Bing Crosby won an Oscar for his portrayal of Father O’Malley in the 1944 movie “Going May Way.” More than a billion of his records, tapes, compact discs and digital downloads have been sold around the world, and his recording of the holiday favorite, “White Christmas,” is the best selling single of all time.
Yet with all those accomplishments in the entertainment field, according to his son Nathaniel Crosby, they are a distant second to his true passion, which was golf. Nathaniel, an accomplished golfer in his own right who won the 1981 U.S. Amateur, gives you an insight to his Dad’s penchant for the sport in a book he wrote with John Strege and published in 2016 — “18 Holes with Bing, Golf, Life, and Lessons from Dad.”
My daughter Krissy gave me a copy for Christmas, and I just completed it recently, and I would highly recommend it to you.
The AT&T Pro-Am, which Crosby started in 1937 as the Bing Crosby Pro-Am (The Crosby Clambake) is being played across three courses on the Monterey Peninsula this week. It started in Rancho Santa Fe, California, and remained there until 1942 and after World War II moved to Pebble Beach where it remains today. That tournament is one of the most significant events in the history of the PGA Tour as it is where Crosby created the pro-am format, which is a staple of every event on the pro circuit and a major source of charitable contributions.
Since the PGA pro-am format started, some $2 billion have been raised for charity.
Macon native Russell Henley has played in the AT&T Pro-Am twice, but he is not in the field this week. Even though he is taking the week off, he is very fond of the tournament and especially the courses where the tournament is played.
“Pebble is my favorite golf course. I always love playing in the event and getting to see guys like Bill Murray and Kid Rock play is pretty fun,” Henley said. “Monterey Peninsula is very underrated and is an amazing golf course, one of my favorites, as well. With the unique layouts and incredible views with sweater weather, it just doesn’t get much better for golf.”
Crosby adjusted his work schedule around golf and played whenever possible, and he was good on the links. His playing partners included Presidents, sports celebrities and movie stars, as well as caddies. He played in both the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur championships.
Crosby especially enjoyed playing in England, Ireland and Scotland. In fact, the Bing Crosby Trophy, a tournament he started in 1972, is still played at St. Andrews in Scotland. It is for St. Andrews members who are 60 years of age or older.
Crosby was very much involved in charity golf. There is a chapter in the Book about him and his “Road” movie co-star Bob Hope playing golf to benefit the American effort in World War II. Golf attracted crowds to watch Crosby and Hope, who sold war bonds to those in attendance.
You also learn from the book why the Crosby name was taken off the Pebble Beach tournament and why Nathaniel would like to get it restored.
Golf was not Crosby’s only foray into the sports world. He also bred horses and was part owner of the Del Mar racetrack in California, as well as a co-owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the now defunct California Seals NHL expansion hockey team. He attempted to buy the Boston Braves (now Atlanta Braves), but that idea was nixed by then-baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis because of Crosby’s ownership in the racetrack.
The book has some entertaining anecdotes about his involvement in sports ownership.
His wife Kathryn called him a golfer who sang. Fittingly Crosby died at the age of 74 in October of 1977 after playing a round of golf in Spain.
If you are a fan of golf and/or Crosby, this is a book you will enjoy.
Contact Bobby Pope at firstname.lastname@example.org