FEATURE-Golf-Pebble Beach doors open again to duffers after U.S. Open
By Steve Keating
PEBBLE BEACH, CA., June 17 (Reuters) - For a week Pebble Beach Golf Links belonged to the world's best but on Monday the famous seaside layout on every golfer's bucket list was returned to the duffers and weekend warriors.
Scenic Pebble Beach, where the U.S. Open champion was crowned for a sixth time on Sunday, may be one of golf's iconic venues but remains a public course available to anyone willing to shell out $550 for a round and wait in line for a tee time.
With rugged Pacific coastline on one side and the lush cypress cedar-covered hillside dotted with mansions (one that went on the market for $78 million) on the other, Pebble Beach has the look, feel and price tag of a private club.
But if you have the money and time you too can add to the millions of stray golf balls that have found a home in Stillwater Cove.
Tiger Woods, a regular on the Forbes list of sport's highest earners, would have no problem getting a round in at Pebble but the 15-time major winner said that was not always the case.
"The first time I ever played it I played with Pops," said Woods, adding he thought he was eight or nine at the time. "And hard to believe that it was under a hundred bucks to play.
"So my dad made a vow that he would never, ever play a round of golf where you had to pay a hundred bucks or more.
"So luckily it was still under a hundred bucks then. And we got a chance to play Pebble Beach."
If Earl Woods was alive today and taking a young Tiger to Pebble Beach he would not get much change from $1,000.
For Sunday's final round of the U.S. Open won by Gary Woodland the only thing $100 would have got you was parking near the course.
The first professional tournament held at Pebble Beach had a $5,000 purse. Woodland banked $2.25 million for his triumph.
The Monterey peninsula is one of golf's most popular and expensive destinations.
There are eight golf courses at Pebble Beach, the most famous being Pebble Beach Golf Links but it also includes Spanish Bay, Spyglass and Poppy Hills -- all public.
Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Pebble Beach has grown from a single resort -- the Hotel Del Monte -- into one of the world's most prestigious zip codes.
While these iconic course are open to everyone, they are not entirely accessible to every golfer.
Golf on the Monterey peninsula remains vibrant but the industry as a whole has suffered as prices rise and interest drops, particularly at a youth level with more kids playing video game versions of the sport rather than the real thing.
Pebble Beach-based Youth On Course (YOC) has developed a programme to make the game accessible to children aged 6 to 18 by offering $5 rounds, including at some of the of world's most prestigious courses.
While Pebble Beach Golf Links is not one of the 1,200 courses stepping up to join the programme that now has over 50,0000 members, other properties that are part of the Pebble Beach Company portfolio are.
"Pebble Beach Company really stepped up we asked them to do this at Del Monte and Spanish Bay and they came back with a yes right away," Youth On Course (YOC) CEO Adam Heieck told Reuters. "At first it wasn't easy and now we are getting courses calling us.
"We worked with golf courses, management companies to subsidise the rates for the kids. We are talking non-revenue times, late in the day, weekday, and when we work with a golf course, we ask when do you have availability -- about 40% of our rounds are with a paying adult.
"It makes a nice business case for the golf course. This is a win-win for everyone."
(Editing by Ken Ferris)
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