Passing of a Friend

When news doesn’t travel as fast as it should

By Bill Fields

To be engrossed in all things golf when I was a teenager during the 1970s meant having your own category of “golf cool.”

Johnny Miller was cool. A Wilson 8802 putter was cool. The opening music for ABC’s U.S. Open television broadcasts was cool. And in my book, so was Jim Boros.

It is a familiar golf name, of course, made famous by Julius Boros, Jim’s uncle, who had three major titles among his 18 PGA Tour victories. Julius represented the Mid Pines Club, as it was then known, for a long time as its touring professional, and his brother, Ernie, was the head pro during the 1960s.

When Ernie needed some help, Jim, who had gotten out of the Air Force, came south from his native Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1966. After several years as a Mid Pines assistant, Jim took a job in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. In 1973, after Quality Inns purchased the resort from the Cosgrove family, Jim returned as head professional.

Jim hired me to park golf carts and clean clubs on weekends and in the summer. I made some money, had access to the wonderful course and got to buy stuff in the shop — All-Star gloves, DiFini slacks — at cost. We played games on the practice green, Jim often wearing the white loafers and white golf shirt he favored most of the year. The preferred competition was putting two balls at each of the green’s 18 holes trying to make the most aces. I had 14 once, but it was never easy to get the better of Jim. He advertised and sold by mail for a couple of bucks a little pamphlet that he called the secret to putting: Apply the most grip pressure with the pinkie and ring fingers of the top hand and the index and middle fingers of the bottom hand.

He was a good player. As a 17-year-old he won the 1960 Connecticut State Junior, defeating an opponent named Bob Palmer in the final. That victory earned him a trophy and a “Boros Beats Palmer” headline over a small story in Golf World magazine that made Jim smile years later.

Savvy about the game, Jim knew that I wasn’t going to develop into a top-level golfer despite my enthusiasm and effort. But he was kind — unless you hit a shank in his presence, which he couldn’t abide — and helpful. He appreciated that I tried to do a good job and sensed I might have a promising future. My dad once passed along a flattering comment that Jim had made to him about me.

It was a little, but confidence-inspiring thing, an assessment that meant more than a golf tip, not that Jim wasn’t good at those too. He was head pro at Mid Pines for a decade prior to taking a similar post at Whispering Pines.

Jim loved a cold beer and a ripe tomato, the latter all the better if it came from his garden, which was a passion. He was low-key, smart, smooth.

Until recently I hadn’t known Jim died at age 77 in May 2020 of cancer that had been diagnosed five months earlier. He was survived by wife Juanita, daughter Lancey, son Scott and four grandchildren.

Jim and Juanita, an Aberdeen native, were married for 55 years, having met at the Capri in Southern Pines, not long after he had moved south to work for Uncle Ernie. Juanita, visiting from Greensboro, and her brother Wilson had come in for a pizza after going to the movies. Jim came over to pay off a basketball bet to Wilson, who had become a friend. It was the best five dollars Jim ever lost, for it was only seven months from their chance meeting to marriage.

Theirs was an enduring love story. After his wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1990, Jim retired to support her. I had seen Jim about a decade ago when we played golf at Whispering Pines with his good friends and weekly golf partners Bob Drum and Barry Matey, Barry having worked as an assistant pro under Jim for years.

“We had the best times,” Barry said of his long friendship with Jim when I called him after finding out that Jim had passed away. “He was a classy guy.”

Yes, we did. Yes, he was.  PS

Southern Pines native Bill Fields, who writes about golf and other things, moved north in 1986 but hasn’t lost his accent.

Sporting Life

Turkey Trail

In pursuit of the wily gobbler

By Tom Bryant

I’m gonna be right up front with you folks who read these little missives of mine from time to time . . . I’m not a turkey hunter.

Maybe I should rephrase that statement because it’s kinda inclusive and covers a lot of territory.

I’m not a very successful turkey hunter. It doesn’t mean I don’t hunt the wily, bearded gobbler. I do.

As a matter of fact, I should say I’m a bird hunter specializing in ducks, doves, geese, quail (when I can find ’em) and even a pheasant every now and then when the coffers are full enough for a trip out west. But turkeys? They are last on the list.

When I was a young fellow, I was lucky to have an extended family of outdoorsmen who took me under their wings and taught me the right way to enjoy, responsibly, nature in all its wonder. At the age of 9, my grandfather gave me a .22 rifle, and more importantly, he instructed me how to use it safely. At the age of 12, my dad gave me a J.C. Higgins, 12-gauge pump shotgun and repeated the instructions from my granddad.

In those days, weapons in the rural South were treated as tools to help furnish game for the table. Those tools went a long way in the effort to become self-sufficient, a valuable lesson learned after the Civil War and later, during the Great Depression. I can remember asking my grandad how the family made it during those lean times.

“Son, in the South we’ve been in some kind of depression or recession since the late 1800s,” he said. “The bad spell that came along in the 1930s was hardly even noticed. No, I take that back. It was hardly noticed by those who were raised and still lived on farms and had access to the fields and streams where the good Lord placed his game for us to harvest and we had room to farm and garden. I’m afraid those days are going away, but I don’t want you to forget them.”

I haven’t. Even today when I’m hunting or fishing, I’m thinking about what’s good to eat. So, that’s how I got started. When I was afield with a shotgun, I wasn’t hunting any particular species, I was hunting any game that was in season, from squirrel and rabbits to doves and quail. If it was legal, it could end up in my hunting coat.

Everything, that is, except turkeys.

I remember the first time I thought I saw a turkey track. I was walking the railroad tracks from Aberdeen to Pinebluff, hunting along the way. I had developed a routine with my dad. He would carry my shotgun along with my dog Smut, a curly coated retriever, to the ice plant in Aberdeen where he was the superintendent. I would walk from school to the plant, a little over a mile, do my homework in his office, then round up Smut, grab my shotgun and walk the tracks home to Pinebluff, hunting along the way.

I remember the day I thought I saw the turkey track because it was toward the end of duck season, and there was a little creek that ran from Aberdeen almost parallel to the railroad. It was a good place for ducks — wood ducks, that is.

Smut and I eased in through the heavy growth as quietly as we could, hoping to jump an unwary duck, but to no avail. I was getting ready to go back to the tracks and hunt the other side when I saw bird prints in a small sandbar that traversed the water. They were as clear as if they were etched in concrete. Now, at the time, I was working on my Boy Scout merit badge for wildlife track identification, and I was constantly trying to identify every sign I could. I had identified most of the ones I found in the woods but had never seen anything like the big footprints almost in the creek. I made a quick sketch in my mind and went on with the hunt.

When I got home, just at sundown, I cleaned the game I’d gotten, gave it to Mom to put in the freezer, and went upstairs to check the book I had on the spoor of wild game.

I was wrong. The track I had thought was from a turkey turned out to be made by a great blue heron. Well, I said to myself, I should have known. Finding a turkey in Moore County is as rare as catching an 8-pound bass in Pinebluff Lake.

I put turkeys on the back burner and didn’t move them to the front until way later in my hunting career. In the past few years, what appealed to me about the sport of pursuing the crafty gobbler was that now they are plentiful and the season is early spring when all other game seasons are closed. It also gave me an excuse to venture forth at a beautiful time of year.

Early on, was I successful? I would have had better luck catching that 8-pound bass in Pinebluff Lake. But I did learn. I had good teachers, and I read a lot about how turkeys were successfully reintroduced to all areas of the state, a phenomenal triumph for the Wildlife Resources Commission.

So I kept trying. It was a lot like duck hunting: be in the woods before day — no reason not to stop on the way, pick up a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit and a good cup of hot coffee. Then get to the spot that had been scouted the day before, put out all the gear, including a couple of decoys, hunker down in a makeshift blind, and watch a beautiful sunrise.

That’s what I would do off and on during the April and May 36-day season. I heard turkeys — I even saw turkeys — but without any luck getting one to come close enough for a shot. I was determined, though, and not about ready to hang up the old turkey call.

Then came that special day.

The guest room alarm clock went off just as programmed, 4:30 a.m. The night before, I had moved across the hall in deference to my bride, Linda, so I wouldn’t disturb her. I rolled over on the side of the bed, looked bleary-eyed at the clock and was just about ready to crawl back under the covers when I recalled an old saying Mom had given me years before, “Those who hoot with the owls at night have a hard time soaring with the eagles at dawn.” She had even given me a small statue of an owl to go with the quote.

The night before, we had a few guests over for dinner and, during the revelry, I had one glass of wine too many and was paying the piper for my indulgence. So I bit the proverbial bullet, pulled on the camouflage clothes I had laid out the night before, and silently made my departure for the fields. I had made a large cup of coffee, and the caffeine revived me as I slowly drove south.

I had decided the week before to hunt a small field, about 10 or 15 acres, planted in rye that was now about 2-feet tall. I placed my dove stool in between two pines that bordered the field, pulled the camouflage head net over my face, sat down, loaded my gun with #5s, and grabbed the box turkey call from my gunning bag. As I was pulling the turkey call out of the bag, the striker accidentally scraped out a hen turkey sound. I said, “Shhh,” to myself, set the call on the ground and immediately heard a big gobbler holler back. I was so shocked, I almost fell off my stool.

From then on, it was exactly like you might picture a turkey hunting scene on television. The great bearded gobbler strutted and gobbled his way across the rye field heading straight to the decoys and right into the sight of my shotgun.

It was a great day for me, but honestly, I can’t take all the credit. I had help calling the big gobbler to his demise. My gunning bag did it.  PS

Tom Bryant, a Southern Pines resident, is a lifelong outdoorsman and PineStraw’s Sporting Life columnist.

Home Again

The history of women’s golf is embedded in the Sandhills

By Ron Sirak

From its earliest days, the road for women’s professional golf has wound its way across the Sandhills of North Carolina, not as a regular stop but rather as a special place where special people commanded center stage. This year, for the fourth time, the Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines will be the site of the U.S. Women’s Open. And if the past is truly prelude, the Donald Ross masterpiece will have something special in store for 2022. The first three times the women’s championship of the USGA was at Pine Needles the winners were Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Cristie Kerr, a trio of LPGA royalty.

Sorenstam, with 72 wins, including 10 majors and three U.S. Women’s Open titles, and Webb, with 42 victories, seven majors including the U.S Women’s Open twice, are both in the World Golf Hall of Fame. They are also the last two who successfully defended the U.S. Women’s Open title, both sealing the double at Pine Needles. Kerr, with 20 victories and two majors, likely will join them in the Hall of Fame when she becomes age eligible.

Annika Sorenstam during the final round of the 1996 U.S. Women’s Open Championship at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, June 2, 1996.

Who will be part of that rich tradition this year? Nelly Korda or Jin Young Ko, whose battle for the 2021 LPGA Player of the Year went down to the last tournament? Lydia Ko, who won 14 times before her 20th birthday and after a lull of several years seems to have rediscovered that form at the age of 25? Americans Danielle Kang or Lexi Thompson? Seven-time major winner Inbee Park from South Korea? Or Nasa Hataoka of Japan, who might be the best in the women’s game without a major? Will Yuka Saso of the Philippines join Sorenstam and Webb and successfully defend the title she won last year at The Olympic Club?

While the special place the Sandhills holds in the game of golf was dug out in large part by the shovel of the architectural genius Donald Ross, the bold vision and sheer determination of the Bell family contributed greatly in solidifying that legacy. Also enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame is Peggy Kirk Bell, regarded by many as the 14th founder of the LPGA Tour.

pioneer as a player, an instructor and a businesswoman, Peggy and her husband, Warren “Bullet” Bell, purchased Pine Needles in 1954 and restored it to its former glory. She is as much a part of the history of Pine Needles as Ross and those who have won championships there.

Peggy Kirk Bell, 2011
Peggy Kirk Bell and Warren “Bullet” Bell

Bell, who died in Southern Pines in 2016 at the age of 95, was not one of the 13 women to sign the original LPGA charter, but she was there from the beginning, finishing runner-up in the eighth LPGA Tour event ever played, losing in the finals of the 1950 Women’s Western Open 5 and 3 to Babe Zaharias at Cherry Hills Country Club in Colorado.

Born in Findlay, Ohio, Bell started playing golf at age 17 and quickly won a number of titles. She played college golf at Rollins College and won the Ohio Women’s Amateur three times, and in 1949 took the Titleholders Championship and the North and South Women’s Amateur. She was also a member of the 1950 U.S. Curtis Cup team.

When the U.S. Senior Women’s Open was played at Pine Needles in 2019, one of those in the field was Sally Austin, a former women’s golf coach at the University of North Carolina and an instructor at Pine Needles who was uniquely positioned to assess the impact of Bell on the women’s game.

“It is so special and I’ll get emotional thinking about this and how much she would’ve loved being here for this and seeing her friends playing and some of her students, of which I was one,” Austin said. “When they brought the first Open here, she was super excited. I know she’s looking down and smiling, so glad that it’s here. This is her legacy, and this golf course and all that her family has done to keep this alive.”

Bell’s early presence in the women’s professional game previewed the role Southern Pines was to play in women’s golf. The first time the LPGA Tour visited here was the 1951 Sandhills Women’s Open at Southern Pines Country Club. Patty Berg won and Zaharias was second. In 1959, Joyce Ziske won the Howard Johnson Invitational at Mid Pines Golf Club.

The first women’s major in Southern Pines was at Pine Needles in 1972, when Sandra Palmer won the last Titleholders Championship by 10 strokes over Mickey Wright and Judy Rankin. Palmer, who’s now 79, won 19 times on the LPGA, adding the 1975 U.S. Women’s Open to the Titleholders as her major championships.

“Pine Needles will certainly go down as one of my finest feats,” says Palmer, whose one-under-par 283 was the only score in red numbers that week. “No one really knows what remarkable golf I played that week except the Bells. Bullet had the course set up from the back tees. It was hard.”

Sandra Palmer, flanked by Peggy and Warren Bell

Dick Taylor, writing in Golf World magazine, gushed about both Palmer and Pine Needles, calling Palmer’s performance “one of the greatest showings seen on a genuine test of golf under valid conditions.” He likened the challenge of the Pine Needles set-up that week to that faced in a U.S. Open.


“If it is to be a major championship, a title bestowed by the thinking players and fans alike, then the course must be as dominant in the proceedings as the players,” Taylor wrote. “The 6,500-yard (and up) Donald Ross-designed Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C., superbly fit the bill to such a point you would have thought by the complaints it was the men’s U.S. Open.”

The LPGA returned to the Sandhills in 1995 when Rosie Jones edged Dottie Pepper in a playoff to win the Pinewild Women’s Championship at Pinewild Country Club of Pinehurst. Since then, major championship women’s professional golf has visited the area five times — and it has never disappointed.

In 1996, Sorenstam backed up her breakthrough triumph a year earlier at the Broadmoor Golf Club by successfully defending her U.S. Women’s Open title with a magnificent display of shotmaking, hitting 51 of 56 fairways at Pine Needles as she topped Kris Tschetter by six strokes. Sorenstam was on a mission that week to prove she was not a one-hit wonder.

“Majors are always full of pressure,” says Sorenstam, looking back more than a quarter-century. “Being the defending champion adds to the pressure. I wanted to make sure that winning at the Broadmoor was not a fluke and that I belonged in the major champion circle.”

Sorenstam not only proved she belonged, she established the foundation for her Hall of Fame career, attacking Pine Needles with the relentless consistency that became the Swede’s trademark. Her worst effort that week was an opening even-par 70, which she followed with rounds of 67, 69 and 66 to finish at eight-under-par 272.

“I was totally in the zone that week,” she says. “I was on autopilot. I had prepared very well, and I loved the course. Also, being a friend of Peggy Kirk Bell made it even more special. She has done so much for the game, especially for women. Peggy shouted ‘Heineken’ after my last putt dropped. That was her nickname for me since my amateur days.”

The next time the U.S. Women’s Open came to Pine Needles is the last time anyone has taken home the trophy in back-to-back years as Webb romped to an eight-stroke victory over another future Hall of Famer — Se Ri Pak. That 2001 U.S. Women’s Open was contested in the midst of an incredible run of dominance in the four major championships by four future Hall of Fame players.

From 1998 through 2003, 18 of the 24 majors were won by Sorenstam, Pak and Juli Inkster, who captured four majors each during that stretch, and Webb, who took a half-dozen of the grand slam titles in that six-year period.

In 2001 Sorenstam, Pak and Webb — who also won the LPGA Championship (now the KPMG Women’s PGA) — swept the four majors and the next year, those three plus Inkster each took home a major trophy. Webb, however, was simply overwhelming at Pine Needles in 2001, carving out rounds of 70, 65, 69 and 69 to finish at seven-under-par 273, eight strokes ahead of Pak.

“My first U.S. Women’s Open had been in ’96 at Pine Needles,” Webb says. “I loved the course then and knew coming into ’01 that it fit my game. That was possibly the only time in my major career that I came in playing well, and I went to the first tee on Thursday knowing and expecting to be there on Sunday with a chance to win. I’m not sure I’ve played a major from start to finish as well.”

Webb, who is among the most gifted ballstrikers in the history of the women’s game, loved the challenge presented by the course, which demands not only precise physical execution but also a disciplined and well thought out mental approach.

Karrie Webb during the 2001 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles

“Pine Needles is very much a second shot golf course,” Webb says. “It’s a true Donald Ross test in that way. Understanding where to hit in on the greens and where the slopes are that could feed the ball away from the hole or off the green completely is a big key. Being able to hit irons with the precision and distance control to certain spots on the greens is the key to playing well around there.”

Cristie Kerr tied for fourth place in that 2001 U.S. Women’s Open, and when she returned to Pine Needles in 2007 it was with the burden of being known as the best player on the LPGA Tour without a major championship title. She had nine career victories and had won eight of them over the three previous seasons, emerging as a contender to challenge Lorena Ochoa to succeed Sorenstam as the best player in the women’s game.

Kerr began slowly, opening with rounds of 71 and 72 on a layout that now played to a par-71. Then she put the hammer down in the third round, taking the lead with a 66 that began on Saturday and ended Sunday morning because of a rain delay. She took the lead for good with a birdie on No. 14 in the final round, then closed with four consecutive pars to better Ochoa and Angela Park by two strokes.

“I had won a bunch of tournaments but I had never won a major championship,” Kerr says about her mindset coming into Pine Needles in 2007. “My intention was to play myself into contention, and that’s exactly what I did. I got a lot of chances (in the third round) and my putter was hot. I was a freight train and nothing was going to stop me that week. I made a lot of 30-foot par saves.”

History was made in the Sandhills in 2014 when, for the first time, the U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Open were held at the same venue in back-to-back weeks as Michelle Wie edged Stacy Lewis by two strokes at Pinehurst No. 2 for her only major championship a week after Martin Kaymer mastered No. 2 for an eight-stroke victory.

Michelle Wie 2014 U.S. Womens Open champion on Pinehurst’s No. 2 course

“One week changed my life,” Wie says. “That’s what the U.S. Women’s Open does. It creates opportunities for us to create life-changing moments. It’s not just one tournament. It’s a major that we look forward to, watching it when we were kids and playing on venues like we do. It means so much to me. That elevated visibility for our tour so much, and us being able to play on these top venues.” In 2029, the USGA will reprise the men’s and women’s back-to-back championships in Pinehurst.

And in 2019, the second-ever U.S. Senior Women’s Open was played at Pine Needles, following the event’s debut a year earlier at historic Chicago Golf Club, one of the five founding clubs of the USGA in 1894. Helen Alfredsson, who had her heart broken in the U.S. Women’s Open several times, won the U.S. Senior Women’s by two strokes over Inkster — yet another Hall of Fame member — and Trish Johnson.

Helen Alfredsson wins the 2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Pine Needles

“I get goosebumps,” Alfredsson says about looking back on that victory. “The USGA events (are) the toughest events. It took everything and then some to win it. You had to have everything, all the ducks in a row, and you have to have putting, playing, ballstriking, and mentally because you know you’re going to make bogeys or even double bogeys, but you just have to keep going. I was very thrilled to also get it on a golf course like Pine Needles, which I thought was an amazing test.”

Just as the legacy of Donald Ross is burnished by the brilliance of Pine Needles, the enormous contributions of Peggy Kirk Bell and the Bell family to the game of golf are remembered each time a major championship returns to one of their properties. During the more than 60 years Peggy was the owner and head instructor at Pine Needles, she pioneered methods of teaching — especially to women — and infused students with her passion for the game.

Today, Pine Needles remains in the Bell family. Her daughters, Peggy Bell Miller and Bonnie Bell McGowan, are instructors, and her two sons-in-law, Kelly Miller and Pat McGowan, serve as Pine Needles’ president and director of instruction, respectively. Peggy has passed the torch to them.

When the 77th U.S. Women’s Open tees off on June 2, the quest will commence to see who takes the torch passed from Sorenstam to Webb to Kerr. The Sandhills of North Carolina serve as a cradle for golf in the United States. It is a place where the courses, as Dick Taylor said, are “as dominant as the players in the proceedings.”

Time and again, Pine Needles has shown that dominance. Now we find out which player is up to the challenge. Now we find out who will live up to the legacy of Ross and Bell as well as the standard of excellence established by Sorenstam, Webb and Kerr. Now it’s time to write the next page in the storied history of Sandhills golf.  PS

Ron Sirak worked for The Associated Press for 18 years, followed by 18 years with Golf World and Golf Digest magazines. He is past president of the Golf Writers Association of America and recipient of the PGA of America Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Award; the LPGA Media Excellence Award; and the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association Lincoln Werden Award.

Story of a House

Fit for a Queen

Historic Pinehurst home gets the royal treatment

By Deborah Salomon 
Photographs by John Gessner

What’s in a name?” Possibly, quite a bit, when applied to Red Brick Cottage.

This appellation, plus “1920,” appears on the shingle hanging outside this Pinehurst village showplace. Glenn Phillips, who with his wife, Pat, purchased the house in 2019, was intrigued. The retired luxury home-building executive, also a civil engineer, knew what to look for, like an original tile roof and copper gutters. He doubted the date, since brick was not common during the white clapboard teens when, in 1918 and 1919, Leonard Tufts sold two lots to H.B. Swoope, a Pennsylvania coal baron who snapped up the whole corner facing the Carolina Hotel. The superb construction suggested either a greater investment than its neighbors — or perhaps materials and workmanship bargain-priced during the Depression. Glenn searched village records for support.

“More likely (into the) ’30s,” he concluded, although one document on file at the Tufts Archives lists nothing more specific than the ’20s. Odd that no architect is mentioned, given its unusual quality and features, starting with ornamental brickwork around the front door.

In any event, Swoope died in 1927. His estate sold the property to A.C. Judd in 1929, who sold it to Sprigg Cameron in 1930, causing much confusion among family ghosts searching for their proper haunt.

Set far back from the street on an almost double lot, the house appears smaller than its actual 5,000 square feet. This optical illusion is furthered by an L-wing not visible from the front. The wing contains a garage with servants’ quarters over it — accessed by a back staircase — which are now charming guest bedrooms in refreshing blue and white, each big enough to hold two queen-sized beds. 

As for “cottage” — hardly. Cottages are sweet little lakefront dwellings. Brick previews the formality of a settled family dwelling, perhaps even year-round, although before residential AC even the ghosts headed north in July.

Provenance aside, Red Brick Cottage has weathered well. The cross-hall plan, four spacious bedrooms, five bathrooms, large (for the era) kitchen and costly mullioned casement windows throughout support this idea.

And now, Red Brick Cottage has reclaimed its purpose. The Phillips family will use it as a seasonal gathering place for their adult children and two grandchildren, giving them more indoor space than their longtime primary residence: a 42-acre horse farm in Durham where they raised a son and three daughters in 2,400 square feet, with two bathrooms.

The Phillips family, originally from New Jersey, discovered Pinehurst while attending their children’s equestrian banquet at the Carolina Hotel. During subsequent visits they walked the village, liked what they saw. “This is a place where I thought I could live,” Glenn recalls. In addition, businesswoman Pat and daughter Veronica wanted to acquire a boutique. Monkee’s in Southern Pines was available.

How better could the stars align?

But real estate fulfilling the Phillips’ requirements (size, quality, proximity to shops and restaurants) is always scarce. Connections count.

They learned of Red Brick Cottage from Cathy Maready, an interior designer who had done their beach house on Figure Eight Island. Maready knew of its upcoming availability through the owner. The transaction was completed without the house ever hitting the market. It needed only minor upgrades, including a larger bathroom for the master bedroom, which Glenn and Pat moved to the main floor study adjoining the living room — unusual but practical as homeowners age. Luckily the new stall shower fit into an empty elevator shaft.

Since they would bring nothing from Durham, what the Phillips needed was an interior designer familiar with their tastes to interpret, locate, select and deliver.

“A dream client,” says Maready, who was given a budget and free rein.

The only mandate: Create décor that fit the pre-Depression era, as if rescued along with the house from a time capsule.

Furnishings that fit the description do exist but require legwork. Maready had a better idea: a package. None was more suitable than reproductions licensed by Princess Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, the ninth Earl Spencer. Known as the Althorp Collection, these pieces duplicate chairs, tables, sofas, chests and accessories found at the 90-room ancestral manor the Spencers have occupied for 500 years in Northamptonshire. Diana is buried at Althorp.

Maready met the Earl when he launched the collection at the High Point furniture mart. From this finely crafted array she created a portfolio for the main floor living room, master bedroom, hallway, dining room and wherever appropriate.

“I look at (my clients’) faces,” Maready says. “I want them to feel pretty in that space.”

Almost all her selections were approved, some country English, others to the castle born, allowing for inlaid woods, a crushed blue velvet sofa, case pieces, a butterfly table, a needlepoint box on legs, imaginative prints against which guests might imagine Lady Di and her little brother playing hide-and-seek. Maready invested in vibrant jewel tones of blue, green and red merged in the carpets. The game room and sun porch are done in sunny shades and less formal designs. Glenn, a details person, points out the game room fireplace, converted to gas but with fake coal that glows instead of logs.

Formality satisfied, he wanted a “fun” place to live, as expressed in a Chinese hunt motif fabric on game room chairs.

Original floors throughout are an unusual combination of narrow and wide boards in both clear and knotty pine, probably sourced locally.

The kitchen — already remodeled when the Phillips purchased Red Brick Cottage — defies period or classification. Long and narrow, it has full-sized sinks, one farmer and one oval, on each side. Down the middle, instead of an island stands a table big enough to seat eight on three-legged stools, and tall enough to double as a work surface. This European kitchen staple is joined by cupboards that are free-hung rather than built-in, two ovens set into a column, a backsplash in black, and antique red ceramic tiles. The effect is vaguely Scandinavian.

A few family heirlooms, including a writing desk belonging to Glenn’s aunt, supplement the Althorp manor ensemble. Wall-mounted TV screens with hidden wires and picture frames display fine art when the game is over.

But the blue ribbon is the oversized dining room papered in a blue avian print so dense that diners seated at a table for 12 can almost hear the birds chirping, feel their wings fluttering.

A brick veranda across the back opens out onto a lawn big enough for croquet, should they wish. The house, the garden, the location, the furnishings and paintings, it has fulfilled the new residents’ desire for authenticity, bringing back a period seldom honored — when conversation was among friends, not with Siri; when books were printed on paper and music spun on black vinyl discs. “Everything here is so much more relaxed versus our horse farm,” Glenn says.

“We are a very close family,” Pat adds. “Now we have a house where we can all be together, a house where all the dots have been connected.”

After a deep breath: “I feel like a queen.”  PS

Pleasures of Life

Mom the Pathfinder

Have kids, will hike

By Katie Begley

North Carolina is home to some of the most peaceful hikes in the South. I’ve also gone hiking with my kids. The experiences are, well, a bit . . . different.

Hiking with young children generally begins with some crying. Whether it was overshoes that are too tight, naptimes that are too close, or just emotions that are too big, I’m not sure. A single mom with three kids, ages 5, 4, and 2, in tow, I wondered what I had been thinking as we all climbed out of the car at Weymouth Woods. This was supposed to be a relaxing morning on one of my favorite local trails. A tranquil time for us all to connect to the Earth just as it had been for me, by myself, so many mornings before.

We had all been cooped up in the house with positive COVID tests, and now that we were cleared to rejoin the world, I wanted to get some real dirt on the soles of my boots. Instead, someone stepped on the instep of my foot in the parking lot, and I had to fight back the four-letter word that popped into my head, knowing that my kids would take it up as a rallying cry if given the chance.

As soon as we settled on a direction — no small feat given the strong opinions held by each young hiker — the spirit of the hike started to weave its magic through our little group. Our lungs felt a little bit fuller. Our faces, turned up to the late morning sun, felt a little bit warmer. Our nerves, at least mine, started to uncoil. A few leaves crunched under our feet, and sand kicked up behind my kids as they ran, laughing, down the trail.

I was laughing with them, not even thinking about the cubic feet of sand we would all bring back into the car in our shoes, when the boys, 5 and 4, suddenly stopped. They’d discovered a mysterious set of tracks on the trail. A strenuous debate followed about what kind of animal it could be. They ruled out deer because the tracks were too big. A bird of some sort was the top contender for a while until they realized that the clearest of the tracks was a semicircle and didn’t have any claws. My 5-year-old used his preschool powers of deduction to suggest that it may have been a horse, given that we had seen a sign designating this as a horse-friendly path. Always the proud mama, I beamed at what I knew were signs that my kids were destined to be geniuses, possessed of both logic and reason. I had reached peak motherhood.

“No, it’s a velociraptor track,” my 4-year-old announced confidently, followed by what he imagined the velociraptor sounded like at the very instant it swooped into Weymouth Woods and touched down. My 2-year-old fell back onto her bottom, startled by the wild noise, and began crying. My oldest rolled his eyes, said, “Whatever,” in a voice that sounded way too much like a teenager and took off in the opposite direction. I looked around us, silently praying that no one was in earshot of the party of four disturbing the peace.

Having narrowed our choices to either a prehistoric beast or a large hooved mammal, we circled back to the car. It may not have been the tranquil morning that I envisioned but, glancing in the rearview mirror as we pulled back onto the road, I saw my kids nodding off in their car seats, and smiled.  PS

Katie Begley is a freelance writer and executive director at The Wilds Writer’s Studio. You can follow her writing on social media @katiebwriter and learn about The Wilds resources for young writers @thewildswritersstudio or www.thewildsstudio.com.

The Creators of N.C.

A Shared Life

Judy Goldman looks back on the Jim Crow South

By Wiley Cash

Photographs by Mallory Cash

I first met author Judy Kurtz Goldman in the summer of 2013 when we were seated beside one another at a dinner sponsored by a local bookstore in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Of that evening, I can remember Judy’s elegant Southern accent, her self-deprecating humor, and her teasing me that my calling her “ma’am” made her feel old. But Southerners like Judy know that the conventions you were raised under are hard to buck, regardless of whether they are based on something as benign as manners or as oppressive as prejudice.

According to the late Pat Conroy, Judy Goldman is a writer of “great luminous beauty,” and I happen to agree with him. She’s published two previous memoirs, two novels, two collections of poetry, and she has won the Sir Walter Raleigh Prize for fiction and the Hobson Award for Distinguished Achievement in Arts and Letters. In her new memoir, Child, Judy confronts the horrible legacy of the Jim Crow South while coming to terms with the fact that the customs and laws born from Jim Crow delivered one of the most meaningful and long lasting relationships of Judy’s life. The memoir explores the life she shared with her family’s live-in domestic worker, a Black woman named Mattie Culp, who came to live with and work for the Kurtz family in Rock Hill, South Carolina, when she was 26 and Judy was 3. From the moment of Mattie’s arrival, she and Judy were close physically and emotionally. They shared a bedroom and a bed. (Mattie shared the single bathroom with Judy’s parents and two older siblings.) Judy and Mattie also shared one another’s love, and that love would cement their indescribably close bond up until Mattie’s death in 2007 at age 89.

“Our love was unwavering,” Judy writes in the book’s prologue. “But it was, by definition, uneven.”

There is an old saying that writers write because we have questions, and while Judy has no questions about the depth of her love for Mattie or the depth of Mattie’s love for her, she has spent much of her adult life pondering questions about the era and place in which she was raised. Judy came of age in the 1940s and ’50s, and although she has spent decades living and raising a family in Charlotte, Rock Hill is the defining landscape of her literature. 

“Rock Hill is in every book I’ve ever written,” she tells me one morning in early March. “It’s a love affair.”

But love, as Judy makes clear in writing about her relationship with Mattie, is a complicated emotion. While Judy’s childhood in Rock Hill was blissful on the surface, as an adult she looks back on her life with a discerning eye that is able to appraise the dichotomy of the Southern childhood. This act of remembering and then re-seeing brings a whiplash of honest realizations to the memoir’s pages.

For example, as a child, Judy was proud of the beautiful school with the new playground that she and other white children attended. She did not know that Mattie, who regularly walked Judy to school, walked her home and took her to play on the playground, had attended a Rosenwald School built for Black children in 1925 in the countryside 10 miles outside of Rock Hill. Judy only learned this information while writing her memoir, and she was able to find old photographs of the school: a two-room wood frame building with an outhouse, a far cry from where Judy had spent her school days.

As she grew older, Judy would wonder why Mattie and her boyfriend would sit in his car in the Kurtzes’ driveway and chat instead of going out on dates like regular couples did. “I wondered why they never went anywhere,” she writes. “I know now there was no place for those two Black people to go in Rock Hill.”

Life was good in the Rock Hill of Judy’s youth, but it was not always good to everyone. In one reminiscence, she recalls the lush gardens in her neighborhood where blossoms and blooms abounded in manicured yards. But when she would least expect it, a snake could slither free from the grass and cross her path on the sidewalk where she and Mattie walked together. “Camellias and snakes,” Judy writes. “The particulars of our lives. The irregular ground on which our life stories were built.”

The irregular ground of Judy’s childhood was laid by her parents. Her father owned a clothing store and went against local custom in the 1950s by hiring a Black saleswoman named Thelma to serve the all-white customers. (In one of the memoir’s most harrowing scenes, a white saleswoman’s husband shows up in the middle of the night at the Kurtz home and drunkenly demands that Thelma not be allowed to use the one restroom available to the store’s staff. Her father refused the request and sent the man on his way.) Judy’s mother kept the books at the store, and while Judy claims that her mother “couldn’t boil water,” she never missed an opportunity to celebrate, meaning that the Jewish Kurtz family hid Easter eggs and put up a Christmas tree every year.

These irregularities — going against local custom and religious practice — are somewhat easy to explain, considering that Judy describes her father as fair and her mother as someone who loved joy. But there were other, harder to explain inconsistencies. The Kurtzes were a progressive family, so how could they employ a live-in domestic worker who never shared meals with them? Judy, the youngest child in the family, was being raised by a Black woman who, when just a child herself, had given birth to a daughter of her own named Minnie. Why wasn’t Mattie raising her? Judy has spent much of her life pondering these questions, and she decided that taking them to the page was the best way to try to answer them, but the answers would not be easy to find, and even if Judy found them, could she trust how she had arrived there?

“Can we trust anything inside the system we were brought up in?” she writes.

Judy and I are standing at the dining room table in the third floor apartment she shares with her husband, Henry, near Queens University in Charlotte. Family photographs are scattered on the table in front of us. In the living room, my daughters Early and Juniper peck away at the piano while Mallory breaks down lighting equipment and talks to Henry. He stands with the cane he has used since recovering from what was supposed to be a routine back surgery that ended up briefly paralyzing him, resulting in years of physical therapy just to be able to stand and walk again.

Judy’s last memoir, Together, which was published in 2018 and received lavish praise, including a starred review from Library Journal, is about Henry’s surgery and its aftermath, but it is also about their long and loving marriage. I look down at the photos of Mattie and recognize her from the photograph on the cover of Together. In that photo, a newly married Henry and Judy are coming down the steps of her parents’ home while smiling friends toss rice into the air. Mattie stands in the background, smiling as if her own youngest child has just gotten hitched.

I ask Judy, after a lifetime of knowing Mattie, what made her want to publish a memoir about her now.

“I think it felt right to publish it when I turned 80,” she says. “I thought, if I don’t do it now, I’m not going to do it, it won’t get done.” She pauses, looks down at the photographs. One of them, a black and white portrait of Mattie taken around 1944, which was when she came to work for the Kurtz family, stares back at us. “I never thought I had the right to tell this story,” she says. “A privileged white child in the Jim Crow South talking about her Black live-in maid. The more details you hear, the worse it sounds.”

But over the years Judy came to understand that her and Mattie’s story differed from the stories some of Judy’s friends and acquaintances would tell about the hired women who had raised them. Judy often came away from those conversations with the full understanding that many of those people had not truly examined the inequity of those childhood relationships, choosing instead to focus only on the love Black women had shown their white charges, not the full scope of what the price of that love might have been.

“I don’t want to join them in that,” Judy says. “If my book did not really examine that situation with Mattie and me, then I wasn’t going to publish it.”

Child is full of Judy asking tough questions of herself, her family, and the place she has always called home. “How do I cross-examine the way it was?” she asks in one scene. “Can we ever tell the whole truth to ourselves?” she asks in another.

Child shows that truth — at least truth of a sort — can be found. When she was a teenager, Mattie’s daughter Minnie learned that the woman she had long assumed was her aunt was actually her mother, and Mattie eventually put Minnie through college. She would end up earning a master’s degree, as would Mattie’s three grandchildren. The irregular ground of life’s stories. Camellias and snakes. Jim Crow and a lifelong connection that endures beyond death. As Judy writes in her closing lines, “It is possible for love to co-exist with ugliness.”  PS

Wiley Cash is the Alumni Author-in-Residence at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. His new novel, When Ghosts Come Home, is available wherever books are sold. 


May Books


Trust, by Hernan Diaz

Even through the roar and effervescence of the 1920s, everyone in New York has heard of Benjamin and Helen Rask. He is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; she is the daughter of eccentric aristocrats. But at what cost have they acquired their immense fortune? This is the mystery at the center of Bonds, a successful 1937 novel that all of New York read. Yet there are other versions of this tale of privilege and deceit. Diaz’s Trust is an unparalleled novel about money, power, intimacy and perception that puts these competing narratives into conversation with one another.

Bitter Orange Tree, by Jokha Alharthi

Zuhour, an Omani student at a British university, attempts to form friendships and assimilate in Britain, but she can’t help ruminating on the relationships that have been central to her life. Most prominent is her strong emotional bond with Bint Amir, a woman she always thought of as her grandmother, who passed away just after Zuhour left the Arabian Peninsula. As the historical narrative of Bint Amir’s challenged circumstances unfurls in captivating fragments, so too does Zuhour’s isolated and unfulfilled present, one narrative segueing into another as time slips and dreams mingle with memories. Bitter Orange Tree is a profound exploration of social status, wealth, desire, and female agency by the Man Booker International prize-winning author.

Metropolis, by B.A. Shapiro

In this masterful novel of psychological suspense, the lives of a cast of unforgettable characters intersect when a harrowing accident occurs at the Metropolis Storage Warehouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We meet Serge, an unstable but brilliant street photographer who lives in his unit overflowing with thousands of undeveloped pictures; Zach, the building’s owner, who develops Serge’s photos as he searches for clues to the accident; Marta, an undocumented immigrant who is finishing her dissertation and hiding from ICE; Liddy, an abused wife and mother, who recreates her children’s bedroom in her unit; Jason, who has left his corporate firm and now practices law from his storage unit; and Rose, the office manager, who takes kickbacks to let renters live in the building and has her own complicated family history. As they dip in and out of one another’s lives, Shapiro, the New York Times bestselling author, both dismantles the myth of the American dream and builds tension to an exciting climax.


Phil: The Rip Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar, by Alan Shipnuck

A juicy and freewheeling biography of legendary golf champion Phil Mickelson, who has led a big, controversial life. In this raw, uncensored and unauthorized biography, the longtime Sports Illustrated writer and bestselling author captures a singular life defined by thrilling victories, crushing defeats, and countless controversies. All of Mickelson’s warring impulses are on display in these pages: a smart-ass who built an empire on being the consummate professional; a loving husband dogged by salacious rumors; a high-stakes gambler who knows the house always wins but can’t tear himself away. While celebrating Mickelson’s random acts of kindness and generosity of spirit — to which friends and strangers alike can attest — Shipnuck writes about the true scale of Mickelson’s gambling losses; the inside story of the acrimonious breakup between Phil and his longtime caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay; and the secretive backstory of the Saudi golf league that Mickelson championed.


My Blue-Ribbon Horse, by Elizabeth Letts

Even if it’s just a backyard pony, there’s something extraordinary about the bond between a horse and their human. And it’s made even more amazing when that backyard pony has an extraordinary ability. This tale of Snowman, the jumping pony, is perfect to share with anyone in the mood for a true feel-good story. (Ages 4-8.)

Kitty, by Rebecca Jordan-Glum

A simple weekend of cat sitting becomes a wild adventure in this hilarious story of mistaken identity. (Ages 3-6.)

Perfectly Pegasus, by Jessie Sima

If you’ve ever wished on a falling star, you’ll have wished for a book as sweet and adorable as this one. And maybe you also wished for a friend . . . guess what? Perfectly Pegasus has that too. Delightful magical fun from the author of Not Quite Narwhal. (Ages 3-6.)

Once Upon a Time, by Stuart Gibbs

Tim is just a peasant, but he’s brave, determined, clever and dreams big. When Princess Grace is abducted by the evil Stinx, Prince Ruprecht needs a legion of knights to aid him in her rescue. Tim doesn’t know how to wield anything more dangerous than a water bucket, but this could be his big chance. Share this one as a family read-together or listen to the amazing audio, but don’t miss the first in what will surely be another wildly successful series from Gibbs. (Ages 7-12.)  PS

Compiled by Kimberly Daniels Taws and Angie Tally.

Simple Life

The Kindness of Strangers

And the strangeness of some kinds of people

By Jim Dodson

The other afternoon I was making a pleasant run to the garden center during early rush hour when I saw something I’ve never seen on a busy North Carolina street.

While waiting for the light to change at one of the busiest intersections in Greensboro, a woman next to me in a large, luxury SUV began edging out into the heavy stream of traffic crossing in front of us.

At first, I thought she might simply be unaware of her dangerous drift into moving traffic. She was, after all, visibly chatting on her phone and apparently oblivious to blaring horns of those who were forced to stop to avoid a collision. Within moments, however, traffic in both directions had halted. One man was actually yelling at her out his window, shaking a fist.

But on she merrily went, indifferent to the automotive mayhem left in her wake, the first red light I’ve ever seen run in slow motion.

For an instant, I wondered if I might have somehow been teleported to Italy or France where motorists seem to regard traffic lights and road signs as simple nuisances, a quaint if daunting European tradition of civil indifference to les autorités that evolved across the ages.

Having motored across all of Britain and most of France, Italy and Greece, I long ago concluded that driving there is both a blood sport and national pastime, an automotive funhouse to be both enjoyed and feared. When in Italy, for instance, my operational motto is: drive like the teenage Romeo with the pretty girl on the back of his Vespa who just cut you off in the roundabout with a rude gesture insulting your heritage. It’s all part of the cultural exchange.

But here in America, at least in theory, most of us grew up respecting traffic laws because we were force-fed driver’s education since early teen years, programs designed to make us thoughtful citizens of the public roadways.  (Quick aside: I have a dear friend whose teenage son has failed his driver’s license test — God bless his heart — for the fifth time, which must be some kind of statewide record; I’ve helpfully suggested she immediately ship him off to Sorrento, Italy, where he’s bound to find true and lasting happiness, a pretty girl, a nice Vespa scooter and no annoying driver’s test to complicate his life, rude gestures optional.)

All fooling aside, in cities across America, officials report that traffic accidents and automobile fatalities are approaching record levels. Some blame the COVID pandemic that has had the world so bottled up and locked down, presumably entitling folks behind the wheel to make up for lost time by driving like there’s no tomorrow — or at least no traffic laws.

In my town and possibly yours, is it my imagination or do more folks than ever seem to be blithely running stop signs, ignoring speed limits and driving like Mad Max on Tuscan holiday? Running a red light in slow motion may be the least of our problems.

The armchair sociologist in me naturally wonders if America’s deteriorating driving habits and growing automotive brinksmanship might simply be a symptom of the times, part of a general decline of public civility and respect for others that fuels everything from our toxic politics to the plague of violence against Asians.

Whatever is fueling the road rage and social mayhem, the remedy is profound, timeless and maddeningly elusive.

I saw the fix written on a sign my neighbor planted in her yard the other day.

Spread Happiness, it said.

I found myself thinking about my old man, an ad-man with a poet’s heart who believed kindness is the greatest of human virtues, a sign of a truly civilized mind. My nickname for him was Opti the Mystic because he believed even the smallest acts of kindness — especially to strangers — are seeds from which everything good in life grows. “If you are nothing else in life,” he used to advise my older brother and me, “being kind will take you to wonderful places.”

This from a fellow who’d been in the middle of a World War and experienced first-hand the worst things human beings can do to each other. He became the kindest man I’ve ever known.

In any case, Opti would have loved how a timely reminder of his message came home to me during another challenging automotive moment.

On a recent Saturday morning, after setting up my baker wife’s tent at the weekend farmers’ market where she sells her sinfully delicious cakes and such, I set off in my vintage Buick Roadmaster wagon to a landscape nursery on the edge of town to buy hydrangeas for my Asian garden.

On the drive home, however, I blew a front tire and barely made it off the highway into a Great Stops gas station before the tire went completely flat. I had no spare. To make matters worse, my cell phone had only one percent of a charge left just long enough to leave a quick desperate voicemail on my wife’s answering service before the dang thing went dead. The old Buick, of course, had no charger.

I walked into the service shop whispering dark oaths under my breath at such miserable timing, asking the personable young African American clerk if she could possibly give my phone a brief charge. I even offered to pay her for the help.

Her supervisor emerged from the office. When I explained that I was running errands for my wife when my day suddenly went flat, she gave me a big grin. “Bless your heart, child! Give me that phone!”

I handed it over. She shook her head and laughed. “You’re just like my husband. I can’t let that man go anywhere without him gettin’ into trouble! That’s husbands for you!”

Just like that, my good mood returned. Outside, a few minutes later, the tow truck arrived. The driver was named Danny Poindexter, a big burly white guy. He was having a long morning too. We dropped off my car at the auto service center and he graciously offered to drive me home to get my other car. It was the second surprising act of kindness from a stranger that morning. As we approached my street, I saw my neighbor’s pink Spread Happiness for the second time.

“What kind of cake do you like?” I asked Danny.

“Carrot cake,” Danny replied. “I love carrot cake.”

He dropped me off at home and I drove over to the farmers’ market and picked up a piece of my wife’s amazing carrot cake, phoned Danny and met him at a Wendy’s parking lot near his next job. He was deeply touched by the gesture. “This just makes my day,” he said, diving straight in.

I then drove back to the service station across town to pick up my phone — now fully charged — that I’d managed to forget in all the unexpected mayhem of the morning. I even offered to pay the ladies for their kindness to a stranger.

They simply laughed. “Oh, honey, that’s why we’re here!” said the manager. “I’m just glad you remembered to come back for your phone, so I didn’t have to chase your butt all over town!”

I drove home to plant my new hydrangeas in a happy state of mind, making a mental note to take the kind ladies of Great Stops my wife’s famous Southern-style caramel cake just to say thanks to strangers who are now friends.  PS

Jim Dodson can be reached at jwdauthor@gmail.com.

Tea Leaf Astrologer


(April 20 – May 20)

Sometimes you’ve got to know when to fold. This is especially true for those born under the Earth sign of Taurus. But when the cosmos deals you a humdinger — and, this month, that does appear to be the case — raise ’em, baby. (Ahem: This is about your standards.) They say we can only love others as deeply as we love ourselves. On that note, have you ever tried mirror gazing? In the buff? These are rhetorical questions.

Tea leaf “fortunes” for the rest of you:

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)   

Making risotto? Stir frequently. Otherwise, don’t. 

Cancer (June 21 – July 22) 

Hint: raw oysters. 

Leo (July 23 – August 22) 

At a certain point, bending the rules becomes the game itself.

Virgo (August 23 – September 22) 

Shake before opening.

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

You’re looking for more depth. How do you feel about wetsuits?

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

Coffee will only get you so far.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

Don’t mistake peace for boredom. 

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

Enough is enough. Read that again.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

Start by rolling up your sleeves. 

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Your gut is trying to tell you something. Best to listen.

Aries (March 21 – April 19)   

Make the first move.  PS

Zora Stellanova has been divining with tea leaves since Game of Thrones’ Starbucks cup mishap of 2019. While she’s not exactly a medium, she’s far from average. She lives in the N.C. foothills with her Sphynx cat, Lyla. 

Great Scot

Dorothy Campbell Hurd — first international star of the women’s game

By  Bill Case     Photographs from the Tufts Archives

In March 1912, Miss Dorothy Campbell arrived in Pinehurst for a month-long stay at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W.C. Fownes. The 28-year-old Scot was no ordinary houseguest. Acclaimed as the greatest female golfer in the world, she had already won 10 national titles in an astounding run from 1905 to 1912.

It began modestly. To her genuine surprise, in 1903 at age 20, Campbell reached the semifinals of her native country’s most important title, the Scottish Ladies Championship. “I only possessed four clubs at the time, and I had no experience at match play,” she later wrote.

But she was just getting started. In 1905, she reached the semis of the British Ladies Amateur. Two weeks later, her breakthrough victory came in the Scottish Ladies, contested on her home course, North Berwick’s West Links. A throng of 4,000 cheered the hometown lass to a hard-won, 19-hole victory over Molly Graham in the final match. Miss Campbell would repeat as Scottish champion in 1906 and win the title a third time in 1908.

Campbell seemed poised to win her first British Ladies Championship in 1908 when she made the finals at St. Andrews’ Old Course. A massive crowd of 9,000 spectators, including Old Tom Morris, attended. Battling abysmal weather marked by hail and gale force winds, the drenched Campbell heartbreakingly lost the match to Maud Titterton on the 19th hole.

Her disappointment would be assuaged in 1909 when she finally won the British Ladies at Royal Birkdale. After the final match, an overbearing official blocked Campbell’s path to the awards ceremony.

“Are you a golfer?” the official demanded.

Campbell replied, “I don’t think so, but I believe they will want me inside to receive the championship cup!”

The victory resulted in an invitation from the United States Golf Association — itself only 15 years old — to play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship that summer at Philadelphia’s Merion Cricket Club, now Merion Golf Club. Campbell accepted and made her first Atlantic crossing. She adapted quickly to Merion’s parkland layout and sailed through preliminary matches to the final, where she faced a tough challenge. Her opponent, Mrs. Nonna Barlow, was a Merion member. Barlow had Campbell one down after nine holes, but the unflappable Scot took control down the stretch, winning the match 3 and 2, making her the first foreign-born player to win the U.S. title and the first to take the British and U.S. championships in the same year.

Dorothy and Jack Hurd

She successfully defended her U.S. Women’s Championship in 1910 at Homewood Country Club in Illinois, the first to win back-to-back. Although it was match play, her “medal” score of 78 in the second round was the lowest ever posted by a woman on a course longer than 6,000 yards. Campbell crossed the border into Canada, too, to capture the first of three consecutive Canadian Ladies Championships, and even established a permanent residence in Hamilton, Ontario. She returned to Great Britain in 1911 to compete in the British Ladies at Portrush and won that title for the second time, rebounding from a 3-down deficit to win 3 and 2.

During her 1912 sojourn in Pinehurst with the Fownes family, Campbell set her sights on winning the prestigious United North and South Amateur Championship. She posted the best score in the qualifying round by four shots and was a heavy favorite to add the championship trophy to her burgeoning collection. She reached the final match but was upset by Kate Van Ostrand, who clinched victory when her pitch on the final hole hit the pin.

The Fowneses, Campbell’s Pinehurst hosts, were kindred spirits and golf royalty. W.C. (Bill) Fownes won the 1910 U.S. Amateur. Bill and his father, Henry Fownes, founded and ran Oakmont Country Club, considered America’s most exacting test of championship golf. Bill and his wife, Sarah, saw to it that Campbell’s Pinehurst golf calendar was filled with matches and club competitions. 

As esteemed members of the “Cottage Colony,” the Fowneses knew everybody in the village’s upper crust. Among their many friends was 35-year-old bachelor Jack Vandevort Hurd, who, like Bill and Henry Fownes, worked in the steel business in Pittsburgh and was a member at Oakmont.

The Fowneses introduced Jack and Dorothy, and a year later, on Feb. 11, 1913, they were married in Hamilton, Ontario, in front of relatives and a few close friends. Following the ceremony, handsome and dapper Jack whisked his bride back across the border to his home in the Steel City. For a champion golfer like Dorothy, with a husband who was a member at Oakmont, Pittsburgh was an ideal place to begin married life. Better yet, she and her husband would be making extended winter visits to Pinehurst. Dorothy would become an American citizen, though forever retaining “her delightful Scotch burr as well as the poise and graciousness of her kind,” according to another champion, Glenna Collett.

Before the end of 1912, Dorothy gave birth to a son, Sigourney Hurd, and golf began to play second fiddle. She supervised the building of a second home in Pinehurst that fronted on the town’s village green. The turreted house at 10 Village Green East, fashioned after an English hunting lodge, was part of a Hurd family compound since Jack’s parents and brother, Nat, owned homes just a niblick shot away. A woman of many talents, Dorothy authored frequent and lengthy instructional articles for Golf Illustrated and Golf Monthly, played the piano and composed songs. She even knitted socks for Allied soldiers during World War I.

While her collection of national championships slowed after her marriage, Hurd still dominated club play in both Pittsburgh and Pinehurst, where she played regularly during the winter as a member of the club’s female golfing society, the Silver Foils. “The Pinehurst courses are proverbial,” she remarked in an article, “for the way they can become dry in a few hours and the next day see play go gaily on.” 

During her 10 seasons in Pinehurst, Hurd won the prestigious North and South Women’s championships held in 1918, ’20, and ’21. The number of trophies collected by “Mrs. J.V. Hurd” in other Pinehurst tournaments is incalculable, but the Pinehurst Outlook provided a glimpse of her dominance in winning the St. Valentine’s Day tournament of 1918: “Mrs. Hurd was going (on) in her famous and invincible fashion — not long, but straight and inevitable.”

By 1922 the Hurds’ marriage was unraveling. One telltale sign was the terse paragraph in a March edition of the Outlook reporting that Mrs. J.V. Hurd would not be around to defend the North and South title she had won the previous two years. The couple divorced a year later and Dorothy steered clear of the Hurd family haunts in Pinehurst and Pittsburgh thereafter. Since the couple’s new Pinehurst winter home was completed not long before their separation, it seems unlikely that she spent much time there. She moved her primary residence to Philadelphia and joined the Merion Cricket Club, site of her first U.S. triumph.

With the divorce in the rearview mirror, Hurd dedicated herself to climbing back into golf’s top ranks. Never a long hitter, she’d managed to overcome that deficiency during her championship run with the deadly use of her vaunted goose-necked mashie — an adored weapon that eliminated a previous tendency to shank. She used the club, christened “Thomas,” for run-up shots near the green. It proved especially effective from around 40 yards. In the 1921 North and South, Hurd holed two such shots in the final match to clinch the championship. In emphasizing the importance of the mashie in a Golf Illustrated article, she flashed her dry wit, writing, “Bernard Shaw’s axiom that we should exercise great care in the selection of our parents can be applied with equal force to the choosing of a mashie.”

But several women in the newest wave of fine amateurs — most notably Marion Hollins, tennis star Mary K. Browne, and the powerful Glenna Collett — were driving the ball 50-70 yards past Hurd’s. It was too great an advantage for Dorothy and or “Thomas” to overcome. At 40, could any pro help an aging champion find enough driving distance to enable her to compete against the new wave?

The Merion pro who stepped forward to assist was a man Dorothy Campbell had known in North Berwick: George Sayers. “George was born and brought up in my hometown, and I have known him since he was a boy,” she later recalled. “He told me he could help me change my swing but it would entail inordinate practice.” She had nothing to lose by trying.

Sayers wasn’t the first member of his family to teach golf to Hurd. Thirty years previously, his father, Ben Sayers, taught young Dorothy Campbell back in North Berwick. Dorothy’s home, Inchgarry House, was located hard by the 18th tee of the West Links, and she absorbed the game almost from birth, taking her first swing with a “six-penny” club at 18 months. It became common for golfers mounting the West Links’ 18th tee to encounter the toddler swinging a miniature club outside Inchgarry’s garden gate. In a piece for Golf Illustrated, Hurd wrote “that the fates decreed that I should be fairly impregnated with a golfing atmosphere from the very beginning, even if the family fable that I cut my teeth on the head of a cleek be not true.”

George Sayers switched Hurd’s unorthodox grip (the right thumb under the shaft) to the more conventional Vardon grip. He convinced her to jettison her stiff-wristed sweeping style in favor of a more fluid and athletic move to the ball. A grip change is one of golf’s most daunting projects, and Hurd worked on her new swing and grip for eight months with the sort of single-mindedness that would later mark Ben Hogan’s unceasing practice. She hit balls until the joint on her index finger became a raw wound, but once the changes began taking hold, she unlocked more power. Encouraged, she set her sights on entering the 1924 U.S. Women’s Amateur, held that year at Rhode Island Country Club, the stomping grounds of pre-tournament favorite, Glenna Collett, then in the midst of the greatest year of her Hall of Fame career.

With her best days more than a decade behind her, it was going to be a steep climb for Hurd. The mental aspect of the game was a subject she frequently wrote about in Golf Illustrated. She stressed “absolute concentration on the matter at hand, determination not to let bad luck discourage us and the resolve never to give up hope until the match is over . . . If it can be instilled into a player’s mind he can do a thing, he will generally be able to do it.”

Hurd cautioned against fits of pique with her customary drollness. “A certain theologian whom I have met has more than once told me that he considers the game of golf to be a most dangerous and harmful one, confiding that it’s bad for a man’s character for the same reason that a Presbyterian sergeant in the Boer War objected to bayonet charges — because it makes the men swear so.”

But whether her mental strength would be enough to give Hurd a meaningful chance against the likes of Collett, Browne and Hollins was open for debate. Even with her newfound distance, she would still be hitting second shots from 30 yards or more behind the long knockers.

Having cut her teeth in North Berwick, Hurd was quite comfortable coping with the stiff breezes off Narragansett Bay at the championship site. Her drives were traveling respectable distances, and chips by her ever-reliable mashie were resulting in “gimme” putts. Hurd breezed through to the final, where the smart money had her facing Glenna Collett — once Collett took care of two-sport star Browne in the other semifinal, that is. Collett hadn’t lost a match all year, but Browne scored an upset when her off-line putt at the 19th hole caromed off Collett’s ball and into the cup for victory.

In the final, Hurd was slow getting off the mark and trailed early. Then her putter — nicknamed Stella — caught fire. After 27 holes, Hurd had a 7-up lead. Three holes later, the match was closed out 7 and 6. Hurd’s victory set two U.S. Women’s Amateur records that remain unequaled — oldest winner (41), and most years between titles in the championship (14).

Hurd continued to play well throughout the 1920s and ’30s, winning five Philadelphia district titles. Stella, her deadeye putter, brought her another record in 1926. Playing Augusta Country Club, she used just 19 putts in 18 holes, finishing that amazing round with a chip-in by Thomas on the 18th.

In 1937 Hurd married banker and non-golfer Edward Howe, but the marriage only lasted six years. At age 55, Hurd — then Howe — won the U.S. Women’s Senior Championship. By her own estimation, during her lifetime she won over 700 first prizes.

Tragedy befell Jack Hurd and his second wife, Caroline, when they both perished in an automobile accident in Wilmington, North Carolina, in May 1930. An accident would also end Dorothy’s life.

In 1945, after visiting friends in Beaufort, South Carolina, she was traveling by train to Pleasantville, New York, to visit her son’s wife, Ruth, while he was serving in the Army in the Philippines. As she was changing trains in Yemassee, South Carolina, Dorothy inexplicably lost her footing and fell into the path of an oncoming locomotive. She was 61 at the time of her death.

Dorothy Campbell Hurd Howe — with her mashie Thomas and her putter Stella — was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978. She wrote that the great shots she played so often with her favorite clubs were “almost second nature to me.” So was winning. PS

Pinehurst resident Bill Case is PineStraw’s history man. He can be reached at Bill.Case@thompsonhine.com.