The story of what could possibly go wrong at Pebble Beach during the AT&T Classic.
The year is 2003. My week begins with a flight to southern California to visit the TaylorMade facility and pick up some new equipment. My game was on life support and the staff at TaylorMade was kind enough to bring me out to try some new equipment to put in to play. Years before while playing a practice round with Payne Stewart, he offered me some veteran advice. “There will come a day when you decide to switch out some equipment. Make sure you don’t go all in and change out everything.” (i.e. ball, shoe, glove, clothes, irons, driver, bag etc.) Well, I might have forgotten his wise words. That January day in southern California, I switched out everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. I had been a PING player for over 16 years and had an incredible relationship with the staff and the company. But I was getting older and winning on TOUR is very important. PING was cutting staff and TaylorMade was kind enough to throw me a lifeline. The money was good, the equipment was great, but the player was off. We worked for three days on fine tuning my new equipment. On the third day we snuck off to play a round of golf at Shady Canyon Golf Club with Baseballer Mark McGuire. An early indication of problems on the horizon was the fact that Mark took me to the last hole and almost beat me that day.
I rent a car and drive up the scenic Pacific Coast highway (it’s arguably the most beautiful drive in the US from LA to Pebble). I arrive on Sunday and my brother Keith and my fiancée Elizabeth arrive on Tuesday. We enjoy a couple of non-pressure days before the tournament begins. The AT&T Classic has always been a tough tournament for me for some reason. 6 hour rounds, heavy air, rainy forecasts, not sure what it was. This year would prove to be no different. The Classic is a Pro-Am format and the pairings come out late Tuesday. I learn that I’m paired with Scott McNealy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems (and a 2 handicap) and Tom Siebel, founder of Siebel Systems. BTW, they are both billionaires so I’m informed there will be extra security following our group.
It’s early Thursday morning and everything is a go, except for my game. The round quickly turned on me when my putter started misbehaving. I was using a mallet putter which I had never used before. Started to try and attack more with my irons but that backfired as well. Then it filtered into my driver and at that point all hell broke loose. It was obvious that I did not dial in any of my new equipment, specifically the ball. Halfway through the back nine, I’m running towards a score in the 80’s. I asked the one question you never want to ask your amateur partner, “hey, I know I’m playing bad but how do you stand to par?” He kind of smiled at me and said we all have bad days. Then he said “I picked up on a couple of holes so it doesn’t officially count but you need to grind to beat me.” I shot 81.
Discouraged and exhausted, I head for the range. Scott comes out to check on me and invites me, Elizabeth and Keith to dinner at his house. I politely say no, not in the partying mood, but my brother and Elizabeth immediately object and say we will be there. They had seen enough of my bad golf and were ready for a good time. And, oh by the way, Scott lives on the 16th hole at Pebble. He told me earlier in the day how he acquired the house and it’s a great story in itself. Knock, knock, the door opens, it’s an older woman who immediately says to my wife, “your skin and face are so beautiful! I could sculpt that face.” I look at my brother and chuckle; the party appears to have started early. The woman was Scott’s mom. She was beyond nice but someone kept putting extra vodka in her TGIF Mudslides. So the evening begins. Scott quickly gives us a tour of the house which was the first time I had ever seen a “smart” home. He had one floor that had a huge computer server room. Every room was operated with a credit card key type device. It was very futuristic. They had a gym in the basement that was almost a complete basketball court. We stop at the bar and grab a cocktail then walk out on the back balcony to take in the view of Pebble and the Pacific Ocean. Scott’s next door neighbor was in his back yard. His name was Frank Quattrone, a banker who was under investigation for obstruction of justice and was currently under house arrest. Side note, FBI agent James Comey was the lead investigator. Imagine that. Scott then calls out to Frank as we are all standing there and says, “Hey Frank, you want to come over to the house and join us for dinner?” Frank gave him a one fingered salute and started laughing. Scott deadpans to us, “He’s under house arrest with an ankle bracelet. If he leaves, he gets shocked like a dog trying to get past the invisible fence.” Scott then demonstrates the shocking sound and shakes as if he is getting electrocuted. I was in tears.
On to dinner, new guests have arrived. It’s Mayo Shattuck, the CEO of Constellation Energy and his wife Molly. Mayo is also playing in the tournament. He had great day, his pro shot a 69 (can’t recall the pros name). We sit down for dinner and I’m finally starting to get over my round and enjoy the atmosphere. We have about 16 people at the dinner table when this little nugget flies out of Molly’s mouth. “Scott, heard your pro stunk it up today.” I’m sitting across the table and next to Scott, Elizabeth is to my left and my brother next to her. She follows that nugget up with “I heard you beat him.” Now I’m used to this type of beat down but my fiancée is not. My brother is trying desperately not to bust out laughing. Scott lets her continue while her husband Mayo is trying to crawl under the table. I say nothing. I look at Elizabeth and she is staring daggers into Molly’s face. (I’m crying as I type this, it was so real.) Mayo tries to interrupt Molly and get her off the subject when Scott grabs my arm and says, “Molly, have you met my pro Kelly Gibson? He shot 81 today.” It was so awkward; dinner could not end fast enough. Fast forward one year later. Elizabeth and I are newlyweds, got married December 20, 2003. After three bachelor parties, one wedding, 2 weeks in Europe and LSU’s national championship game in NOLA, I show up to Pebble Beach 20lbs heavier than my fighting weight. I always knew getting married was a license to lose your hair and get fat. I didn’t know it would also cause problems on the golf course. There had been a little bit of debate on whether or not I should wear my wedding ring when I played. I practiced with it on the first few days leading up to the tournament and everything seemed fine. First round, Thursday morning, #10 tee at Poppy Hills, 8am. The temperature had dropped significantly overnight; my hands were freezing so they shrunk a little bit. The ring was now moving up and down my finger as I was preparing to hit my tee shot. On my backswing, the ring moves and I flinch. Pull duck hook into the left woods. I’m flustered. I walk to my ball and have an unplayable lie. In fact I can’t even take a drop. I decide to get in there and swing as hard as I can with the hope of moving my ball to a place where I can actually make contact with my third shot. I take a violent swing and it moves two feet. My hands were no longer cold and neither was my head. I punched my third shot out and I’m still 230 yards out over water. Now, my new bride has been watching all this from across the fairway, there is a small gallery of people with her, maybe 10ish. She’s getting anxious because she can see how bad my situation is but it’s about to get worse. After punching out my third shot, I beeline it across the fairway straight to my wife who was standing quietly with the gallery. I rip off the ring and say “take this bleep, bleep, bleeping ring and hang it from your necklace. I’m never wearing it again.” Elizabeth just takes the ring and says nothing. It was not my proudest moment. But hey, at least I knew I had a keeper. She understood immediately and never gave me grief about it back then. Now mind you, she gives me grief about it now, but not then, LOL. I did apologize after my opening 7 on the first hole. She just smiled at me and said “get it going.” She is an angel. #stillmarriedafteralltheseyears #aplaceinheavenwaitingforher