BOB WEST ON GOLF — VIDEO: Bill Murray helped make Stroud’s 40th unforgettable

Published 12:07 am Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Turning 40 on Feb. 3 was so much fun and so memorable for Chris Stroud, it’s doubtful he’ll be able to come up with a Groundhog Day-type replay at 50, 60 or any other significant aging milestone.

“I really don’t know if words can describe how wonderful it was,” the former PNG and Lamar golfing great said upon his return from Pebble Beach. “It was an epic week, a never-ending dream, just a complete wow. Besides me not winning the tournament, everything else was the best it could possibly be.”

Stroud’s everlasting memories include twice having Carl Spackler look alike Bill Murray sing “Happy Birthday to him on the golf course last Thursday, being serenaded by noted singer/songwriter Darius Rucker the night before at a dinner attended by 18 friends from Houston and spending quality time on the putting green with CBS’ Jim Nantz.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Watch Bill Murray sing Happy Birthday to Chris Stroud

Oh, yes, and as his comeback from two years of back woes heats up, playing well enough in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am to make the cut and finish T49. The extra present for him that money couldn’t buy was having no back issues, being pain free and feeling he’d turned a significant corner in a challenging comeback.

“I’m getting there,” he said. “I feel like my game is trending. “If I hadn’t made such a mess of the par 5s, I could have had a pretty high finish. I had four 6s on them for the week. I also had problems in the sand. But I’m getting closer. And the biggest thing was no body issues.”

Stroud knew it was going to be a special week when tournament director Steve John asked him several weeks earlier if he’d like to partner with Rucker in the pro-am portion of the event and be paired with his PGA Tour buddy D.A. Points and Murray. He couldn’t say yes fast enough.

To enhance his 40th birthday experience, Chris and wife Tiffany had invited 11 couples from their Houston-area neighborhood to spend time with them during Pebble Beach week. They rented two homes in Carmel, with Tiffany working long hours as program director for nightly outings.

Stroud knew the pairing with Murray would be a hoot since he’d twice been part of the same foursome before injuries put him on the sidelines. What he didn’t expect was that just before he struck his first tee shot of the tournament one of America’s greatest comedians would intervene.

The star of Caddyshack announced to one and all around the first tee at Monterey Peninsula Country Club that this was Stroud’s 40th birthday, then proceeded to lead a singing of “Happy Birthday.” He would do the same thing as Stroud was lining up an 8-foot par putt on the 18th green.

“I wasn’t expecting that, but I wasn’t surprised,” Stroud said. “It was so sweet of Bill to do that. The one thing it did was putt pressure on me to hit a good drive and make the putt. I may have hit my best drive of the week. It was down the middle about 340. And I made what was a tough, extremely fast downhill putt.”

Spending 54 holes with Murray, as Stroud knew from past experience, was something to savor and treasure. Chris is effusive in his praise for Murray the man, the entertainer and, yes, the golfer.

“He’s a special man,” Stroud asserts. “He’ll go down as one of the greatest legends I’ve met, along with Arnold Palmer and Bob Hope. Almost every hole he had something for people in the gallery. He loves life and loves to make people laugh. He is such a big deal for that tournament.

“In my opinion, they should call it the Bill Murray AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Sort of like it was back in the day when it was the Bing Crosby clambake and when Bob Hope’s name was attached to the tournament in Palm Springs. Why not? He is the reason so many people come out to watch.”

Murray’s antics included making a 6-foot putt while looking the other way on Saturday’s CBS portion of the telecast. By then, Stroud was used to seeing Dr. Venkman from Ghostbusters trying to detect spirits in the distance before sinking a putt.

“He probably did that three or four times every round,” Stroud said, “and almost always made it. He’s a pretty talented golfer, although he was struggling a little with his swing this week. He can get it out 275 yards off the tee when he catches it. He’s got great hands. He hit some flop shots that really amazed me.”

So, does Stroud have a top-five list of favorite Murray movies? You bet he does. Compare it with yours.

“I’ve got Groundhog Day No. 1,” he says. “Then it’s Caddyshack, Stripes, What About Bob and Kingpin.”

CHIP SHOTS: Port Neches-Groves ex Andrew Landry missed his fourth consecutive cut of the 2021-22 season at Pebble Beach, shooting rounds of 70-73-79. Landry is averaging 72.7 his last 10 PGA Tour rounds, while going below 70 only once. Despite the struggles, a pair of top 10s have him 65th in Fed Ex points.

More cold, rainy weather limited senior outings at Babe Zaharias to only two events. In the Monday Senior 50 Plus game, the team of Doug LeBlanc, Art Turner, John House, Butch Cross and Dwayne Benoit scored a sweep, winning the front in minus 3 and the back in plus 1.

Closest to the pin winners were Lee Bertrand (No. 7) and LeBlanc (No. 12).

The Feb. 2 DogFight at Zaharias was played in an all-points count format. Taking first with 23 points was the team of Mike Brown, Larry Johnson, Dillard Darbonne and Larry Foster. Second with 22 points was the foursome of Ron Carlin, Steve Wisenbaker, Dale Carter and Jeff Rinhart.

Closest to the pin winners were LeBlanc (No. 2), Gary Whitfill (No. 7), Carlin (No. 12) and Kenny Robbins (No. 15).

Golf news should be e-mailed to rdwest@usa.net.