament Director for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and PURE Insurance Championship. He is the past President of Ocean Honda in Soquel. A graduate of Albion College in Michigan, John is active in the community having served on the boards for Santa Cruz County Bank, Cabrillo College Foundation, O’Neill Sea Odyssey, and First Capital Bank.
ACES Editor Dennis Miller recently had a chance to visit with John and talk about the upcoming tournament. This year’s tournament features the first appearance of Rory McIlroy in the event, as well as defending champion Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day to name a few. As usual, Bill Murray heads the list of celebrities.
Dennis Miller: That’s an impressive group of professionals you have playing this year!
Steve John: We have a professional field that is off the charts this year! It’s really a strong group of players. This as excited as we have been in a while.
DM: How do you go about putting together the pro field? They have so many options as to what tournaments they can play.
SJ: So many things go into it. We try to create an environment to make the professional want to come. You try to check all those boxes, like with parties and things to do off the course. I think we have done a great job protecting the players in an area next to the range in the lounge we have created. It’s a nice place for them to hang out and get ready for their day or relax after their round.
DM: The course rotation is unmatched around the world. Are you pretty set with three courses right now?
SJ: Spyglass and Pebble Beach are bankers. We are considering the Dunes course to take over for the Shores course at Monterey Peninsula. They have redone the Dunes and we had some of the professionals play it last year and they loved it. We will probably do that again this year and see what they have to say.
DM: What about deciding on the amateur field? You have celebrities that want to play, and you have the obligations to corporate sponsors. There has to be celebrities that want to play every year, but you just have no room. What’s the toughest part of putting together the amateur field?
SJ: The hardest part is saying no to someone. We must make sure we give the opportunity for (the fans) to see who they want to see. We want to sell tickets and get people wanting to watch the tournament on TV. We really want to bring the fans the best to see without stepping on toes. There’s a consideration list and the committee decides if the person is inline with our beliefs. The celebrities we have in the tournament are a reflection on us. It’s an unenviable position to be in.
DM: It’s the best chance, just not locally, but around the country, for people to see top celebrities and top professionals playing golf together on some of the most spectacular venues in the world. But even with all those advantages, there’s still a lot of work to do getting people to make the trip down to watch the tournament.
SJ: There are so many offerings for people in the region that we must deliver a product that they will come in and say thank you for having this event. It’s not just golf, it’s golf 2.0. There’s no question that this time of year people can be going to Tahoe or Napa for the weekend, but we need to give them a reason to be here.
DM: And no matter how good the field is, you are still at the mercy. It can be stunningly beautiful, or it can be ugly. Got any insight into controlling the weather?
SJ: We call the only person that can affect the weather – Clint Eastwood. We say hey boss, can you do something about the weather.