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|| News Item: Posted 2000-05-30

Pebble Beach Preview
By Eric Risberg, The Associated Press

Photo by Lance Iversen/SF Chronicle

Photo by Lance Iversen/SF Chronicle
Pebble Beach. The name says it all. It is right up there with St. Andrews and Augusta as one of the three most revered golf courses in the world. And it's the site of this year's 100thU.S. Open, which Pebble Beach partner/owner Arnold Palmer promises will be the best one ever held.

Having covered the past 10 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Ams, a U.S. Open in '92, and the '99 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach, I have seen just about every kind of weather and finish imaginable: fog and rain delays, cancellations and six-month postponed finishes, and Tiger Woods coming from seven strokes back to win this year's AT&T. But in April, I was able to do something at Pebble Beach I had never done there before.

Instead of schlepping long lenses and camera bodies, wearing a sweaty fanny pack around my waist and pads on my knees, I loaded a set of clubs into a cart, slipped on some golf shoes and played a round of golf with fellow photographers Lance Iversen of the San Francisco Chronicle, John Mummert of the U.S.G.A., and Gary Newkirk, golf freelancer extraordinaire. Fortunately, we didn't each have to part with $300, since we took part in media day -- a true once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially when green fees are supposed to rise over $500 per round after the U.S. Open.

While I thought I had seen most everything at Pebble Beach, I saw things from the perspective of a player that I had never seen there before as a photographer. One of the biggest things I noticed is that the fairways, and especially the greens, are a whole lot smaller when you are a player. As a photographer, they seem huge - so much so that it feels like you are walking along forever and that the lens you are carrying is just never long enough to see the player on the other side of the fairway.

Photo by Some Guy Wondering the Course

Photo by Some Guy Wondering the Course
And then there are the greens. Once you got the ball on them, it was at times like putting on a waxed surfboard. The slightest touch could send the ball rolling twenty feet past the cup. But what was truly spectacular was walking along the ocean holes from No. 4 down to No. 10. I don't think I have ever been able to look out and enjoy the awesome Pebble Beach scenery as much as I did while I was playing. From standing at the seventh tee and hearing the loud sounds of seals barking on the beach below to looking at huge, fortress-like houses that I never knew existed before onthe 11th and 12th holes, it was a truly unforgettable experience.

What can photographers expect at this year's U.S. Open, which runs from June 15-18? For one thing, you can expect a lot more people than in '92. That year, 25,000 tickets were sold; this year, 32,500 daily tickets already have been issued. One place you'll notice a lot of people is at the massive merchandising tent being constructed on top of the par-3 Peter Hay golf course across from the Pebble Beach pro shop. But you probably won't see the customary bottleneck at what used to be the fifth hole: In '92, the media filing center was fairly centrally located near the fourth hole, but this year, the media center will be located near the driving range/equestrian center -- about a 15-minute walk to No. 18 and about a 50-minute walk to No. 10.

Many would think that the weather will be warm this time of year, but photographers should bring a pullover, golf windbreaker, or fleece top. The mornings at Pebble Beach this time of year can be very foggy, damp, and cold. Sometimes the fog lingers throughout the day.

Photo by
A couple of picture prospects will be the new fifth hole, which now runs along the ocean and Payne's Place. Payne's Place will be a restaurant set up near the merchandising tent, and there will be a large signboard(s) where fans can write messages to the family of defending champion Payne Stewart, who was killed in a plane crash last year.

The U.S.G.A. media hotels will be located in Monterey at either the Marriott or Doubletree located near Fisherman's Wharf. Shuttles will be running regularly from the hotels to the media center. Recommended restaurants located within walking distance of these hotels include Café Fina and Domenicos on Fisherman's Wharf. The pasta with smoked salmon at Café Fina is quite good. In downtown Monterey, Montrio, located in an old firehouse, has received numerous rave reviews. In nearby Pacific Grove, I have also enjoyed Favolares on Lighthouse Ave. and Peppers, known for its Mexican food and fish tacos.

For those with some time after the tournament who want to play some affordable golf, I strongly recommend the Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course. The back nine overlooks the ocean, has a lighthouse situated in the middle of it, and features a 600-plus yard par five 12th hole that rivals some of the best holes at Pebble Beach.

Keep your head down and hit 'em straight. Look forward to seeing some of you there.

(Eric Risberg is a staff photographer with the Associated Press based in San Francisco.)

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