First Tee Jitters: Playing in a Pro-Am with Scott McCarron at Monterey Peninsula CC
Scott McCarron shared some post round wisdom with our group
Scott McCarron shared some post round wisdom with our group

It was my first-ever pro-am, and Monterey Peninsula Country Club was the venue. I figured those were two pretty good reasons to arrive two hours early.

As I pulled into a choice space in the parking lot near the range (ahem, practice area) I realized that not many of the other amateurs had arrived yet. They were probably busy checking into the office and tidying up for a day on the course. But the Champions Tour pros were already gathering - exchanging pleasantries and warming up. 

The golf course, after all, is their office. 

I didn’t bother anyone, I just set my bag up and started to do the same thing. That is, until lunch was served. I never saw a buffet line I wanted to be at the end of, so I lined up first and made up a fancy plate, telling myself to go easy before the big day. The fare was gourmet - you would expect nothing less from one of the nicest country clubs in the world. 

As I glanced up from carefully guarding my plate against an embarrassing spill, I realized several pros had stopped practicing and followed me. You know, it's the thing where nobody wants to be first. I guess I broke the ice. I grabbed an empty table and saw the always-interesting Woody Austin pondering where to plunk himself down.

“Hi Woody,” I said as he caught my glance. “Want to join me?” 

It was a touristy move, no doubt, but at least I didn't ask for a selfie.

And it worked like a charm. Fred Funk followed, and Tim Petrovic right after him. And before I had even hit my first shot of the day at the Legends & Leaders Pro-Am, I was having the kind of lunch you might bid on in a charity golf auction.

Dicky Pride and "Short Game Chef"
Parker McLachlin gave a pre-round clinic

Woody Austin was quieter than I thought, especially for a guy who once famously whacked himself so hard after a missed short putt that he had to bend his putter back into shape. Fred Funk was more outgoing than I remembered, while Tim Petrovic and I shared a Connecticut and Massachusetts background as he played for the University of Hartford. 

All of them asked who I was playing with, and I realized I hadn't even thought about who our pro would be. Like any shotgun, I was just worried about what hole I was on and where my clubs were. But after lunch, I looked at the pairings, and my group included two California guys, an avid golfer from Dallas, and our pro Scott McCarron (who grew up in California). 



After 50 years of playing golf, I was finally getting my chance to play in my first Pro-Am at the Pure Insurance Championship. I’ve been around plenty of PGA Tour players and even had more than one stay at my house during tournaments in San Diego. I caddied for Harris English the Wednesday before the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, and played casual golf with Paul Goydos and Matt Bettencourt.

But a pro-am? No matter how small it might be for the pros, it’s a tournament to me. And that means all the regular nerves that go along with it. 

It went way better than I expected! I thought I would be nervous as a cat, but our pro Scott McCarron, and the low-handicap amateurs in my group were very easy to play with. Once my first drive found the club face (and fairway) I just focused on hitting fairways and greens, and got in a pretty nice groove.

It was a dream group. And we were all playing from the black tees so the flow of play went really well. McCarron was hitting it about 30 to 40 yards by our best on every drive. He still compresses the ball – it comes off with the sound and velocity of someone on the regular tour. 

He shared some good stories with us throughout the round and told us we were the easiest Pro-Am group he's ever played with – which we all probably figured he says to everybody. 

My golf thought for the day was to pick up anytime my score didn't matter, which in a Pro-Am is anything over par. That doesn't mean you can't try to chip in for birdie or hit a bunker shot. It just means that once you've taken one swipe at it, you just get out of the way.

But nobody really wants to pick up, so I decided to play for the safe part of the fairway and the fattest part of the green on my approach shots. Once I got into that mentality, I was hitting better iron shots. I hit 12 greens in regulation, drove a short par four, hit a par five in two, and recorded a couple of birdies for the team. Our net score wasn't competitive, but so what? 

We had a blast, and I finally got a chance to have my "Bogey Man" moment. (If you don't get the reference, here's a link to one of my favorite golf books ever.)


Now let me take a moment to evaluate the overall value of doing something like this given the $5,000 per player expense – which is much lower than the cost of a PGA Tour pro-am I might add.

An easy way to look at it is if there was an auction for a round of golf at Monterey Peninsula CC with Scott McCarron, what would that be worth to you? It would likely go for at least $5000 if not more.

There are far worse places to spend a day
But add to that the chance to meet other players, attend a really cool dinner, and most importantly that the funds were benefiting the First Tee and you see that putting a price tag on it is not so important. It's a bucket list item and the perfect gift for a birthday or special accomplishment for a male or female golfer.

At this event, the Monterey Peninsula Foundation does it right. They didn't put too many groups on the course – it felt like we were alone out there at times – and we never waited to play a shot. The round took less than four hours. The tee prize package was amazing with a combo pack of Blue Tees laser rangefinder and Bluetooth speaker, a dozen Callaway Golf balls, and a really cool Melin hat among the goodies. 

Several times during the round (because we were in no hurry) we all just stopped and chatted by the carts. And at the end of the round we did that for five or 10 minutes, and Scott showed us pictures of his house on a lake in North Carolina and handed us all business cards. 

Of course, he's on the road so he doesn't have to worry about us knocking on his door anytime soon, but the fact that he would do that, including what is likely his actual real phone number was pretty cool. 


The Champions Tour competition featuring juniors from the First Tee program playing alongside pros during the real tournament (and these kids don’t even look nervous) was set to tee off at Pebble Beach at Spyglass Friday through Sunday, so we headed over to Pebble for a viewing party a motivational round table chat that included Christie Kerr, Peter Jacobsen, and more. 

They talked about the core values of the First Tee, and we got to mingle with some of the young junior players participating in the event.

If you're interested in a Pro-Am, I would look no further than this event for next September – and if you can't attend this one, I would suggest a Champions Tour or an LPGA Pro-Am over the PGA Tour, which is more expensive, difficult to get into and not quite as relaxed. 


ABOUT THE Legends & Leaders Pro-Am

Pro-Am preceding the PURE Insurance Championship. Each group will be made up of three amateurs and one PGA TOUR Champions professional in a one net and one gross best ball competition. Proceeds benefit Monterey Peninsula Foundation and The First Tee of Monterey County.

Each pro-am participant is invited to bring a guest to the Legends & Leaders Evening which includes strolling coastal cuisine and boutique Napa Valley wine tasting culminating with a speaker program. The program will feature notables from the business and entertainment world highlighting The First Tee Core Values.

Past notable speakers include: Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson III, Bill Murray, Leon Panetta, Lindsey Vonn, Herm Edwards, Johnny Miller, Joe Louis Barrow Jr., Capt. Sully Sullenberger, Heidi Ueberroth, Peter Ueberroth, and Alfonso Ribeiro.

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