Thirty years ago, the odd couple of comedian 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 a men’s golf coach at the University of Hawaii, called into Golfweek at the Sony Open in Hawaii the story of how their partnership paid off.
As Simpson tells it, Murray had played the previous year in the pro with professional John Adams. Simpson recalls watching on TV Murray’s antics with the gallery and thinking they were hilarious, but when Adams was asked, ‘How is it to play with the fun-loving Murray,’ he complained that he found it distracting and was unable to focus on his image. Game.
“He said, ‘It’s not really fun,’” Simpson recalled, “or something.” I went to the golf courses afterward and Peter Jacobsen who had played for years with actor Jack Lemmon, is there and I said to him, “Peter, can you imagine John Adams saying That’s not fun? That’s the most fun you can have on the golf course, playing with Bill Murray. He said, “Scott, you have to play with him next year.” My caddy was Jim McKay, Bones – he bagged me before Phil Mickelson. I taught him everything. He bagged my buddy Larry Meese first – and Bones said, ‘Tell him you want to play for Murray next year.’ Actually, when Bones left me for Mickelson – that was cool, you know. I was really glad he got On this very talented guy who’s going to do great things. He says, “But there’s one thing I want, one thing I’m going to ask you, I want to come with your group with Bill Murray next year.” Even though he was working for Phil, he was working from See me at Pebble.”
Jacobsen and Mackay talked Simpson into writing a letter to tournament officials demanding that he play Murray. On paper, it seemed like a mismatch with Simpson, a regular at weekly Bible study meetings, who’s too demure for a Murray schtick on the course. But two weeks before the tournament the following year, officials asked Simpson if he still wanted to play for Murray.
“Absolutely,” Simpson said. “Nobody wanted to play with him, and I just thought, You know what, I don’t care what I’m filming. This is going to be the most fun week in the world. I didn’t care. Because I got a front row seat. He’d cut it to people and people would start clapping because they knew it was him.” He will come to them, and rightly so.
They had these ladies making cookies for all the executives at AT&T. He’d go, ‘Can I have one of those?’ Oh, sure, Mr. Murray. Next thing you know he’s grabbing a whole bunch of them and throwing them to the people on the show. Once upon a time at Spyglass, he goes to the Ben & Jerry’s vendor cart and same thing: Can I have one of those? Of course. Next thing you know he tosses one to everyone at the fair and goes, “Hey, you look like Cherry Garcia.” Who owned the Ben & Jerry’s thing there, he was in shock and said, “Oh, my God, I wanted him to have one, but oh, no, I’m going to lose money.” Murray left him like $500. He just went over there and gave him $500. Just things like that.”
Simpson had so much fun that first year that he continued to sign up to play with Murray year after year.
“I said, ‘You can play with someone else, you know.'” He said, “Oh, no, we have to win it.” He says: We have two rules. We’ll have the most fun and we’ll win. “We’ve always achieved at least one goal,” Simpson said.
Simpson and Murray, who played together 13 times between 1993 and 2007, finished tied for fourth in the pro-am division (2004), but never regained the hardware. (Simpson won the 2006 PGA Tour Champions First Tee Open with Murray as his partner.)
He finally won DA points (in 2011), went on David Letterman’s show, and Letterman went to him, ‘So, Bill, you won the golf tournament there, right?’ “Oh, yes, Dave. Big deal. He says, “You know, my DA partner won the pro, but the big news is we (the pro) won.” Letterman says, “Didn’t you play with another guy a long time?” He says, “Yeah, Dave, I played with this guy named Scott Simpson for about 14 years.” He put me down, Dave. He put me down. Then he looks into the camera, “And you know you did,” Simpson recalls with a laugh. That was so classic. ‘You know you did’. Geez. Good fun.”