- Let There Be Pebble: A Middle Handicapper’s Year in America’s Garden of Golf by Zachary M. Jack
In Let There Be Pebble, author Zachary Michael Jack is searching for the ultimate genesis of answers (“Let There Be Light”) and decides to take a professional leave in 2010 from his academic day job. His teaching colleagues think he’s lost his mind. To find specific answers to his questions, he embeds himself within the daily life of the world’s most famous public golf course, Pebble Beach, on the rocky shores of Carmel-by-the Sea, California. He admits to going through an early middle-age crisis and reveals that his dying father, a recovering alcoholic, is one of the main reasons he’s making the year-long pilgrimage to the sacred golfing mecca of Pebble. [End Page 548]
Jack is a passionate practitioner of the genre of “participatory sportswriting” and has edited two books featuring the genre’s founders, Paul Gallico and George Pilmpton, among many other fine sportswriters. A former sportswriter, Jack’s basic quest is “no mere nostalgia” but “a return to a place, a feeling, a word Pebble, that sounds like comfort and healing and mystery all at once” (p. 4). The first chapter, “Then God Created the Heavens and Earth, and Carmel-by-the-Sea, and God Said, “‘Let There Be Pebble’” tells us something about where we are headed.
A sort of golf spirituality reappears many times throughout this book, but essentially it’s about why some players seek a truly enchanting “mecca” experience at Pebble with all its beauty, challenge, and natural geological essence. Some of the great players Jack interviews reflect on the inviting nature of the course, and some of the disenchanted think the course is overrated. Jack swears he will not be a sportswriter-hack and vows to tell it like it is.
Conducting over a hundred interviews with the quirky, the famously talented, and the daily worker who supports Pebble’s annual golfing calendar, the average duffer plays a significant part in the story since they fork-up $500 for a round of eighteen. Sometimes, players are not happy when after two years of waiting, they show up to play on the day the greens have been plugged for periodic aeration maintenance. Some duffers are not pleased to be butchered by the wind and their poorly constructed golf swings on a breathtaking championship golf course. Jack portrays some of the poor golfers he sees play on the 18th fairway as “a series of anonymous hacks” who “scar the most dramatic finishing hole in golf” (p. 13).
A first glance at the beautiful photo on the cover of the book reveals the magnificent vista of Pebble beach golf course hole #6 which juts out into the Pacific Ocean. A closer look at the picture reveals a majestic-looking white seagull flying high into the blue sky, clearly carrying away someone’s golf ball. Even the seagulls have a part in this tale, especially when they dive down and steal a duffer’s $6 hotdog and hotel keys. Canine-dogs are very popular pets at Pebble’s location next to Carmel, so Jack reports why he is both “pissed” and “amused” to discover a Pebble blemish during his only $500 golf round: “a crusted over, totally inglorious piece of dog shit” (pp. 81–82).
The book has spurts of irreverent language that sometimes flows from a champion player’s mouth. Its origins may stem from the same source of irreverence demonstrated by Pebble’s most famous celebrity comic, Bill Murray, whose attendance at the annual Pro/Am regularly tends to embarrass Pebble’s officials with his rowdy behavior and comic oddities. One Pebble critic whom Jack interviews, Ray March, says Pebble has “lost its sense of humor” since the lighthearted days of the Pebble Bing Crosby Clambake. March believes, “There’s no sense of the absurd anymore. . . . Granted, Bill Murray has tried, God bless his...