If you’re into golf you know what a Pro-Am is.
The most notable Pro-Am in golf is the one staged at Pebble Beach every year.
In fact, the latest event was just held last weekend on the beautiful Carmel coast in Northern California.
If you watched it, the CBS cameras were focused mostly on Tony Romo, for obvious reasons.
For one thing, Romo, is a current sensation as an NFL expert-analyst on CBS. So why not constantly show him playing golf with his professional partner in the actual tournament, former U. S. Open champion Jim Furyk.
Another reason it was an easy call to highlight Tony Romo is because he is a more than a pretty decent golfer.
Perhaps the biggest moment of the Pro-Am came on Friday.
Romo had miss hit a shot that landed on the carpet of a hospitality tent, then recovered brilliantly with a shot that landed within two feet of the cup. He was able to convert for a birdie.
Carmel was hit with heavy rain and winds throughout the weekend, and the sight of Romo in a rain jacket, and a scull hat, with the water dripping off his face was worth the price of admission.
But the star of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am had to withdraw, departing early Saturday morning to attend the funeral of Wade Wilson, a former NFL veteran quarterback passed away at the age of 60. Wilson, who had a 17-year career as a coach and player, played for the Dallas Cowboys, and also served as their assistant coach.
He was a backup to Troy Aikman, and helped develop Romo, the quarterback during his 10-years with the Cowboys.
That’s the Pro-Am story, Pebble Beach version. But there’s another Pro-Am that was held the same weekend which was not nearly as celebrated.
For those in the dark concerning this event, a Pro-Am in golf is held for several days during the week of an actual tournament.
It pairs a touring professional with an invited guest, or a sponsor of a tournament, who in turns invites people to join him for a round of golf for a day with prizes to the winning group.
Pebble Beach is different, of course. There, the invited amateur, usually a corporate big-wig, or a highly prominent celebrity in the world of sports or show business gets the opportunity to play
with a professional during the actual tournament.
Pro-Ams are held every week during the PGA season.
They are also held prior to the seniors tournament, known as the Champions Tour.
The Champions Tour is made up of golfers who have had success, some major success, really, who have now turned 50.
For example, the likes of Fred Couples, Darren Clarke, Mark O’Meara, Rocco Mediate, Colin Montgomery, Brad Faxon, Iam Woosnam, Hal Sutton, and many other familiar faces, compete in the Champions Tour. So does John Daly, who is always a prime attraction.
The Champions Tour stopover last week was in Boca Raton, Florida. The three-day championship began last Friday.
I have been so very fortunate in being asked to play in the Pro-Am by a good friend, who has been the General Manager of a major car dealership, in fact, the largest in the world for that company, for several decades.
A word about what Pro-Ams are all about.
For those amateurs who play, it is about a day of golf, replete with refreshments etc, and a chance to play 18-holes with a true professional.
How the pro handles the day is purely up to the individual. He can do his prep work for the tournament, make note of the various features of the course with his caddy, and still engage the four other amateurs to make it an enjoyable day.
Or he can play his practice round, totally ignoring the other four after greeting them on the first tee, making for an unpleasant morning or afternoon for the sponsor and his guests.
You see both kinds.
What I saw, and experienced last week, will be etched in my memory for all-time.
The professional we played with in the Oasis Championship Pro-Am was Tom Kite.
That’s right, Tom Kite.
Tom Kite is 69 years old. He is a 5-foot 9-inch Texan who is in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
He won 19 times on the PGA Tour, capturing the U.S. Open in 1992, and was second or tied for second three times in the Masters.
Between 1989 and 1994, he spent 175 weeks in the top-10, and was the leading money winner on the Tour twice.
I have read of the fabulous exploits of Tom Kite for years. It includes stories with his teacher, the renowned Harvey Penick who took the golf world by storm with his book, “Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book.”
“The Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings from lifetime of Golf” was published in 1992. It was a priceless tome of golf opinions and stories.
Tom Kite’s golfing life also includes his relationship with icon Ben Hogan, who once called Kite, the toughest individual in the game.
Tom Kite, whose vision is so bad without glasses, is legally blind. In his prime, he was the master of consistency and grace, and studied the strategy of the courses he played, relying on smarts and psychology.
In a way, he’s been one-of-a-kind.
So I had the honor of playing a round with Tom Kite.
Tom Kite and Dick Stockton
To say the experience was special would be an understatement.
I always wondered how a professional golfer felt about having to spend a round playing with amateurs of understandably inferior talent. Some very inferior.
I would think it would be easy for any pro, particularly an older figure who had once achieved so much, not to have the patience to endure this kind of experience week after week.
But to Tom Kite, one of the all-time greats, it was rewarding to him. He told me that playing a round with others from different walks of life, who had achieved some measure of success, was refreshing.
He said he felt blessed that he had the kind of career he had without having to do difficult work, and was fortunate enough to be more than amiable to others who loved the game in which he excelled.
So, on this day, Kite was encouraging to all the other golfers in his group, complimenting them on a shot well hit, ready to offer advice when one of us struggled, which was often.
He helped read every putt for every one on every hole, even when it took many shots to get there.
He made us all feel good about ourselves, and love this complicated game even more.
His attitude made the day for us, so much that Jim Dunn, the man who brought us together, told him after the round, that it was the best experience he had over 20 years.
Kite shrugged it off. No surprise.
His humility and class, in my view, supersedes anything he’s achieved on the links.
I’m still telling people about that day.
To me, before the Pro-Am, Tom Kite was a renowned golfer with a rich history in the world of his sport.
Now, he is a delightful man I had the chance to learn about, who just happens to be a legendary golfer.