Steve John is an outgoing guy with enough enthusiasm to propel a fleet of solar-powered golf carts. But the fourth-year CEO of Monterey Peninsula Foundation was in rare form Wednesday.
“We're calling it the quarterback quartet,” John bellowed within a nanosecond of being asked about NFL quarterbacks in the celebrity field of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which tees off Thursday. “It's something, isn't it?”
With the late addition Monday of Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, four current starting NFL quarterbacks are among the tournament's three dozen celebrity entrants.
Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers are also in the field.
Rodgers, playing in the AT&T Pro-Am for the third time, was in the mix Wednesday playing in the five-hole 3M Celebrity Challenge at Pebble Beach with comedian Ray Romano.
After the round, Rodgers didn't provide a detailed theory why quarterbacks made good golfers, but said:
“It's the competition and the challenge of trying to hit the ball on the club face. It's just the competition for me.”
Defending AT&T Pro-Am champion Brandt Snedeker agreed.
“I see a lot of quarterbacks later in their career playing a lot of golf,” Snedeker said. “So I guess it's a similar motion and they're used to competing and want to still compete. Those guys are all unbelievable competitors.
“I think you see that come through the most.”
The foursome of quarterbacks in the AT&T Pro-Am continues the enduring tradition of skilled NFL passers who have transitioned into golf, some with extreme skill.
The list begins with former 49er John Brodie, the Hall of Famer who played as a pro after his quarterback tenure in what was then called the Senior Tour.
For many years, golf publications have periodically published lists of the best athletes from other pro sports who are skilled golfers. Hockey players and quarterbacks are always prevalent.
Billy Joe Tolliver, Brett Favre, Steve Bartkowski, John Elway, Joe Theismann, Mark Rypien, Dan Marino, Terry Bradshaw and former AT&T regular Tony Romo are regularly cited.
Romo played in the AT&T last year with Jordan Spieth, then a 19-year-old debuting pro. The twosome was hopeful to play together this year, but Romo, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, had back surgery in late December.
When championship play begins Thursday, Rodgers, a 7-handicapper, will play in the group that includes pros Jerry Kelly and Rory Sabbatini and amateur Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms Shoes, beginning at 9:39 a.m. at Spyglass Hill.
Brady (8-handicap) will play with pros Ricky Barnes and James Driscoll and amateur Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots. They'll tee off at 8:22 at Spyglass Hill.
Smith (9 handicap) will play with pros Blake Adams and Brendon Todd and amateur Lucas Black, the actor who plays to a scratch, at 10:12 a.m., also at Spyglass Hill.
Manning (7-handicap) will play with pros Scott Langley and Greg Owen and amateur Harris Barton, the former San Francisco 49er, at 10:01 a.m. on the 10th hole at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
Despite Manning's late addition, John said the tournament has been negotiating to get the 16-year veteran quarterback at the tournament for months.
“It's really good for the event,” said John. “I can't give you any specific numbers, but there's definitely been a spike in interest. It's good for two reasons, TV ratings and charity, which is what it's all about.”
Manning, whose Denver Broncos lost to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in the Super Bowl, is playing one day after the Seahawks celebrated the game's traditional hometown parade.
“He (Manning) could have played even if the Broncos won,” said John. “It could have worked. But we keep pushing and working with a lot of people to get it done.”