Playing in the Clambake
A few weeks ago, you were introduced to Dave “Iron Byron” Wells, from Memphis, Tennessee. Dave is the guy who has shot his age more times than Taylor-Made has introduced a new driver.
Not only has he shot his age 75 times (and counting), he has the distinct privilege of having played in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. The Clambake.
Since this is the week of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, it’s fitting to hear about playing in the tournament from someone who has.
SHOOTING YOUR AGE: IT’S ONE OF THE TOUGHEST TOURNAMENTS FOR AN AMATEUR TO GET A SLOT- HOW DID YOU GET AN INVITATION?
Dave Wells: I worked as a sales executive for Schering-Plough, Inc., and one of the product lines- Coppertone Suntan products- was endorsed by the PGA. Back in the 1980’s, there was an Annual Corporate Executive Open at TPC Sawgrass in April. The Low Gross Champion was given a spot in the following year’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am. In 1989 I was fortunate enough to win, and therefore play in the 1990 Pro-Am.
SYA: YOU MENTIONED YOU KNEW R.J. HARPER, WHO RECENTLY PASSED AWAY. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?
DW: R.J. was originally from Memphis and played football at Southwestern College- now Rhodes College. So, when I arrived for the 1990 AT&T Pro-Am I looked him up. His first comment to me was, “We don’t get many Memphis golfers at Pebble Beach!” That was the beginning of our friendship. My wife and I spent many anniversaries at Pebble Beach and R.J. and I have exchanged many emails and greetings through the years. As your enclosed article shows (SYA had sent a copy of Alan Shipnuck’s excellent article in case Dave hadn’t seen it), he is and always will be “Mr. Pebble Beach.”
SYA: SO LET’S TALK ABOUT PARTICULARS- WHO DID YOU PLAY WITH; WHO WAS IN YOUR FOURSOME?
DW: My pro was Neal Lancaster, who was a PGA rookie that year. The other twosome was Robert Meyer, a pro from California, and Chip Weil, the publisher of Time Magazine.
Part of the experience is the three practice rounds we got to play. In those days, the courses were Pebble Beach, Cypress Point and Spyglass. I played Pebble Beach on Monday and was joined by the Waterford Crystal CEO. On Wednesday, I played Spyglass with John Inman, a Professional now on the Tour Champions His biggest worry was being able to identify is amateur playing partner- “Robin” of Batman and Robin fame.
SYA: TUESDAY WAS THE MOST MEMORABLE OF THE PRACTICE ROUNDS. WHY WAS THAT?
DW: The Cypress Point pro sent me to the first tee, and I was paired with Jeff Hart. I didn’t know Jeff, and asked him what he did for a living. He immediately said, “I’m on the PGA Tour!” So I started that round slightly embarrassed. As I was getting ready to tee off, I heard a voice from behind saying, “May I join you please?” I straightened up and turned around to see Sandy Lyle! Slightly more excited than before, I re-addressed my ball, and heard another voice, “Mind if I make it a foursome?” So I straightened up again and turned around again as Tom Kite and his caddie were walking up.
And so away we went. Three pros- two of them major championship winners- and me.
My wife Nancy was the only gallery, and when it started to rain on the 4th hole, she pulled out a Coppertone umbrella, and Tom Kite started laughing and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Coppertone umbrella on a golf course!” Tom’s good-natured dig caused us all to laugh, which set the tone for a light-hearted and enjoyable round. An example was on the 8th hole, a dogleg where the landing area is between a large trap and the ocean. After I hit, Tom said, “Dave, your drive is either dead, or dead perfect!” Thankfully, it was the latter.
As we walked down number 9, my caddie waved to a fellow caddie in the adjoining fairway, and Jack Lemmon waved back. It was that kind of a day- fun, low-key, and lots of hello’s and handshakes as we ran across fellow golfers.
One serious moment stood out- as we waited to hit our tee shots on the iconic sixteenth Par-3, Sandy Lyle was looking out over the ocean as the rain had become a steady drizzle, and I asked him, “Does this remind you of Scotland?” His response was, “It’s never this nice in Scotland.” He said it so seriously, I think he was serious!
SYA: SO NOW IT’S TOURNAMENT TIME. TALK ABOUT HOW YOU PLAYED AND HOW YOU
AND NEAL FARED
DW: We teed off on #10 on a beautiful Thursday morning, along with Robert Meyer and Chip Weil. In those days, the pros and amateurs hit from the same tees. Neal and I finished our three rounds together at -9, which is a solid score, but didn’t make the cut at -14 for the final round.
SYA: DID YOU MEET OR SEE ANYONE WORTH MENTIONING? BESIDES WHO YOU’VE ALREADY MENTIONED?
DW: Sure- I ran into Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, Jack Lemmon, James Garner, Robert Wagner, and “Dr. J” Julius Erving (Dave and Julius became and are still good friends as he explains HERE).
It was an amazing experience, and always is every time I get back to Pebble Beach. I understand why Jack Nicklaus said, “If I only had one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach.”
Shooting Your Age thanks Dave for the memories, and hopes this puts the reader in the right frame of mind for the upcoming AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am- arguably the most iconic regular season event on the PGA Tour each year.
Until next week, thanks for reading, and Enjoy Shooting Your Age!