How the actor got his AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am partner
Thirty years ago, the odd couple of comedian-actor Bill Murray and PGA Tour pro Scott Simpson joined forces to become an unforgettable duo at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Simpson, who is in his second year as the men’s golf coach at the University of Hawaii, told Golf Week at the Sony Open in Hawaii the story of how their partnership came to be.
As Simpson tells it, Murray had played in the pro-am the previous year with promoter John Adams. Simpson remembers watching Murray’s antics with the gallery on TV and thought they were hilarious, but when Adams was asked: ‘What’s it like to play with the fun-loving Murray, he complained that he found it distracting and could not concentrate on his game.
“He said, ‘It’s really not much fun,’ or something like that,” Simpson recalled. “I went to the green and Peter Jacobsen who played with the actor Jack Lemmon for years is there and I said to him: ‘Peter, can you imagine John Adams saying it’s not fun?’ Playing with Bill Murray is the most fun you can have on the golf course.’ He says, “Scott, you have to play with him next year.” My caddy was Jim Mackay, Bones – he was waiting for me before Phil Mickelson. I taught him everything. He first waited for my partner, Larry Mize – and Bones said: “Tell him you want to play with Murray next year.” Actually, when Bones left me for Mickelson – which was great, you know. I was very happy for him to get this guy who is so talented and is going to do great things. He said, ‘But there’s one thing I want, one thing I’m going to ask you for, I want to caddy with your group next year with Bill Murray.’ Even though he worked for Phil, he worked for me at Pebble.”
Jacobsen and Mackay persuaded Simpson to write a letter to tournament officials requesting to play with Murray. On paper, it looked like a mismatch with Simpson, a regular at weekly Bible study meetings, considered too quiet for Murray’s on-course schtick. But two weeks before the tournament the following year, officials asked Simpson if he still wanted to play with Murray.
“Absolutely,” Simpson said. “Nobody wanted to play with him, and I just thought, you know what, I don’t care what I shoot. It’s going to be the best week in the world. I didn’t care. Because I get the front row seat. He would cut it into the people and the people would start clapping because they knew he was coming at them, and rightfully so.
“They had these ladies who would make cookies for all the AT&T executives. He would say, ‘Can I have one of those?’ Oh, sure, Mr. Murray. Next thing you know, he’s grabbing the whole bunch of them and he’s throwing them to the people in the gallery. Once at Spyglass, he went to a Ben & Jerry’s vendor’s cart and said the same thing: Can I have one of those? Oh, sure. Next thing you know, he’s throwing one to everyone in the gallery, ‘Hey, you look like a Cherry Garcia.’ He emptied it, and the guy who owned the Ben & Jerry’s thing out there, he’s shocked and he says, “Oh, my God, I wanted him to have one, but oh no, I’m going to lose money. ‘ Murray left him about $500. He just went over there and gave him like $500. Just stuff like that.”
Simpson had so much fun that first year that he signed up to play with Murray year after year.
“I said, ‘You can play with somebody else, you know. He said, ‘Oh no, we have to win it.’ He says: ‘We have two rules. We’re going to have the most fun and we’re going to win.’ We always accomplished at least one goal,” Simpson said.
Simpson and Murray, who played together 13 times between 1993 and 2007, finished as high as a tie for fourth in the pro-am division (2004) but never took home the hardware. (Simpson did win the 2006 First Tee Open on PGA Tour Champions with Murray as his partner.)
“He ended up winning with DA Points (in 2011), and he goes on the David Letterman Show, and Letterman says to him, ‘So, Bill, you won that golf tournament out there, huh?’ ‘Oh, yes, Dave. Great story.’ He says: ‘You know, my partner DA won the pro thing, but the big news was we won (the pro-am).’ Letterman says, ‘Haven’t you been playing with another guy for a long time?’ He says, ‘Yeah, Dave, I played with this guy called Scott Simpson for about 14 years. He brought me down, Dave. He brought me down. Then he looks at the camera: “And you know you did it,” Simpson recalled with a laugh. “It was so classic. “You know you have.” Jitze. Good fun.”
Photos: Check out the celebrities at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am View 28 photos