"They call me the pro emeritus—whatever the hell that is." This is Moon Mullins in a nutshell: a salty dog who loves the ocean, lives for golf and is revered at Half Moon Bay Golf Links, where he’s been a fixture for nearly thirty-five years.
Some people are born into the game. Not Mullins. Clyde Everett Mullins (his nickname, acquired in childhood, came from the popular comic strip) grew up near the Tennessee-Kentucky border, the son of a coal miner and the youngest of eight children. At age twenty, after two years of college, he enlisted in the Marines. He took up golf while stationed at Camp Pendleton near San Diego. Only a year later, he shot a sixty-eight in the All-Marine Golf Championship.
After the service, Mullins went home to Kentucky but stayed just two months before making what he calls "a U-turn for California." He found a job as a club pro, got married and started a family. In the early 1960s, he began playing events on the U.S. tour, but ultimately he chose the financial security of a head-pro job at a course in Indian Wells. It was the heyday of celebrity golf, and Mullins struck up friendships with Bob Hope and Jackie Gleason, among others. (Later, at Half Moon Bay, he became friends with Joe DiMaggio.)
Mullins moved to the coast in 1970 to work with Arnold Palmer on the opening of Half Moon Bay (forty minutes south of San Francisco and now a thirty-six-hole resort that includes a Ritz-Carlton hotel). He stayed on as the pro, and most days, when he’s not playing tennis or fishing, he can still be found there. No visit to the club is complete without a chat with Mullins, now seventy-five. To find him, poke your head into Mullins Bar & Grill, recently renamed in his honor, or check the putting green, where he often greets arriving golfers.
Half Moon Bay Golf Links, 2 Miramontes Point Road, Half Moon Bay, California; 650-726-1800, halfmoonbaygolf.com. For a playing lesson with Moon Mullins ($150 for nine holes), contact the club. To book a room at the Ritz-Carlton at Half Moon Bay, call 650-712-7000 or visit ritzcarlton.com.