News & Opinion

Opportunity knocks for pros at Pebble Beach

And if PGA Tour players are smart, they will answer. After all, where else can a golfer command the attention of a Fortune 500 company leader or a successful entertainer or athlete for hours?

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – When Graeme McDowell won last week in Saudi Arabia, he joked that he might skip the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Later, he explained that he was playing with Edward Brown, the former chief executive of Patron Spirits Co. and that he would not be happy if McDowell pulled out last minute.

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am 2018
Jon Rahm (left) and TaylorMade CEO David Abeles are able to step into each other's world for a few hours during the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Where is it you can spend three or four days with CEOs or presidents of Fortune 500 companies and have their attention almost totally to yourself?

That is why if you are a PGA Tour player, you make the annual trip to the Monterey Peninsula, to hobnob.

2019 Houston Open
Jim Crane, the owner of baseball’s Houston Astros

It could be Kenneth Chenault, the former chairman and CEO of American Express, or Jim Crane, the owner of baseball’s Houston Astros. Touring pros can’t beat the access.

“I really feel like a lot of players look at this event as a little bit of, you know, it's an unnecessary distraction having to play with another amateur, or another pro and another amateur,” said McDowell, who made the trip from Saudi Arabia to Pebble Beach. “I feel like I have always looked at this as an opportunity.”

Yet, players skip this event every year, often failing to understand the benefit of talking and learning from other successful people. They could be paired with sportsmen such as brothers Eli and Peyton Manning, both former NFL quarterbacks, as well as Green Bay Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers. Or in business, with leaders such as Donald Colleran, the president and CEO of Fed Ex; Nikesh Arora, the CEO of Palo Alto Networks; or Andy Saperstein, the head of wealth management at Morgan Stanley.

“When you look at the list of people that are here this week, I mean, it's some of the most high-profile CEOs in America,” McDowell observed. “You get a chance to meet potential sponsors, great friendships with people that I stay in contact with a lot. Just really important people. I mean, it's weird to come into an event when you're potentially not the most important person there; you're certainly not the wealthiest person in your group, by a long stretch. So, you're surrounded by successful people, and it's a great opportunity to meet other successful people in other spaces.”

There no lightweight amateurs in the AT&T field, but the same could not be said of the professional side.

The top 10 in the world is represented only by No. 5 Dustin Johnson and No. 8 Patrick Cantlay. Going down the Official World Golf Ranking, only No. 20 Paul Casey completes the top-20 players who will be in the field this week at Pebble Beach.

Yes, the Monterey Peninsula in February can have questionable weather.

Yes, the rounds often approach six hours rather than four.

And, yes, touring pros must compete alongside two amateurs in a group. But, all of that seems outweighed by the life experience acquired when rubbing shoulders with the business elite, sports stars and celebrities.

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