Baseball's World Series of Golf offers 'pinch-me' moments

Established in 1991, the annual event merges baseball, iconic Monterey Peninsula golf courses, friends and family, and fun into a memorable week

Mickey Mahler remembers the moment well. He played eight seasons in the major leagues, including three with Atlanta. On one afternoon in 1978, he was slated to start the second game of a doubleheader for the Braves, which made him a spectator for the first game.

Rather than sit in the dugout at Fulton County Stadium, he stayed in street clothes and watched the game from a remote area of the stands. Sitting in the cheap seats nearby were a group of kids, and the personable Mahler struck up a conversation, asking about their favorite players. 

"So I asked them, 'What do you think of Mickey Mahler?'' the left-hander recalls.

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On a pitching staff led by Phil Niekro, Mahler wasn’t a household name. He would have his headlines, including a one-hit shutout of the San Francisco Giants in 1985, but he was hardly well known. Some of the kids didn’t recognize the name at all, others scratched their heads.

Mahler interceded: "Well, it just so happens that I’m Mickey Mahler, and I’m starting the next game for the Braves."

The young audience responded with guffaws, followed by a chorus of "Yeah right!"

"You don’t believe me?" Mahler asked. "Well, I’ll make you a deal. When I go to the mound to start the next game, I’ll stop, look your way, take my hat off and wipe my brow — and then you’ll know it’s me."

Pebble Beach Golf Links is one of three courses used in the annual Baseball's World Series Golf, along with Spyglass Hill Golf Course and The Links at Spanish Bay.

Another chorus of "yeah right" rang out. Soon after, Mahler departed.

When the second game was about to begin, Mahler took the mound. Sure to his word, turned toward the section where the kids watched, removed his cap and wiped his brow. The excited kids jumped up and down and waved back.

It was a "pinch-me" moment.

"You should have seen their faces," Mahler recalls with a laugh. "They couldn’t believe it."

Mahler, 71, is 36 years removed from his last professional pitch. But he remembers the incident like it was yesterday because each year, he takes part in his own surreal moment. 

He goes to California's Monterey Peninsula, checks in with cohorts and friends at the Inn at Spanish Bay. He plays four rounds of golf covering Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course and the Links at Spanish Bay. He immerses himself in five days of companionship, competition in one of the planet’s most breath-taking settings.

He participates in Baseball’s World Series of Golf and has his own pinch-me experience. He’s a little kid again, in disbelief.

"The course I play at home, plays at about 6,700 yards, I play from the back and I shoot around even-par," says Mahler, who lives in Salt Lake City. "But that course is a lot easier than Pebble Beach, or Spyglass, or Spanish Bay. 

"So when I go out to those courses, I am more likely to shoot in the 80s or even 90s. But that doesn’t deter from it one bit. I mean, hey, I’m still at Pebble Beach. Who really cares what I shoot? It’s just an incredible place to be."

Mahler’s younger brother Rick Mahler, who won 96 MLB games, was one of the event’s founders. Rick, who died of a heart attack at age 51 in 2005, was playing golf with a teammate Tom Browning and Jamie Warren, president of Creative Events Inc. in Carmel, California, when they came upon the tournament concept.

Initially, the idea was to attract two players from each major league team to participate in a friendly competition on the iconic golf courses. Over the years the event has evolved, as current and former major league players are encouraged to form their own groups.

As this year marks the 31st running of the event, the expanded field of 30 foursomes might include friends, family or business associates … all eager for the spectacular golf and intoxicating experience. 

Arrival day is Tuesday, Nov. 28, while departure is Sunday, Dec. 3. In between is a championship tournament atmosphere, welcome gifts and prizes, four rounds of golf, Gross and Net divisions, modified Stableford scoring, afternoon shootouts, putting contests, friendly wagers, memorable dinners, closing ceremonies and more fun than a barrel of baseball players. 

The registration price ranges from $6,000 to $7,800, depending on occupancy. The life-long memories are priceless.

Boone, Sexson, Bledsoe, Stoltz
Bret Boone, left, has been a regular of the event since 1994. In 2022, he teamed with former Seattle Mariner Richie Sexson, former New England Patriot Drew Bledsoe and Mark Stoltz.

Bret Boone, whose baseball career included 14 MLB seasons and three All-Star Games, has played in the BWSG since 1994. "The first time I got invited it was like, 'Oh, Pebble Beach, never been there before,' and I love to play golf so I went," says Boone, who led the American League in RBIs in 2001.

"And then I went there, and it’s just my absolutely favorite place to play golf. On top of that, the tournament they put on is great. It is all organized for us and is run like a first-class event. You show up and you turn your card in, and there are bets going on, and different games and team events.

"I just thought, 'Well yeah, you could save a few bucks doing it yourself with your own group.' But with this event, you have access to Pebble Beach and those incredible courses for several days. You do a lot of things you can’t do by just making a phone call. So, it’s really a unique deal, really special."

Over the years, Boone’s annual foursome has changed here and there. But it normally includes a childhood friend, as well as Richie Sexson, a former Seattle Mariners teammate. And Sexson, who hit 306 home runs over 12 MLB seasons, usually brings his father.

"I look forward to it each year," adds Boone, a 5-handicap. "It’s just a cool thing. I’ve had the same room at the Inn since ’94. 

"You know how you just have stuff in your life that you really look forward to - and that’s what this is. I start getting excited and revving up a month in advance. I’ll call Richie and tell him, 'Now tell dad not to screw up this year.'" 

Mickey Mahler has been an annual BWSG participant for more than 20 years. Because, as he puts it with a laugh, "Why wouldn’t you if you could?" 

Mahler did not become independently wealthy playing baseball. His first season in the big leagues, he made $23,000. In 1986, his final MLB season, Boston outfielder Jim Rice owned baseball’s top salary at $1.9 million. A nondescript relief pitcher at that point, Mahler’s check wasn’t even in the ballpark.

"So, I can appreciate it’s not cheap," Mahler says of the event. "But for that experience, once a year, it is more than well worth it. I mean, I always tell people about going, ‘If you can only imagine how much fun you’re going to have — and then imagine it’s going to be twice that much.’

"And afterward, every guy that goes says, 'That was better than I could have ever imagined.’ And it is, it really is."

In short, the BWSG at Pebble Beach is kind of like being a kid in the stands at a Sunday doubleheader, and discovering a starting pitcher sitting next to you.

It’s a pinch-me moment.