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AT&T shows that greed has its limits

At this weekend AT&T Pro-Am golf tournament, cell phones were banned. However, the rich still tried to make some money out of visitors.

How often does a sponsoring company try and ban its own products? Perhaps not as often as it should.

I was persuaded on Saturday to visit the AT&T National Pro-Am golf tournament at Pebble Beach. It didn't take much. Just the offer of a free ticket and the company of the dissolute and deranged.

(For those of you not familiar with this tournament, professional golfers agree to tolerate amateur players like George Lopez, Andy Garcia and Bill Murray for days that seem to turn into weeks. Much of the money goes to charity.)

As I got out of the car in the parking lot, I read the small print on the ticket. I noticed that despite AT&T's sponsorship of the event, cell phones were banned from the course. Which seemed curiously enlightened.

It isn't exactly always that a brand will acknowledge that there are certain places where its products might be as welcome as a cockroach on Top Chef.

And if you'd seen Phil Mickelson's stunningly bored expression by the time he'd reached the 17th tee (playing with amateurs take a long, long time. Even when they're decent golfers like Justin Timberlake), you could only imagine how amused he might have been if a Jonas Brothers ringtone had disrupted his swing.

AT&T's understanding that perhaps you can't always ram your hands into people's trousers in an attempt to separate their last cent from their pocket lint (yes, I am trying to ignore their outrageous international roaming rates here) contrasted rather prettily with the attitude of some of the Pebble Beach residents.

This was taken in 2006. This year, Mr. Murray's hat was far, far sillier. Cc Jurvetson

Here are people who may, indeed, have earned the vast sums of money it takes to buy a house there legitimately. Yet, it seems, when it comes to the unbridled love of the greenback, they are the Hunchbacks of Give A Damn.

Yes, there were people living in mansions the size of Detroit who displayed large, hand-crafted signs outside their meticulously gated driveways. PARKING $40, said the signs. Because of course, times are tough. And we need to pay Cynthia's anal irrigationist.

Sadly, there were takers. On lawns manicured by the Michelangelos of their art were parked white Escalades and strangely green Mercedes.

While AT&T said: "You know, we sell cell phones. But why piss off Bill Murray?"