Golftown Journal

Golftown Journal

Photograph by Ted Fitzgerald

Miller Time

Finding the spirit of golf in Pinehurst

By Lee Pace

Courtesy Tufts Archives

They are grouped together side by side in the new World Golf Hall of Fame in Pinehurst, these luminaries of the golf world of the 1970s: Lanny Wadkins, Hale Irwin, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller.

The museum that just opened as part of the USGA’s Golf House Pinehurst facility is organized around a locker for each of 160-plus inductees. Each display includes a photo and an assortment of memorabilia, and this quartet of golfers is represented by images from that 1970s era of long hair and shirts with wide collars and bright color palettes.

Each of the four won major championships, accumulated Ryder Cup points and fired ridiculously low rounds. And all carved a niche of some sort in Pinehurst.

Wadkins played at Pinehurst as a junior golfer from Richmond and later as a member of the golf team at Wake Forest University; he was runner-up in the 1969 North & South Amateur.

Irwin and Watson share the course record on Pinehurst No. 2, along with Gibby Gilbert, with 62s shot in the mid-1970s during the PGA Tour’s foray at Pinehurst, with Irwin winning the Colgate Hall of Fame Classic in 1977 and Watson winning back-to-back in ’78 and ’79.

And Miller has a 63 on No. 2 and collected first place in the 1974 Hall of Fame Classic. He shot his eight-under-par score in the second round and could have gone one lower if not for a missed 6-footer for birdie on the 18th.

“It was like one of those old Johnny Miller blitzes,” he remembers. “I dominated the course and scored a fairly easy 63, if there is such a thing.”

Fifty years ago. What goes around, does seem to come around.

That year the blond bombshell from Northern California scorched the PGA Tour with wins in three straight tournaments to open the season, took first in five others and banked over $350,000, a magnificent sum in those days. He drove the ball long and straight, smothered flagsticks with his irons, and seemed to have magnets drawing his putts to the cup. It was one year following his U.S. Open win at Oakmont, when he shot a championship record 63.

The World Open was first played in November 1973, with an outlandish 144-hole format over two weeks. It was shortened to 72 holes in 1974, and the tournament coincided with the September opening of the $2.5 million World Golf Hall of Fame. President Gerald Ford attended induction ceremonies, and among the 13 original inductees were eight still living: Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen and Patty Berg. Honored in memory were Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Francis Ouimet, Harry Vardon and Babe Zaharias.

Miller and Nicklaus were tied at 209 after three rounds, with Charles Coody and Bruce Devlin two back, and Bob Murphy and Frank Beard trailing by three. The 27-year-old Miller reveled in the challenge of going head-to-head against the 34-year-old Nicklaus.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if both of us shot in the 60s head-to-head,” Miller said. “I’ve held him at bay recently and I’ve had a lot of success against Jack, but I don’t talk much about it. I know he’s a better player than I am, but I’m not afraid of him.”

Miller and Nicklaus each shot one-over 72s, allowing Murphy and Beard to force a four-way playoff with 69s and 281 totals, three-under for 72 holes (only eight players beat par for the tournament).

The playoff started on 15, where TV cameras were set up. Beard scored a routine par on the par-3, leaving a birdie putt dead short that could have ended it there. Miller and Nicklaus got up-and-down from the fringe, and Murphy was eliminated after his tee ball found a greenside bunker.

Miller won the tournament with a two-putt birdie on 16 after Beard three-putted and Nicklaus missed a 12-footer for birdie. Miller hit a 3-wood to eight feet — “The best shot under pressure I’ve ever hit,” he says.

“To beat Jack Nicklaus in a playoff sort of capped off the year for me,” Miller says. “I enjoyed playing No. 2. It was perfect for my game. It gave you enough room off the tee, you had extremely difficult approach shots, and if you hit it real bad off the tee, you had broom grass, sand and trees. To me that course is the perfect course for my game. It’s the kind of course I like to design. It’s the perfect test of golf because it’s got difficult putting, it accepts the approach shot fairly, and it penalizes the poor shot. It gives you enough room off the tee, versus most U.S. Open courses, which give you only 25 or 30 yards.”

A different Johnny Miller came to Pinehurst in 1979. He had been the talk of the tour in the early 1970s for his good play but now had become the talk of the tour for his bad play. He slid to 48th on the money list in 1977 and 111th in 1978, with only $17,400 in winnings. Miller hadn’t won a tournament since early 1976.

“What’s wrong with Johnny Miller?” the world wanted to know.

Miller responded that there wasn’t anything wrong that a bunch of birdies and a little confidence couldn’t solve.

“Before Pinehurst I played in the Lancôme in Paris and won against a good field, and that signaled that maybe I was ready to play well again on the U.S. tour. I came home a week or two later and continued my good play,” he says.

Miller opened with a 69 and then equaled his 1974 heroics with another 63. “It was amazing. It was like it was ’73 or ’74 all over again,” he said. Miller wound up losing in a playoff to Watson.

But Johnny Miller was back. Pinehurst will always be special to him for those weeks in 1974 and 1979.

“I almost can’t tell you how good the golf course is,” he says. “It might not be the hardest golf course in the world, but for pleasure, for going out and having a pleasurable time with a smile on your face, it can’t be beat. It’s hard to get mad when you play Pinehurst.

“It reeks of golf, it has a definite golf spirit, very similar to a Pine Valley or Augusta National or Cypress Point. It’s very blessed with that golfing spirit.”  PS

The Johnny Miller story and many others were included in Lee Pace’s 1991 book, Pinehurst Stories — A Celebration of Great Golf and Good Times. Write him at and follow him @LeePaceTweet.




The Briar Club, by Kate Quinn

Everyone keeps to themselves at Briarwood House, a down-at-the-heels all-female boardinghouse in the heart of Washington, D.C., where secrets hide behind white picket fences. When the lovely, mysterious widow Grace March moves into the attic room, she draws her oddball collection of neighbors into unlikely friendship — the English beauty Fliss, whose facade of perfect wife and mother covers gaping inner wounds; the policeman’s daughter Nora, who finds herself entangled with a shadowy gangster; the frustrated baseball star Beatrice, whose career has come to an end along with the women’s baseball league of World War II; and the poisonous, gung-ho Arlene, who has thrown herself into McCarthy’s Red Scare. Grace’s weekly attic room dinner parties and window-brewed sun tea become a healing balm on all their lives, but she hides a terrible secret of her own.


Women in the Valley of the Kings: The Untold Story of Women Egyptologists in the Gilded Age, by Kathleen Sheppard

The history of Egyptology is often told as yet one more grand narrative of powerful men striving to seize the day and the precious artifacts for their competing homelands. But that is only half the story. During the so-called Golden Age of Exploration, before men even conceived of claiming the story for themselves, women were working in Egypt to lay the groundwork for all future exploration. In Women in the Valley of the Kings, Sheppard brings the untold stories of these women back into this narrative, beginning with some of the earliest European women who ventured to Egypt as travelers: Amelia Edwards, Jenny Lane and Marianne Brocklehurst. Their travelogues, diaries and maps chronicled a new world for the curious. In the vast desert, Maggie Benson, the first woman granted permission to excavate in Egypt, met Nettie Gourlay, the woman who became her lifelong companion. They battled issues of oppression and exclusion and, ultimately, are credited with excavating the Temple of Mut. As each woman scored a success in the desert, she set up the women who came later. Emma Andrews’ success as a patron and archaeologist helped pave the way for Margaret Murray to teach. Murray’s work in the university led to the artists Amice Calverley’s and Myrtle Broome’s ability to work on-site at Abydos, creating brilliant reproductions of tomb art, and to Kate Bradbury’s and Caroline Ransom’s leadership in critical Egyptological institutions.

The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum: The Rise and Fall of an American Organized-Crime Boss, by Margalit Fox

In 1850, an impoverished 25-year-old named Fredericka Mandelbaum came to New York in steerage and worked as a peddler on the streets of Lower Manhattan. By the 1870s she was a fixture of high society and an admired philanthropist. How was she able to ascend from tenement poverty to vast wealth? In the intervening years, “Marm” Mandelbaum had become the country’s most notorious receiver of stolen goods — and a criminal mastermind. By the mid-1880s as much as $10 million worth of purloined luxury goods (nearly $300 million today) had passed through her Lower East Side shop. Called “the nucleus and center of the whole organization of crime,” she planned robberies of cash, gold and diamonds throughout the country. The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum paints a vivid portrait of Gilded Age New York — a city teeming with nefarious rogues, capitalist power brokers and Tammany Hall bigwigs, all straddling the line between underworld enterprise and “legitimate” commerce.

The Secret History of Sharks: The Rise of the Ocean’s Most Fearsome Predators, by John A. Long

Sharks have been fighting for their lives for 500 million years and today are under dire threat. They are the longest-surviving vertebrate on Earth, outlasting multiple mass extinction events that decimated life on the planet. How did they thrive for so long? By developing superpower-like abilities that allowed them to ascend to the top of the oceanic food chain. Led by Long and dozens of other extraordinary scientists, The Secret History of Sharks showcases the global search to discover the largely unknown evolution of sharks. They embark on digs to all seven continents, using cutting-edge technology to reveal never-before-found fossils and the clues to sharks’ singular story.




Beach Hair, by Ashley Woodfolk

Bed hair? Don’t care! It’s time for a day at the beach. This celebration of fun, frivolity and a little frizz is the perfect read for a summer day at the beach, the lake, or even just a sprinkler in the backyard. (Ages 2-6.)

Ursula Upside Down, by Corey R. Tabor

Toh-may-toh, toh-mah-toh; po-tay-to, po-tah-to. We’ve all got our own way of interpreting the world, and for Ursula, well, her way is to see the world upside down. Or, maybe, we’re upside down and Ursula is right after all. However you look at the world, you’ll love looking at it through Ursula’s eyes in this charming picture book from the author of the Fox versus Fox learning to read series. (Ages 3-7.)

How to Catch a Polar Bear, by Stacy DeKeyser

The summer of 1948 is heating up, and 12-year-old Nick is looking forward to hanging out with his best pals, Ace and Penny. When the two of them decide to share a paper route, Nick is left to find other ways to fill his days. Lucky for him, his uncle opened a custard stand and needs help. It just so happens the custard stand is at the zoo, where a polar bear has escaped and some very unusual hijinks keep happening. Nick decides to volunteer to be close to the action — and score some free custard. This delightful romp of a historical novel rounds out the summer with a little mystery. It’s the perfect read for fans of Stuart Gibbs’ Belly Up and Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. (Ages 8-12.)  PS

Compiled by Kimberly Daniels Taws and Angie Tally.



A Soaring Kite

The majestic swallow-tailed

By Susan Campbell

The swallow-tailed kite is, without a doubt, the most unmistakable of birds in our state — and perhaps anywhere in the world. This large raptor with a long, forked tail is capable of endless, highly acrobatic flight. The size, as well as the long, narrow wings, may cause one to think “osprey” at first, but one glimpse of that unique tail gives its true identity away, even at a great distance. This majestic bird is black on top with a white head and belly, as well as white wing linings. As with all kite species, the bill is stout and heavily curved, but the legs and feet, instead of being yellow, are a grayish hue.

It has only been in the last decade that this magnificent species has become a regular in the summer months in certain locations of southeastern North Carolina. Individuals were observed mixed in with Mississippi kites along the Cape Fear River in the summer of 2003. In 2008 a pair of kites seemed to be defending a territory along the river, but no concrete evidence of breeding could be found. Swallow-tailed kites were finally confirmed as a new breeder here when a nesting pair was located during an aerial survey by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission in May of 2013. Far more likely to be seen in coastal South Carolina and farther south, these birds have plenty of feeding habitat here, as well as tall trees for nesting. Their numbers are bound to increase in the years ahead.

Swallow-taileds are found in wet coastal habitat where their preferred prey — large flying insects — are abundant. Adults feed entirely on the wing. But, when foraging for young, this bird is so agile that it not only preys on bugs, such as dragonflies and beetles, it readily snatches snakes, lizards and even nestlings of other species from the canopy. Swallow-taileds are not at all choosey. Males forage for a good deal of the food for the growing family. The male will carry food items back to the nest in its talons, transfer to it to his bill and carefully pass it to his mate, who will tear it into pieces and feed it to their young.

This species is a loosely communal breeder like its cousin the Mississippi kite. Swallow-tailed pairs can be seen in adjacent treetops when they find a particularly good piece of habitat. Non-breeding males may also associate with established pairs. These individuals might bring gifts of sticks and even food to breeding females but, interestingly, these offerings usually go ignored.

Swallow-taileds have been found to consume a large number of highly venomous insects. Wasps and hornets are not uncommon food items, as are fire ants. This is possible because they have developed a much fleshier stomach than other birds. An adult kite may bring an entire wasps’ nest to its own nest and, after consuming the larvae, incorporate it into the nest. The motivation for this behavior is unclear.

In late summer, individual swallow-tailed kites can be seen almost anywhere in the state as a result of post-breeding dispersal. They may mix in with feeding or loafing Mississippi kites around agricultural fields or bottomland forest. Last July, I was fortunate enough to spot a soaring individual over Highway 421 adjacent to swampy habitat outside of Siler City in Chatham County. Should you spot one of these magnificent birds, consider yourself very lucky.  PS

Susan Campbell would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photos. She can be contacted by email at, or by calling (910) 585-0574.

Out of the Blue

Golftown Journal

Dream House

Home, sweet imaginary home

By Deborah Salomon

These days, what with high interest rates and low inventory, house-shoppers are lucky to find anything, let alone a dream house. This shouldn’t keep wannabees from daydreaming.

I do, although unlikely I will ever own another house, let alone anything dreamy.

In the past 16 years, I have written about more than 200 houses for PineStraw, sporting every possible feature, learning along the way that living space often defines a person. I’ve seen a classic mansion built during Pinehurst’s Gilded Age with a walk-in closet retrofitted as a control room for systems — temperature, lights, alarm, locks, music. I’ve seen Alice’s topsy-turvy down-the-rabbit-hole abodes, and kitchens with gadgetry so fantastical it defies explanation. So, it’s only natural that, price notwithstanding, I would daydream my perfect home — and hope that you’ll do the same.

Heading the list: an ultra-powerful generator. I’m not satisfied with juicing up the fridge and the AC. For the duration of any outage I want lights, ice cream, a hot shower and CNN. Sure, I could endure a tepid shower, but without a hair dryer I’d be forced to hide under the bed.

I’d want at least two bay windows, with low window seats so the resident pet(s) could watch the world go by. No blinds, no shrubs to obstruct their view. However, a lilac bush should rise up below the bedroom window so that on cool summer nights I might open it a crack and drink in the perfume. I’ve actually experienced this one and believe me, it’s divine.

The kitchen must have a pot rack low enough for me to reach. This could be a headache for tall folk — I’m 5 feet, 2 inches tall. As for burners and/or sink in the island — also used as a breakfast bar — no thanks. Too much going on, too messy, potentially dangerous. But my island needs an electric outlet for the mixer/blender/processor so I can spread out while baking.

Heated bathroom floors and towel racks don’t make the list, nor does a warm toilet seat. But a heat lamp over the shower exit would be lovely.

With a nod to yesteryear I’d appreciate a cold pantry: a shelved closet with a secure-fitting door and a window that could be opened on winter days to thaw the turkey or cool cauldrons of soup and prevent potatoes from sprouting. Even with two refrigerators and a screened Carolina room a cold pantry is useful, at least during the winter.

I’m a basics gal but might indulge in soft lighting glowing from trench ceiling moldings in living and dining rooms, perhaps upstairs hallways, which I’d leave on all night.

Swimming pools require major maintenance. No thanks. Lap pools, too specialized. But I just discovered plunge pools — long and narrow, 3- to 5-feet deep with submerged benches along the side, perfect for jumping in to cool off, or water walking, which is excellent exercise. A lot less expensive, too.

Now, the kicker: My dream house has only two TVs, neither jumbo. One would have a built-in DVD player for the stacks of perfectly good discs I have saved. They would be linked to a service provider that removes all ads for prescription drugs whose possible side effects include nausea, diarrhea, shingles, cancer, blindness, stroke and death.

Dream on, Deb. Ain’t gonna happen.

But wouldn’t it be nice?  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She may be reached at

Almanac July 2024

Almanac July 2024

July is the scratch of wild bramble, a rogue rumble of thunder, the snap, crackle, pop of grasshoppers on the wing.

The soundtrack of summer is alive and swelling. As the temperature rises, the cicadas turn the dial from lusty to deafening. Gentle crescendos are for the birds.

Catbird sings of blueberries. Mockingbird, too. Red-bellied woodpecker gorges on fruit.

Among ditch daisies and dancing grasses, meadow-beauty and blooming Joe Pye, the crickets declare their sole intention. It’s time now, they announce. Let’s do this! We came here on a mission!

Life wants to live. All beings know some version of this tune. The dream of every cricket is next summer’s mating song.

In the garden, mantis munches on June beetles. Honeybees serenade black-eyed Susans. A watermelon whispers that it’s time, now. 

One look and you know it’s true. Still, you give the rind a solid thwack.

Yep. Music.

As you gently twist the whopper from the stem, the cicadas scream with primal knowing.

This is when you choose to slow down. Feel the weight of swollen fruit as you hold it close. Give thanks for the soundscape, the sweetness, the sweat on your brow.

Despite these endless summer days, the transience of this season is palpable.

Let’s do this, the crickets trill. It’s time now. Life as we know it depends on us.

Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the tree house; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill.   — Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

All That Glitters

Grab the binoculars. A Mars-Uranus conjunction will grace the Eastern sky an hour before sunrise on Monday, July 15. Look to Taurus (the white bull) for this rare glimpse of two planets, seemingly close enough to kiss.

On the subject of shining moments, jewelweed is having one this month, too. In other words: It’s blooming.

With its small-but-showy orange flowers (they do look like tiny charms dangling from slender stalks), you’re likely to spot this native medicinal along forest edges — especially near poison ivy. As Nature has arranged it, the sap from jewelweed leaves and stems can be applied topically to help soothe itchy rashes. Simply brilliant.   

En Plein Air

Did you know that National Play Outside Day is celebrated on the first Saturday of every month? This Fourth of July weekend, turn off the screens. It’s time for some old-fashioned yard fun. Hopscotch. Double Dutch. Corn-shucking on the porch.

Bust out the freeze pops. The hammock. The threadbare picnic blanket.

Is your kid the next egg-and-spoon race champion? Watermelon seed-spitting extraordinaire? Double-dog dare you to find out.   PS

Tea Leaf Astrologer

Tea Leaf Astrologer


(June 21 – July 22)

Fancy the tapas sampler? This month kicks off with Saturn retrograde in Pisces. Rainbows and butterflies, yes. But also, reality checks. (Band-Aids don’t fix everything.) Ready or not, the new moon in Cancer will deliver a much-needed reboot on July 5. And when Venus enters Leo on July 11? Aim those big feelings toward your deepest desires and watch the universe bend over backward to serve them up.

Tea leaf “fortunes” for the rest of you:

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

Ditch the predictive text.

Virgo (August 23 – September 22)

The proof is in the pie crust.

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

Best to let sleeping dogs lie.

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

Knock and the door will open.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

Be sure to kiss them in the rain.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

Try wiping the lens.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

Stretch or be stretched.

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Locate your center of gravity.

Aries (March 21 – April 19) 

Just add water.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

Three words: Less is more.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

Plant your tootsies firmly on the Earth.   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.

PinePitches July 2024

PinePitches July 2024

Some Kind of Palooza

The Pinesapalooza is a free outdoor concert featuring local musicians on the grassy knoll next to the Sunrise Theater, 250 N.W. Broad St., Southern Pines, beginning at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 20, and going until who knows when. For info call (910) 420-2549 or go to 

Bocce is Back

The Backyard Bocce Bash, benefiting the Sandhills Children’s Center, takes place on Saturday, July 20, beginning at 8:45 a.m. at the Harness Track, 200 Beulah Hill Road S., in Pinehurst. Get rolling and put a team together for a good cause. For information and registration go to


Photographs by Ted Fitzgerald

A Black Box Summer

The first of Judson Theatre Company’s three summer black box presentations, the musical They’re Playing Our Song, begins at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 19, at the McPherson Theater, 3395 Airport Road, Pinehurst. The show runs through July 28. The second feature in the summer series, Mrs. Mannerly, starring Linda Purl, begins Aug. 2, at 8 p.m., and runs through Aug. 11. The triptych concludes with Tell Me on a Sunday, beginning Aug. 16. For information and tickets go to or

You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

The Sunrise Theater, 250 N.W. Broad St., Southern Pines, is celebrating the “Summer of Spielberg” by screening the movies of a certain Steven. On Wednesday, July 3, the theater will show Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, followed by Indiana Jones: The Temple of Doom on Thursday, July 11, then Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade, on Thursday, July 18, and closing out the month — for those who need a break from Harrison Ford — ET the Extra-Terrestrial, on Thursday, July 25. All shows begin at 7 p.m. Whips, hats and bomber jackets are extra. Visit for more information.

Peach of a Night

Watch the Sandhills Bogeys’ last home game in the “Peg the Peach Night,” beginning at 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 21. The first 100 attendees will receive free peach ice cream from Stellar Scoops. We have no clue what “pegging the peach” means, but we’re pretty sure we understand free ice cream. The games are at Dempsey Field at Sandhills Community College, 3395 Airport Road, in Pinehurst. For additional info go to


Photograph by Benjamin Hershey


The Country Bookshop, 140 N.W. Broad St., Southern Pines, will host Tita Ramirez to discuss her debut novel, Tell It to Me Singing, on July 8, from 6 – 7 p.m. Then, Beatriz Williams will be in the house on Sunday, July 14, from 2 – 3 p.m., to talk about her novel, Husbands and Lovers. And, last but not least, The Sway and the bookshop team up to present Tessa Bailey in an engaging conversation and book signing of her newest novel, The Au Pair Affair, from 7:30 – 8:30 p.m., on Friday, July 19 at the Sunrise Theater, 250 N.W. Broad St., Southern Pines. For information and to save a seat go to

Candles and Cafés, Oh, My

The Met Opera takes the screen at the Sunrise Theater, 250 N.W. Broad St., Southern Pines, in Giacomo Puccini’s classic opera La Bohème, beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 27. Enjoy a little Parisian lifestyle circa 1890. Hum if you don’t know the words. Call (910) 420-2549 or visit for more information.

A Pinehurst Kinda 4th

Celebrate Independence Day early with a free concert and fireworks on Wednesday, July 3, at the Pinehurst Harness Track, 200 Beulah Hill Road S., in Pinehurst. There will be food, beverages and stuff to keep the kids occupied until the smoke show begins at 9:15 p.m. Then get up and at ’em on the day itself for the Independence Day Parade — pets included — in the village of Pinehurst, beginning at 9:45 a.m., at 1 Village Green Road. For additional information go to



The One That Got Away

Well, maybe it was more than one

By Jim Moriarty

Some folks are naturally blessed with a singing voice that could charm the stars out of the sky. Others are granted the inexplicable gift of mathematical brilliance or the ability to learn languages as effortlessly as drawing a warm bath. I, on the other hand, have been endowed with a singular knack for the big mistake. The cosmic screwup.

One might suppose that, over the course of time, this penchant for the monumental blunder would be cause for concern. Counseling at the very least, if not jail time. But, like bunions or getting the wrong order at the drive-thru, one learns to live with it. I like to think of these gaffes as the building blocks of my children’s future eulogies, should the worst happen to me — which seems, for the reason listed above plus the usual one, like a foregone conclusion.

Though picking one of my personal oopses over another is a daunting task, now that major championship golf has come to Pinehurst and gone toddling off toward Scotland, I’m forced to recall one such staggering miscue from my rather extensive list. It happened exactly 40 years ago this month, so you can see I’ve been at this thing for a very long time indeed.

I had just struck out on my own, hoping to find contentment and riches as a freelance writer and photographer equipped with everything I needed except talent, experience and a Will Work for Food sign hand-painted on a piece of torn cardboard. As luck would have it, that year — 1984 — the Open Championship was being held in St. Andrews at the Old Course. Somehow I managed to talk the USGA’s magazine into allowing me to take pictures for them, and so off I went with the War Department at my side as a camera sherpa/assistant, and because July is also her birthday month.

Early in the week we went for a walkabout to familiarize ourselves with the old links, and we came upon Tom Watson playing St. Andrews’ 17th, the Road Hole. Watson, a five-time winner of the Open Championship, had claimed the claret jug two years in a row. Little did we know he’d already done all the winning of major championships he was going to do. As part of his practice on 17, Tom threw a few balls down on the little patch of grass between the gravel road and the stone wall behind the green. We watched as he practiced caroming the ball off the wall and back onto the green, should he find himself in that predicament during play.

Sure enough, coming down the stretch on Sunday, Seve Ballesteros and Watson were tied with two holes to play. Seve, playing with Bernhard Langer, was in the twosome in front of Watson, who was playing alongside Ian Baker-Finch. As Seve parred the Road Hole, Watson flirted with the out of bounds on his tee shot and then hit a 2-iron over the 17th green, close to the stone wall.

Ballesteros was heading down the short 18th when Watson’s ball cozied up to the wall and the smart money — and the smart photographers — rushed down the home hole with him. In those days, photographers were allowed to walk inside the wall behind the 17th green, and I decided, if Watson was to bank the ball off the wall, save his par and go on to win a third straight Open Championship, I wanted a picture of it. It was like betting on a unicorn in the Kentucky Derby.

There was one other problem. I’m a skosh under 6 feet and the stone wall is roughly shoulder height to me. The War Department and I needed to get on the other side of it to take Tom’s picture, so I put all the cameras and lenses on the ground and tossed my wife over the wall like I was throwing an anchor overboard. Happy birthday, honey. I climbed over after her and positioned myself to shoot Watson face-on if he did, indeed, bump his ball into the wall. But he didn’t. As a precaution, I’d given the War Department a camera, which she used to take Tom’s picture. It ran in the USGA’s magazine with my photo credit — and me in the background.

Meanwhile, up ahead on the 18th green, Seve made a birdie three and pumped his fist to the north, to the south, to the east and to the west. It was such an iconic photograph it would become his personal symbol.

I got to watch it from halfway down the 18th. God bless her, the War Department didn’t even shake her head or lift her eyes skyward. At least not that I saw.  PS

Jim Moriarty is the Editor of PineStraw and can be reached at

Little Gem

Little Gem

Good things come in small packages

By Deborah Salomon  

Photographs by John Gessner

“Perfect” is an imperfect word when applied to houses. But once in a blue moon, it fits: A small dwelling that, through careful staging, appears larger; a historic Pinehurst property neither castle nor Tara; furniture of several different periods and provenances that hangs together harmoniously; a hydrangea-lined walkway and a garden surrounded by a wrought iron fence, designed for sitting and sipping tea with neighbors.

The finishing touch is a sweet black Lab named Ritter, same as a Pinehurst street. Most mornings Ritter walks Judy Davis to The Villager Deli, where the owner enjoys breakfast and the dog greets friends, old and new.

Above: Photographs of pre-renovation

They live in a cottage, circa 1,500 square feet, on the outer ring surrounding the estates Pinehurst is famous for. These cottages, built for teachers, shopkeepers, resort employees in the 1920s — later rented to military personnel -— are, one by one, being renovated as mini-showplaces for golf-loving retirees in search of mild winters, upscale amenities and likeminded neighbors.

Davis grew up in Virginia and South Carolina, worked in marketing in Ohio until retirement in 2013. Along the way she discovered Pinehurst while attending a Peggy Kirk Bell “Golfari” at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club. What followed became an odyssey of purchasing, renovating and moving out of several properties in this outer ring until she found her historic gem.

“You could call me a serial renovator,” Davis says with a laugh.

Beside the front door hangs a plaque proclaiming Sally House 1927, named after A.B. Sally, its builder.

This time the youthful grandma and former Pinehurst Village Council member had a new objective: aging in place. It meant two showers but no tub — no sills to trip over. Instead of a conspicuous ramp out front, an attractive brick version slopes off the back porch. Topping her list of practicalities is a generator powerful enough to keep the whole house humming if Duke Power can’t.

Realtors recognize the aha moment when a client walks into the just-right house. Davis experienced hers when she noticed the door that separates the public area from bed and bathrooms. She saw beyond the dark, geometric wallpaper and a kitchen devoid of personality. With the assistance of architect Christine Dandeneau, familiar with the area from living a few blocks away, Davis assumed the task. “I didn’t want an open floorplan,” she says.

Since the house has no family room, great room or, in ’60s-speak, den, the living room is lived in. A scaled-down sofa is upholstered in a neutral toile print. The area rug is grasscloth, the side chairs comfortable, and the coffee table a contemporary Plexiglas over wicker. Press a button on the long console chest and a TV screen rises from its depths.

“I don’t like to look at a blank screen all the time,” Davis explains.

Topping it off while adding height and volume is an inverted hip ceiling done in a textured pattern. A variation of this mode appears on the dining room ceiling over an oval table with an unusual rough finish, where Davis holds meetings as well as dinner parties.

Beyond the lived-in room, Dandeneau enclosed a narrow porch for an office, with window seat and built-in bookcases displaying a first glimpse of Davis’ McCoy pottery, a prized American collectible from the mid-1900s, appearing throughout the house as vases, pitchers, mugs, teapots. This pottery, along with paintings depicting fruit, flowers and dogs, provides bursts of color against French vanilla walls uniting the rooms, as do original floorboards whose imperfections add character. Davis is particularly fond of stylized canine art by Stephen Huneck, an internationally recognized Vermont folk artist and creator of children’s books featuring, coincidentally, his black Lab named Sally.

Dandeneau agrees that working with a small space requires ingenuity. Davis looked at a shallow closet in the dining room and saw a bar/storage nook. Off came the doors, in went cabinetry, a counter, unusual lighting fixtures wired into the sidewalls, the entirety painted a rich aubergine. She keeps the everyday dishes there, since the kitchen has only one wall-hung cabinet, back-lit to display fine china.

By some sleight-of-hand that kitchen — with exposed brick, multi-angled ceiling, wall-mounted shelves, footed cabinets and splashy art — does not feel cramped despite the gas range and refrigerator. Instead of an island, Davis placed an antique school desk and chair on a small rug, decorative and useful. Extending beyond the kitchen, an addition to the house provides space for stacked laundry equipment, a window and storage.

The result: European flair, American practicality.

Two bedrooms, also modest in size, prove that queen-sized beds fit just fine if other pieces are kept to a minimum. Two large and thoroughly modern bathrooms plus an adorable powder room might have surprised A.B. Sally in an era when nobody gilded the loo.

Who would know better than Ann Dixon, Mr. Sally’s granddaughter, who lives nearby in a similar cottage? The two met while dog walking. Dixon recalls visiting Davis’ cottage as a child and provides town history so important to its new owner/curator.

The result?

Adorable. Charming. Traditional yet trendy. Practical, personal and innovative. In a word . . . perfect.

“And the best part is I get to live here,” Davis says.  PS

Upstaging Summer

Upstaging Summer

Beating the Heat at Judson Theatre’s Summer Festival

By Jenna Biter

Sunshine streams through the floor-to-ceiling windows like a spotlight.

“We do have a star in the Summer Theatre Festival this year,” Morgan Sills says from a bench just inside the lobby of the Sandhills Community College Bradshaw Performing Arts Center. Sills, the executive producer and co-founder of Judson Theatre Company, the professional theater company in residence at BPAC, pauses for a second, then smiles.

“Linda Purl is coming back,” he says.

The name bursts into the room. Baby boomers and millennials — perhaps even Gen Z cinephiles — recognize Purl, either as Henry Winkler’s girlfriend in Happy Days; Andy Griffith’s daughter, Charlene, in Matlock; or Jenna Fischer’s mom/Steve Carell’s love interest in The Office.

Regulars at Judson’s productions will also remember Purl from The Year of Magical Thinking, the one-woman Joan Didion play that ran for two weekends last August in BPAC’s McPherson Theater, in the company’s second annual summer series.

“I loved it,” Sills says, reflecting on Purl’s powerful performance of Didion’s masterpiece about loss and grieving. The material deviated from Judson’s typical summer formula: a bright and fun musical, followed by a comedy — “hopefully one that people haven’t seen,” says Sills — and finishing with another musical.

This year’s summer series returns to that original, lighter formula, with a boredom-busting lineup beginning July 19 and ending Aug. 25. Each show will run for two long weekends, for a total of six straight weeks of air-conditioned entertainment when you need it most.

As always, all three plays will be performed in the McPherson black box theater, a stage-less, intimate chameleon of a venue that can be configured to suit the production. It seats a maximum of 80 and, without traditional sets, asks the audience to use its imagination on the canvas of the four black walls.

“The middle’s back to comedy,” Sills says, describing Purl’s encore in an Emily Post-approved two-person play, Mrs. Mannerly, sandwiched between two musicals. “It’s a two-hander about a small-town, charm school teacher with a past, and the young man whose life she changes for the better.”

Purl performs opposite Jordan Ahnquist, known for his lead in New York’s production of Shear Madness, the interactive whodunit that holds the record for the longest-running nonmusical play in America.

“We’re opening with They’re Playing Our Song,” says Sills. The Neil Simon play, written with lyricist Carole Bayer Sager and composer Marvin Hamlisch, is loosely based on Sager and Hamlisch’s real-life romance and ran for more than 1,000 performances in Broadway’s Imperial Theatre. “It’s never not a hit,” says Sills.

The Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony, or EGOT, award winner Hamlisch, who died in 2012, would have turned 80 this year, so Judson’s production is a tip of the cap.

“When you’re not laughing, you’ll be tapping your toes,” Sills says. “That score is so wonderful. It’s so late ’70s and rhythmic and catchy. There’s a whole lot of . . . Tell it to me, Mama! Listen to me, Baby! Huh. Huh. Huh,” he says, breaking into song.

Sills punctuates his rendition with Elvis flair, though a different Pressley — Jacob, with one more ‘s’ — will be playing the musical’s leading man, Vernon Gersch. Like Purl, Pressley is a Judson series veteran. This year marks the actor’s third straight season flying south for the summer.

Last year, Pressley belted his way through the rise and fall of a marriage in The Last Five Years and the year before saw his Sandhills debut in Gutenberg! The Musical!, a romp about two playwrights of a farcically inaccurate historical play about the inventor of the printing press.

“This show kind of marries the two,” Pressley says of this summer’s selection. “They’re Playing Our Song is a relationship show. It’s touching and sensitive and personal at times, but also the book is written by Neil Simon, so it’s witty, it’s clippy.

“It’s a fun read because of all the quippy little Neil Simon-isms,” Pressley says of the great American playwright who created classics like The Odd Couple and The Sunshine Boys. “At the same time, I’m reading through thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to remember all of this.’”

While Sills will direct Mrs. Mannerly, Daniel Haley, Judson’s artistic director and other co-founder, will reclaim his usual seat in the director’s chair for They’re Playing Our Song, as well as Tell Me on a Sunday, the festival’s final show.

“This is another little gem people don’t know about,” Haley says. “The music is by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and I think it would be difficult to find someone who doesn’t know who that is, right?”

Like Hamlisch, Webber, the Englishman responsible for classics like The Phantom of the Opera and Cats, also has an EGOT. Tell Me on a Sunday is a one-act, one-woman musical about a Brit who journeys to America in search of love. Like many of Judson’s summer picks, it has slipped the greater limelight. “You find these little gems that people don’t know about, and it’s really such a pleasure to bring them to people,” Haley says.

Selecting shows for the summer series that aren’t widely known or shown isn’t accidental, but it has been mildly prophetic. “I feel like we have our finger on the pulse because Gutenberg! was on Broadway this past year,” says Sills. Similarly, tick, tick… Boom! — another former Judson summer selection — was recently directed by Neil Patrick Harris at the Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C.

Purchase tickets to the 2024 Summer Theatre Festival by visiting or going to Judson’s website,  PS

Jenna Biter is a writer and military wife in the Sandhills. She can be reached at