FORE! Pebble Beach-bound

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The golfing adventure of a lifetime awaits three Brookhavenresidents. Mike Smith, Dr. Ray Montalvo and Dr. Braxter Irby willjoin David Coleman of Madison in the Cadillac Invitational GolfTournament at Pebble Beach, Calif., next weekend.

All proceeds go to the National Kidney Foundation. It’s a 4-day,scramble format, starting Friday, Jan. 13, and going throughMonday, Jan. 16. The Mississippi quartet qualified by winning theNKF’s state tournament at Annandale Golf Club in Madison lastsummer.

Coleman is the ace player in the quartet. “We ride him but wecan’t ride him all the time,” said Smith. According to tournamentrules, each player must use three of their own tee shots perround.

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Coleman has won the state am several times. He used to work forSmith’s insurance agency.

Smith recalled the last time his team won the state tournament,back in 2003. “We went out there and came in 19th out of a 110teams.”

Smith said the highlight was on No. 16, at Pebble Beach. “DavidColeman made an eagle. He knocked it in from 179 yards out.”

The teams face a challenging scramble format on the picturesqueMonterey peninsula. The tournament is played on four differentcourses: 18 holes each day at Pebble Beach, Spanish Bay, DelMonteand the most difficult course, The Bayonette, which is located onFort Ord, an old military base.

According to Smith, Bayonette is 7,500 yards in length and thesofter fairways during the winter months make it even moredifficult. “When you hit a drive this time of the year, it comesback about two inches after it lands. You get absolutely zeroroll.”

Smith said there are no special tee boxes for the amateurs.”They tell you when you get out there that every course will be setup as hard as they can make it. If you took one step backwards, youwould fall off the tee box.”

There are no easy holes. Smith said 12 of the 16 par-3 holes are215 yards or longer.

He gave an example, noting the No. 17 hole at Pebble Beach. “Onthe last (tournament) day when the pros are playing, their distancewas 167 yards. We played it from 227 yards.”

Asked about his teammates, Smith said, “Coleman is the horse whowe ride. Montalvo is good and Braxter is a good putter.”

Smith is the team captain. “I’m the strategy manager.”

Pebble Beach is world renown for its beauty. Everyday golfersare allowed to play the facility but the green fee is a prohibitive$450 for 18 holes. Most golfers agree, it’s still the mostbeautiful place in the world.

Smith said his team has a bargain travel plan. “We pay a packagedeal. It includes the green fees, gifts, a coat, a pair of shoesand a cocktail party each night.”

The Pebble Beach National Pro Am used to be recognized as theannual Bing Crosby Clambake when the singer was still alive. Theannual gathering place for celebrities saw the amateurs paired withprofessional golfers in the pro-am format.

Coleman is considered the ace or A player in the foursome. He’sa scratch golfer and a member of the Reunion Country Club inMadison.

Coleman said he was looking forward to the event. “We’ve gottenbetter each time we’ve gone out there. It’s highlycompetitive.”

The team was 38-under three years ago and settled for 19thplace. Coleman said the team would try to get a practice round atCypress Point on Jan. 12. “It’s like trying to get a round atAugusta (National),” home of the Masters.

Asked about his responsibility as team leader, Coleman laughed.”It’s kind of like carrying a piano.”

Coleman uses Titleist woods and irons. He also uses a ScottyCameron putter.

“My team is a lot of fun,” said Coleman. “We do a lot of jokingaround with one another. You have to watch out for Ray. He’s aprankster.”

In case of injury, Coleman has two physicians on his team.

Rain or shine, the quartet plans on having an enjoyableexperience.