Champions for Charity is an event Lexus puts on each year in early December at Pebble Beach, and all the proceeds go to local charities around the nation. The event raised over $30 million this year alone, and more than $200 million since it started 23 years ago. Last year I was invited as my first trip ever to Pebble Beach, and this year I happily dragged my sticks back to 17-Mile Drive. It didn't disappoint. Here is my review of a great week at the mecca of American golf.
A person asked a great question last week as I was posting about my trip to Monterey and the excitement I felt for the golf courses I was about to play. They asked if it wasn't for the cost, or the exclusivity of such a place, would people still hold those golf courses in such high esteem? I pondered the thought until the next day when I was lucky enough to get another crack at Pebble Beach. Standing on the 5th tee, and all the ones after, I quickly found my answer; yes, absolutely yes. I could take a non-golfer out to a ton of great golf courses and they'd see tee, fairway and green. They'd miss the hand-selected bunker placed perfectly in a miss area or how the green slopes in a certain way to make the hole that much better. But at Pebble Beach, you don't miss anything. The experience is 30 percent golf, 70 percent 'Wow.'
When I first arrived at Pebble this year, I wanted to make sure to seek out different individuals than I ran into a year ago because I didn't want the same story as 2010. That wasn't hard. It seemed everyone I met was a first-time visitor, something the Lexus people loved because it meant people were still interested. They wanted to see what this whole Champions for Charity thing was all about. And after a day, the only thing I heard was this; "How the heck do we get back here next year?!" Like a drug, Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Spanish Bay and the entire event is something you fein for after a first taste. You come for the golf, you stay for the camaraderie, and you return for the people. At an event put on for the spouses at a local adobe house-turned restaurant, I chatted with three ladies I figured were all friends that came together. Turned out they had met at this event last year, kept in touch over the past few months, and were excited to hang out again at such a special place, and enjoy it they did.
My favorite two guys from the event were two men from Chicago who were first-timers, winning a raffle at their local charity event off a $100 ticket. Figuring it would be a tough sell to the wives, they decided to fork over some money for another room and bring their significant others. Thank goodness they did. Without the ladies around I wouldn't have enjoyed a night of complete ribbing after the men told me they weren't in last place after day one. Turned out, the men without established handicaps had to be logged as zero handicaps, and had best-balled for a spiffy 113. Not in last place? That was true. They were in second to last, and were enjoying it as much as the people that had posted 64 that day.
I saw these same gentlemen the last day, and their main focus was returning in 2012. They didn't want to improve their standing in the two-man tournament, they just wanted to be here for a few more days, enjoying everything that comes with the charity event.
I had a few personal goals set out in my own golf game at Pebble. I wanted to break par until I quickly realized the airlines lost my golf swing. I wanted to birdie 18, which would have happened if not for a nearly plugged lie off the tee (I still hit 4-wood on the green, but after I chipped out from the plug ... another par). And all those little checkmarks are things you totally forget about after a couple of days at these golf courses.
It is amazing to me that professionals can compete at Pebble Beach during the U.S. Open. It just seems nearly impossible to me that someone could focus for 72 holes without letting all that cloud their minds. Standing on the 7th tee, the last thing I'm thinking is how close I want to hit it, I'm just hoping, for the first time, that the group in front of me take as long as possible so I can sit on the tee a little longer. It's golf+, really, and if you can slowly walk around those links for a few hours with a club in your hand and a smile on your face, life doesn't get much better (I guess it could if the end goal was a million dollar check and a really shiny trophy, but I regress).
I learned that Johnny Miller has 26 hole-in-ones over his career. I got to chat with Peter Jacobson about golf and life and even exchange some iTunes favorites (he is quite the music aficionado). But most of all, I got the experience again of going to an event that is focused on charity and gives a ton of money to a great cause. Who knows if I'll ever get back to Pebble Beach, but that's the last thing on my mind right now. I'm just happy for the cruises on 17-Mile, the great weather, the people and Lexus.
If you get a chance, look and see if there is a tournament in your area. I might just run into you next year.