Thursday, February 16, 2006
Humility and great golf go together. Just ask any golfer who’s tried to bridge the cliffs at Pebble’s eighth hole without the right club or concentration—like Arron Oberholser, who did just that at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two years ago. He got a watery ego check and lost any realistic chance of catching eventual champ Vijay Singh.
Or ask his portly, zinc-lipped caddie, who helped propel the 31-year-old Oberholser to his first PGA victory at this year’s Pro-Am.
“Staying humble was everything,” Dave Woosley said after a round that saw Oberholser capitalize on an early rash of bogeys from final-round favorite Mike Weir. “Most players get out in front and pat themselves on the back and get ahead of themselves.
“It’s about being patient and present.”
Oberholser, who fired a conservative but effective final round 72 to take a five-stroke victory, agreed. “My mindset didn’t change when Weir stumbled,” he said. “I tried to take nothing for granted.”
Coach John Kennaday, who joined Oberholser for champagne and poses with the Waterford Crystal trophy at the 18th green, had a more nuanced way of structuring his player’s focus.
“He just had to fall in love with every shot.”
The triumphant group essentially echoed the theme for a weekend that eclipsed any in the history of the AT&T, in terms of weather, turnout and charity money raised: Be humble, and just fall in love.
Poppy Hills and its comely Del Monte Forest cousins Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach are some of the country’s most gawked-at courses under any conditions—Pebble was Golf Digest’s top public course in 2005, while Spyglass routinely gets better reviews from pros. But spot-lit by record-breaking sun Thursday (80 degrees) and near-equal conditions Saturday and Sunday, they became key-lime green slices of heaven.
“It’s all humbling,” said the Pro-Am’s Vice Chairman Ollie Nutt on Sunday as he bounded away from the 15th tee with the final foursome, which included Oberholser and Weir. “We’ve just been blessed. It’s so good, it’s scary good…I don’t want to jinx it.”
Nutt said later that this year’s crowds surpassed last year’s record attendance of 152,000—by Saturday evening. Earlier Saturday at Pebble, crowds stood 12 deep at spots.
From there the blessings radiate outward. Nutt approximated the net take for the Pro-Am—which flows directly into the local community by way of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation—as “well over $5 million,” another record.
The only number that impressed nearly as much was reported by Dina Ruiz-Eastwood at the 2006 Tee Off extravaganza. At the tribute for all four-day volunteers, her statistic spoke to just how lucky people feel to be involved. “The average age of volunteers at the AT&T is 74,” she said, adding, “I do have you beat—my volunteer at home is 75.”
For his part, Oberholser was certainly feeling blessed right around the same time Nutt was. Coming into 15, he was in the throes of a two-bogey slide that shaved his seven-stroke lead over Weir to five with four to play. That still-comfortable lead quickly grew itchy as Weir’s tee shot landed a short iron away from the pin, and Olberhoser’s drive sliced right of the fairway, landing on the cart path. But instead of skipping further right and out of bounds, it bounced straight into the cloudless sky once, twice, and settled—between two bothersome young Cypress trees. Luckily, a fortunate lie allowed for a full swing—a shot to fall in love with—and his soft wedge set him up for a stunning birdie. When Weir bogeyed, the Waterford trophy was all but Olberholser’s.
Not that Oberholser celebrated all that much—over the course of the Pro-Am, he seemed more at ease cheering for his teammate than for himself. In fact, the only time he really raised his voice on the tourney’s final nine was for his amateur partner’s drive at the final hole.
It was at 18 that Michael McCallister, a CEO of a health benefits company in Kentucky, hooked a low drive 50 yards into the tide pools off the fairway, only to see the shot ricochet cleanly back into the middle of the fairway—a final blessed bounce on a heaven-sent weekend. “Oh yeah!” said Olberholser, tearing off his hat. He and McCallister went on to tie for the Pro-Am team title with a 33-under 255 (earning McCallister a trophy and Oberholser a split-pot $9,000).
Oberholser’s reaction after tapping in to par 18 (and clear another $972,000) seemed more his style, and offered an appropriate end to the humbling week: He neither collapsed nor danced, jumped nor bowed. Instead he modestly turned toward the gallery and applauded the fans.