Class of 2005Active: 1974 - 1992
9 Open Victories
Talk is cheap, but OB is priceless
When you walk onto the grounds of the Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach and tell them you are there to play golf with Steve Obradovich, the guys taking your clubs give you a discerning look.
Being friends with “OB” is a polarizing proposition. You’re not too sure who is exactly safe to tell such a thing. During his playing days he ranted and raved his way to a Hall of Fame level of glory. Nearly 25 years since his beach volleyball skills started to erode, the ranting and raving is still there. So is the charisma and generosity that made him so wildly popular among his friends. And the brashness that made his rivals view him with disdain. OB will never miss the opportunity to chide “Stokey” or “Sinjin” no matter who is in earshot. “Not so politically correct” should be pre-printed on all of his business cards as a mandatory disclaimer.
His career numbers are solid –– 11 open wins, including the monumental 1976 Manhattan Open with Chris Marlowe (when Jim Menges-Greg Lee’s 13 tournament winning streak ended) and the 1978 World Championship with Gary Hooper. Dax Holdren is the lone lefthander with more career victories.
But OB was more an off-court celebrity than anything, much like a Charles Barkley. If OB would not have beaten him to the quote, couldn’t you hear Barkley say he “was John McEnroe before McEnroe?”
Karch Kiraly calls OB one of the great characters of the game, a big southpaw with a huge heart and a heavy hammer. In his prime, OB had the heat that could drive a heavy Spalding right through a well-formed digging platform.
“He’s just a crack up on the court,” Kiraly once said. “He is relentless in terms of getting on and smack-talking his opponents, his teammates, himself. Nobody is sacred cow to him.”
Friends know that his competitiveness is only surpassed by his generosity. When he owned the famous Julie’s Restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, volleyball players had the same flexible bar tab as Norm on Cheers.
In 1987, Sports Illustrated did an article on beach volleyball and OB was the only player quoted. I still remember it. “Nobody knows where this sport is going, but one thing is for sure – we’re all going to die of skin cancer.”
At age 58 in 2013, OB is still going strong – supporting his wife Linda and four children (Paige, Piper, Prestin and Pete) through a successful career in title insurance. He still plays 4-man at the courts at Emerald Bay in Laguna Beach, but prefers the golf course where he flirts with a scratch handicap. He is one of the rare athletes who played both volleyball and football at USC. He passed on a volleyball scholarship so he could also play on the football team.
OB never lacked confidence, projected a familiar mantra among retired athletes. “In my prime I could be out there winning against these guys playing today,” he said.
He is probably right, but it doesn’t matter. Karch put it best: “We don’t have those type of personalities on the beach anymore.”
written by:: Jon Hastings