Once in a While-Away

Once in a While-Away

Historic home comes full circle

By Deborah Salomon  

Photographs by John Gessner

In the late teens and early roaring twenties, society hostesses planned guest lists around the comings and goings published in The Pinehurst Outlook.

December 15, 1923: “Most of the regular colony came down earlier than usual, with practically every cottage in the village occupied. Mr. James Barber has opened up Thistle Dhu . . . Mr. S.B. Chapin came down and opened While-a-Way (sic) but had to go back to New York on a business trip.” In New York, the Chapins — engaged in finance, the stock market and real estate — lived in one of the last private homes on Fifth Avenue to survive the Gilded Age.

Old money. Big money.

“Chapin wouldn’t be able to find his way around (While-Away) if he came back now,” says Kevin Drum, who with his wife, Dr. Jennifer Stoddard, bought the cottage in 2014. For Drum, owner of the Drum & Quill — the name a tip of the cap to his golf journalist father, Bob Drum — who has served on the Pinehurst Village Council and run for mayor, ownership of this historic property completes a circle.

Left: Tufts Archives

Right: Kevin Drum, Jennifer Stoddard and Kevin Klenzak 

“My mother told us kids not to play over here,” meaning the exclusive Old Town side of the village. He gestures beyond The Carolina Hotel: “We lived over there.”

Stoddard, a UNC Medical School alumna from Potsdam, New York, returned to North Carolina to join Pinehurst Nephrology Associates. After Drum and Stoddard married, they went house hunting. “I made the Realtor crazy,” Stoddard says. She wanted a historic property, as did Drum. While-Away was close enough to Jennifer’s office and the hospital, and easy walking distance to the Drum & Quill for Kevin. Plus, at 6,000 square feet, it was roomy enough for her three school-age children.

“When you walk into a house, you get a feeling,” Stoddard says. “It was so comfortable, not anything tangible, just the smell, the feeling. I knew this is the house I wanted.”

She researched While-Away and Chapin at the Tufts Archives, discovering the wealthy philanthropist credited with developing Myrtle Beach to be “a good Great Gatsby.”

“But it wasn’t on the market,” Drum adds. Obviously, the story has a happy ending. “I looked at Jennifer and realized she wouldn’t be happy until we bought this house,” he says. Mission accomplished.

Previous owners had performed renovations, but the exterior was about to undergo a transformation, beginning at the recessed front door. A document filed with the village soon after construction was completed in 1917 describes While-Away as “a one-and-a-half story frame house of asymmetrical design . . . and no clearly identifiable façade.” Perhaps the main entrance faced away from the road, as with other cottages built during the infancy of motor transportation, with its fumes and noise.

That was fixable. Designer Mark Parsons and builder Jeremy Strickland added a veranda stretching across the entire front, a brick patio across the back, a portico defining the front door, a garage, plunge pool, adorable pool/guest house, new roof and landscaping. The house, brightened from grayish shingles to gleaming white, is now approached by a circular drive, with the pool and pool house perpendicular to the well-defined front.

The interior retains a whiff of bygone days, more comfy-homey than formal or exotic, beginning in a living room proportioned for Pinehurst society soirees. The main floor layout — cross-hall with the living room and dining room on either side of the foyer — flows in a circle from foyer into dining room, butler’s pantry, kitchen, den and back into the living room with its gleaming wood floors which, if cleared out, could be a dance floor. In place already, a grand piano.

The classic floor plan pleased the new owners. “I don’t like open concepts,” says Stoddard, who chose soft pastels, a pale olive and watery blue, for the public rooms. Bathrooms go rogue with fanciful wallpaper. Some furnishings suggest the genteel 1950s, while others are secondhand “finds,” reproductions and family heirlooms that integrate well with High Point’s finest. Drum stands by a bedroom armoire: “It was my grandmother’s, from Pittsburgh. It stood in my room as a kid.” The dining room table owns the same provenance.

Stoddard admits the butler’s pantry, virtually untouched, sold her on the house. Drum sounds partial to the finished basement with wine cellar, pool table, movie room, bedroom and bath. The surrounding acre is divided into an expanse suitable for a lawn party plus a secret garden where Stoddard is “working on peonies.” The rear patio encompasses a meal preparation area with a pizza oven and separate grills for meat and vegetarian dishes.

The jewel in most renovations is usually the kitchen. While-Away’s, redone by a previous owner, is neutral in hue, Shaker in simplicity but equipped with a large Sub-Zero. “I like it the way it is,” Stoddard says. She and Drum both cook, “but at different times,” she says.

The only walls that needed moving were for upstairs bathrooms, some with marble tiles and oversized showers, featuring built-in rather than clawfoot tubs. In one upstairs bathroom a stacked washer-dryer combo — one of three laundry areas — is handy for towels and bed linens.

On the staircase landing hangs a large, stylized painting created from a photo of golfing great Babe Zaharias. Upstairs hallways are lined with paintings of famous golf courses. Golf hats and bar paraphernalia fill Drum’s “cave.” Stoddard, president of the Moore County Medical Society, also has a home office.

As the children grow and strike out on their own, their bedrooms will become guest quarters or perhaps, one day, nurseries. “We’re about to become empty-nesters,” Stoddard says, as she prepares for guests attending her daughter’s graduation from UNC-Chapel Hill. “This has been my dream house, a labor of love, the perfect family home for us.”

Simeon Chapin built While-Away and five other cottages in Pinehurst. He died suddenly in one of them, the Albemarle, in 1945. At his funeral in The Village Chapel he was celebrated as Pinehurst’s “first citizen.” The house remained in the family until 1952. Chapin lives on in the charitable foundations established in every city where he maintained a residence: Pinehurst; New York; Chicago; Lake Geneva, Wisconsin; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Now, more than 100 years after the Chapins “arrived for the season,” a rejuvenated, still genteel but mercifully air-conditioned residence earned Pinehurst Historic Plaque certification in 2023. It hangs by While-Away’s main door, now proudly facing front.  PS

Where Have All Our Champions

Where Have All Our Champions

By Ron Green Jr.

Feature Photograph: Martin Kaymer (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

It has been 25 years since Payne Stewart leaned over that 20-foot par putt on the 18th green of Pinehurst No. 2 with the U.S. Open title hanging in the damp, gray Sunday afternoon air.

Phil Mickelson, who had celebrated his 29th birthday five days earlier, could only watch from beneath his white visor as the thousands surrounding the scene fell into a heavy hush. For a moment, the only sound came from a bird on a pine branch nearby.

Then a movie came to life.

Stewart’s putt fell in, he punched the air, hugged his caddie and, amid the combustible noise, consoled Mickelson, who would become a father for the first time the next day.

Pinehurst, where golf had already lived for more than a century, had its timeless moment and Stewart’s joy felt contagious. It was Pinehurst No. 2’s first U.S. Open and, to borrow from Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, one that has led to multiple U.S. Opens and a second home for the USGA.

There is, however, a bittersweet thread that runs through the four U.S. Opens hosted at No. 2 — the men played there in 1999, 2005 and 2014 and the women followed the men in 2014. The four champions — Payne Stewart, Michael Campbell, Martin Kaymer and Michelle Wie — didn’t know it at the time, but their careers would never again touch the sky like they did in Pinehurst. In fact, Stewart and Kaymer never won another tournament, while Wie (now Michelle Wie West) and Campbell managed just one more official victory in their respective careers.

Stewart died in a plane crash four months later. Campbell struggled with the attention that came with being a major champion, and his game deteriorated. Kaymer, once the top-ranked player in the world, dealt with injuries and a loss of confidence. Wie won one more LPGA title nearly four years after her Pinehurst win, but her career never equaled her celebrity.

It’s wrong to suggest U.S. Open winners at Pinehurst are cursed — golf is hard enough without introducing the occult — but the titles the four players won there largely defined careers that took curious, even tragic turns, in the aftermath. It calls to mind one of the curiosities in the village that surrounds the golf resort involving the Magnolia Inn, which has been around since 1896.

In its original form, the Magnolia was tall enough that it blocked the view of the nearby and majestic Carolina Hotel. To remedy that, the top two floors of the inn were removed so that the Carolina stood in no building’s shadow.

By essentially cutting off the top of the Magnolia, it left the hotel with a stairway that was a series of steps that led, not to a room nor another floor, but to a wall. It became known as the stairway to nowhere and, in a sense, that has been the pathway for players after they’ve won U.S. Opens at Pinehurst. What could fairly be seen as a career springboard has instead — whether coincidentally or not — become more of a jumping-off point.

That’s not to suggest that, with five more U.S. Opens scheduled at No. 2 through 2047, something strange is going on, but it has produced a peculiar pathway from the top of golf’s mountain to whatever comes next.

Stewart’s story is tragic and familiar. He was one of golf’s stars, both cocky and charismatic, with a golf swing that angels might envy. Stewart dressed the part, wearing plus-fours and a flat cap, and there were times when his ebullience was more annoying than entertaining.

He had, however, begun to grow into a different man when he won the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. Faith played a larger role in Stewart’s life and his sense of seeing beyond himself was demonstrated in the instant when he put his hands on Mickelson’s face mere seconds after breaking the left-hander’s heart on Pinehurst’s 18th green and gave him a message of joy about becoming a father.

Three months later, Stewart led the American celebration after a rowdy victory in the Ryder Cup at The Country Club outside Boston, the happiness practically dripping off him like the champagne being sprayed.

Then Stewart was gone, leaving a forever hole in the Pinehurst story, but his achievement and the spirit in which he accomplished it live on. Taking a photo alongside the bronze statue behind No. 2’s 18th green of Stewart’s reaction upon holing the winning putt — right leg kicked behind and his right fist punching the air — has become part of the Pinehurst experience for visitors.

Six years after Stewart’s win, New Zealander Michael Campbell arrived at the U.S. Open after narrowly qualifying. He’d earned his spot by birdieing the last hole in a European qualifier at Walton Heath in England, holing a 6-foot putt that would ultimately help redefine his career.

Imagine if Campbell missed and never made it to Pinehurst.

Campbell was a world-class player, having won six times on the European tour and with an admirable habit of showing up on major championship leaderboards, but like everyone else in the 2005 U.S. Open, he arrived in the immense shadow of Tiger Woods.

Photographs: J. D. Cuban/Courtesy USGA Museum, USGA/John Mummert, USGA/Matt Sullivan

 

When Sunday arrived, Campbell was one of several players chasing third-round leader Retief Goosen, who was 18 holes away from winning his third U.S. Open title in six years. When Goosen stumbled in with a disastrous closing 81, Campbell outplayed Woods, who bogeyed the 16th and 17th holes, clearing the path for Campbell.

If Stewart’s victory became the stuff of legends, Campbell’s win seemed more a victory for one of golf’s working class. Half a world away in New Zealand, Parliament paused to watch Campbell’s victory.

Three months later, Campbell won the HSBC World Match Play Championship, and he seemed to be riding a rainbow. But, like rainbows, Campbell quickly faded. His game went flat, he injured a shoulder lifting his luggage in the Hong Kong airport, and 10 years after his greatest triumph, Campbell retired for a time from competitive golf.

When Campbell showed up at the 2019 U.S. Senior Open, he had a spot earned through his former glory rather than recent performance.

“I’m just starting out with no expectations,” he said.

Campbell rekindled friendships and felt the competitive juices again but, now 55 years old, his tournament golf is limited to senior events in Europe these days.

Pinehurst must feel like a lifetime ago.

Kaymer’s tale remains more open-ended but, to use today’s parlance, he’s trending in the wrong direction. At age 39, Kaymer is entering the netherworld in competitive golf, beyond his prime but still young enough to believe he can dig out what he once had.

It’s possible that Kaymer reached No. 1 in the world rankings with less attendant fanfare than any player ever. Even now, ask ardent fans to name players who have won the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship and the Players Championship and, chances are, few will come up with Kaymer’s name. He was No. 1 for eight consecutive weeks in early 2011, the impact of his PGA Championship victory the year before helping to catapult him there. The numbers said one thing, but Kaymer felt something different inside.

“At that time I didn’t (feel like No. 1) because I never made the cut at Augusta. I never felt comfortable in Augusta just fading the golf ball. When I said to my coach after missing the cut for the fourth time in a row, how can I be No. 1 in the world if I can’t hit any shot? I didn’t feel like the best player in the world,” Kaymer said.

In 2014, better able to move the ball in both directions, Kaymer won the Players Championship in May, then dominated the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, winning by eight strokes. Playing the new No. 2 as retouched by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, Kaymer separated himself with brilliant ballstriking and a willingness to putt over and around the slopes when he missed No. 2’s famously difficult greens.

“It was probably the best week of my career I would say,” Kaymer said.

Kaymer would play 27 more major championships after Pinehurst and he managed just one more top-10 finish.

Left: Michael Campbell (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Middle: Michelle Wie West (USGA/John Mummert)

Right: Payne Stewart (USGA/John Mummert)

 

Playing on the LIV Golf tour now, the German-born Kaymer is raising his family in Europe and is happy with the choices he has made. When he returns to Pinehurst, it will be with fond memories but different expectations.

“Back then there were no scar tissues,” Kaymer said.

The week after Kaymer’s runaway victory, the U.S. Women’s Open followed at No. 2, the first-ever back-to-back national championships played on the same site. Intent on allowing nature to dictate the course setup, No. 2 played firm and fast while turning from green to brown.

Until that hot week, Wie West’s star power had always exceeded her professional achievements. Since her teenage years, she had been the face of women’s golf but, after her headline-catching tee times in men’s events, she settled into an LPGA career that never caught up to the expectations.

Except that one week at Pinehurst.

On Sunday of the men’s U.S. Open, Wie West and Jessica Korda walked 18 holes watching Kaymer and Rickie Fowler in the final pairing, imagining making a walk like Kaymer’s up the final fairway. One week later, it happened but not until Wie West double-bogeyed the 16th hole to see her three-stroke lead drop to one stroke. No stranger to drama, she responded by holing a long, double-breaking birdie putt on the par-3 17th hole to help seal the most meaningful victory of her career.

“The walk from my second shot to the green, I wish it could’ve lasted for hours, for days. It was the best walk I’ve ever had — well, outside of the walk to the altar and stuff like that,” Wie West said during a return visit to No. 2 last year.

She took a walk with her memories around the closing holes at No. 2.

It’s a place where ghosts and memories tend to hang around and, as flat as the place may be, you could swear there’s a mountaintop there.

Climbing that mountain may be the hard part, but coming back down may be the stairway to nowhere.  PS

A Charlotte native, Ron Green Jr. is a senior writer for Global Golf Post and was the recipient of the 2023 PGA of America Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism.

The Happy Head Guy

The Happy Head Guy

Benevolence begins at the top

By Jim Dodson  

Photographs by John Gessner

 

Bob Dedman Jr. is one pleased fellow.

On a gray and windy afternoon threatening rain — not quite the “beautiful day in Pinehurst” that resort operators chime as they answer phones — the owner of the Pinehurst Resort can’t stop smiling.

“Isn’t this something?” says Dedman with the tempered excitement of the father of a newborn. “You know, we just started this last November, and it amazes me to see how quickly it has all come together. It turned out to be something very special, a bit different from what many would expect to find at Pinehurst — but very much in our tradition.”

The “baby” Dedman speaks of happens to be the new Course No. 10 — the Pinehurst Sandmines — a spacious, soulful, sweeping links-style layout created by acclaimed golf course designer Tom Doak that weaves its way through the surviving mounds of a former sand mining operation and the remains of The Pit Golf Links. Dedman has graciously invited a friend to join him for a casual look at the course, where flags have just been set.

The key word in Dedman’s reflection is “tradition,” an indication that the past may indeed be prelude to the continuing evolution of Pinehurst, America’s oldest and most influential golf resort, which is in full readiness to host the 2024 United States Open Championship, its fourth staging of the Open in 25 years.

“This year marks the 40th anniversary of our family’s involvement here,” Dedman points out as he and his friend limber up on the first tee of No. 10, the resort’s first new golf course since the opening of No. 8 that celebrated Pinehurst’s centennial three decades ago. The buzz has it that an 11th layout by the design firm of Coore and Crenshaw may already be in the planning stages for the same 900-acre track southeast of town.

“The first two decades were spent restoring what was already here and reacquiring parts of the resort,” Dedman says. “And now we believe we have the opportunity to make Pinehurst relevant for the next 100 years with new projects and experiences for our members, guests and visitors. Building on that tradition is the core of what we hope to do.”

This easygoing single-index (7.1) son of the game stripes a drive to the heart of the first fairway, a 350-yard jewel that appears harder than it plays. The boss clearly has game. “It’s been quite a journey,” he allows in the next breath.

In a sense, the journey has come full-circle since his dad, Robert Dedman Sr., owner of Dallas-based ClubCorp, acquired Pinehurst in 1984 from a consortium of banks that owned it in the aftermath of Diamondhead Corporation’s pyrrhic effort to “modernize” a threadbare Pinehurst Resort during the 1970s. Principally a real estate development company, Diamondhead controversially built hundreds of condos snug against the fairways of the No. 3 and No. 5 courses, removed the famous porches of The Carolina Hotel (renamed The Pinehurst Hotel) and sent its beloved wicker interiors to the town dump, replacing Southern comfort with coastal chic. Longtime customers weren’t amused.

On the plus side, Diamondhead did bring professional golf tournaments back to the Sandhills two decades after Richard Tufts ended the much-loved North and South Open in 1951. This effort was highlighted by a mammoth 144-hole tournament modestly called the “World Open” in 1973. The following year heralded the opening of the $2.5 million World Golf Hall of Fame on the hill behind the fourth green of No. 2, a move some Diamondhead execs believed might eventually persuade the USGA to bring a U.S. Open to Pinehurst. Instead, Diamondhead itself ran into financial difficulties, leaving the Pinehurst Resort to the banks.

Dedman Sr. was its savior, a hard-charging but philanthropic billionaire lawyer who grew up in deep poverty in Arkansas, made his first million by age 50, and built an empire from buying distressed golf courses and private clubs, and spectacularly turning them around.

Recalling the day he first laid eyes on Pinehurst No. 2, Dedman Sr. told a Sports Illustrated writer: “The first time I stood in front of the clubhouse and looked out on those ribbons of fairways, I got tears in my eyes. . . . I had always venerated Pinehurst for its place in the history of golf, and when I finally saw it, I knew instantly that we would take this fallen angel and make it not as good as it was, but better than it had ever been.”

Four decades later, as the younger Dedman scoots along No. 10’s rumpled fairways, there’s time to reflect. “It didn’t happen overnight, and it took a lot of hard work by many talented people over many years to bring back the grace and charm of Pinehurst,” he says. “I’m just very fortunate to be following in my dad’s footsteps. When our family got involved with Pinehurst, there were six golf courses and one very run-down hotel. He liked to tell the story of how the chef actually fell through the kitchen floor into the basement.

“Now we have four excellent hotels and 10 1/2 golf courses,” he adds with a chuckle, referring to The Cradle, the delightful and wildly popular nine-hole, par-3 course created by architect Gil Hanse and his partner Jim Wagner in 2017, shortly before the duo spectacularly revised Pinehurst No. 4.

Following his father’s passing in August 2002, the younger Dedman became chairman of ClubCorp. Four years later, along with his mother, Nancy, and sister Patty, the family sold its portfolio of 170 top-tier clubs to a Denver-based private investment equity group for a reported $1.8 billion. They chose to keep ownership of Pinehurst, a decision Dedman says was shaped by his father’s promise to restore a fallen angel known as the Home of American Golf. Not long afterward, Dedman purchased the historic Fownes house in the village for his wife, Rachael, and two daughters, Catherine and Nancy, and began spending increasingly lengthy periods of time in Pinehurst.

“Having the ability to keep Pinehurst was important to my family,” he says, pausing by the eighth green, a vest pocket gem tucked artfully into the lee of the dunes. “It was all about ensuring the legacy of this unique place, which has come to mean so much to all of us. We buried my father in his Pinehurst U.S. Open jacket, a reflection of how passionate he was about bringing Pinehurst back to its rightful position, a place synonymous with the best of golf and the game’s history in this country. I view our role in taking it forward into the future as an important calling. One lesson I learned from my dad was to provide the vision and support for what needs to be done, then allow the right people to create it.”

If, at first blush, Bob Dedman appears to lack his late father’s dynamic and colorful style, he displays an internal calm and reassuring grace that matches the moment and inspires his employees with a steady vision that may be just the thing for an angel that’s once again soaring. As Ron Green Jr. of the Global Golf Post summed up, “Dedman is many things — smart, influential and bold — but he’s not brash. In fact, he fits Pinehurst almost perfectly, appreciating the legacy that began more than a century ago while believing the resort’s best days are still to come. Dedman’s touch is like that of a good cashmere sweater and Pinehurst itself, soft but with an unmistakable depth of quality.”

Under his dad’s aegis, the team of President Pat Corso and Director of Golf Don Padgett engineered the slow but steady comeback of Pinehurst. Following significant work on No. 2 by architect Rees Jones in advance of the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Opens, Dedman Jr. pulled the trigger on a gutsy decision to allow the design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to take No. 2 back to what the golf course looked and played like when Donald Ross began creating it in 1907. Starkly revised, it debuted with the staging of the historic back-to-back men’s and women’s U.S. Opens in 2014 — and proved to be a resounding success.

Against fears that the game’s best might make easy work of an Open course minus its traditional narrow fairways and brutal rough, only three men and one woman bested par during the historic Opens that year. When leader Michelle Wie faced potential disaster from a wayward approach shot on her 70th hole of play, an eagle-eyed fan named Bob Dedman Jr. found her ball nestled in a patch of wiregrass, preserving her path to victory. Talk about a sign from the golf gods.

Since that time, Dedman’s thoughtful leadership combined with the seasoned skills of Tom Pashley, who was named president of the resort following the retirement of Don Padgett II in 2014, have restored the soul and charm of Pinehurst’s past with a savvy eye to the future that’s visible almost everywhere one looks — in the transformation of the resort’s abandoned steam plant into a powerhouse brewery; a refurbished clubhouse that features lush new digs for members; an expanded Deuce Grill; the beautifully restored Manor Inn and renovation of the Magnolia Inn; and the budding partnership that attracted the USGA’s sparkling new Golf House Pinehurst and World Golf Hall of Fame, returned from St. Augustine, Florida.

Pashley says of his boss: “Bob is smart, curious, analytical, humble and funny. He constantly challenges conventional thinking and offers creative solutions to complex problems, offering up out-of-the-box thinking that has shaped much of our renovation work over the last decade. As we enter a new phase of creation versus restoration, he’s equally passionate about land planning and design. I’ve never seen him truly mad or upset except when he occasionally hits a poor golf shot.”

As the skies darken and a soft rain begins, Dedman and his guest decide to pick up their balls and finish another day, heading for a spot where No. 10’s rustic lodge and pro shop “with a barn-like feel” will rise to serve golfers and resort guests.

Possibly the golf world’s happiest resort owner easily slips into philosophic mode, chatting about the importance of giving back and quoting his famously philanthropic dad’s favorite lines from Henry Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life”: Lives of great men all remind us / We can make our lives sublime, / And, departing, leave behind us / Footprints on the sands of time.

It seems only logical to ask if he has one rule of life to live by.

Dedman smiles. “I do. I used it at the Boys and Girls Club dinner. We had the privilege of starting the first chapter in 1999 and have supported it ever since. It’s a quote by John Wesley. After all, I’m a Methodist.”

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

It’s a fitting spiritual coda for a rainy afternoon filled with talk of family, tradition and reborn angels. But make no mistake, Bob Dedman’s generous Methodist eye is fixed on the future, and the bottom line of a game and place dear to his heart. He jokes that there’s a “Fun Bob and a Business Bob.” The two are sometimes indistinguishable.

“We’ve been so blessed in Pinehurst. No one knew what to expect after the recession and COVID. But there has been a wonderful resurgence of golf, especially among women. New people are coming into the game. That’s a great thing. We believe that being given the opportunity to host the Open a total of eight times over a 50-year period is a validation of the things we are doing to provide a memorable and fun experience to everyone who comes here.”

Which prompts a final question from his slightly sodden golf partner: Is Pinehurst enjoying a second Golden Age?

Dedman smiles again. “I think it might be. Pinehurst is really the soul of American golf. Our job is to carry that soul into the next hundred years. Hopefully the things we’re doing today — rain or shine — will stand the test of time.”  PS

Perfect Partners

Perfect Partners

Pinehurst, the USGA and a common purpose

By Lee Pace

Feature Photograph by USGA/John Mummert

Grant Spaeth and David Fay had heard all the arguments about why Pinehurst and its No. 2 course could never host a U.S. Open.

The club, through the mid-1980s, had yet to figure out how to marry climate and agronomy with the sometimes contrasting needs of having good putting surfaces during the spring and fall months for the paying customers, with the stiff and brisk greens mandatory for the Open’s customary third week of June dates.

The town was too remote; the biggest city, Charlotte, was two hours away.

There were two-lane roads in every direction.

There weren’t enough beds and dinner tables.

Still . . . that ambience, that pine scent, that bouncy hardpan sand, the ghost of Donald Ross, the pristine routing, that umbilical cord to the roots of golf in America, that specter of Richard Tufts of Pinehurst’s founding family having been a USGA president and a visionary on matters of agronomy, course setup and rules.

Spaeth, the USGA president, and Fay, the executive director, were unbowed that April day in 1990 when they stopped off in Pinehurst to play No. 2 on their way to Augusta, Georgia, for the Masters.

Fay believed a U.S. Open at Pinehurst could be “Tracy-and-Hepburnesque, a match made in heaven.”

“We agreed: Can’t we take a second look? How can we not go the extra mile to see if it will work here?” Spaeth said.

“Early on in this process I thought Pinehurst No. 2 was one of the great courses in the world,” Fay said. “It’s the United States’ answer to St. Andrews. Opens are usually played in and around large metropolitan areas, but there are a couple of exceptions. It might be that arguably two of the most outstanding sites for the Open are played quite far away from these metropolitan areas — Shinnecock and Pebble Beach. You look at the pattern of the British Open, which is actually played away from metropolitan areas. My feeling was, if you can have an Open at Pebble Beach, if you can have an Open at Shinnecock Hills, you can have an Open at Pinehurst.”

Fay reveled in the tradition and mystique of the golf course, the resort and the village. An avid baseball fan, he believed a visit to Pinehurst was like a trip to Wrigley Field or Fenway Park.

“How many times today do you hear some hot young star in any sport hear the name of a Hall of Fame player in his sport and say, ‘Who was he?’” mused Fay, the USGA chief until his retirement in 2010. “When you get to Pinehurst, that changes. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the history. It’s everywhere. It’s where you look, it’s in the air, it’s in the turf, it’s in the images on the walls, it’s in the church bells. You can almost feel the ghosts coming out.”

And what a story those ghosts can tell over three-and-a-half decades. Pinehurst No. 2 did in fact get its long-coveted U.S. Open in 1999, and the dominoes have been falling ever since.

Look at the Sandhills community and the USGA today: three Opens in the books, another this month and four more set through 2047; two U.S. Amateurs on courses No. 2 and 4 in 2008 and 2019; four U.S. Women’s Opens held just down Midland Road at Pine Needles; and the USGA this spring opens its 6-acre Golf House Pinehurst complex with an administrative and testing center in one building, and a second devoted to a museum and the World Golf Hall of Fame, relocated from earlier homes in Pinehurst and then St. Augustine, Florida.

“There is no better place for the USGA to plant new roots than the home of American golf,” Mike Davis, the USGA’s CEO from 2011-2021, said in 2020 when announcement was made of the satellite facility to complement the USGA’s longstanding headquarters in Liberty Corner, New Jersey.

“North Carolina is a fantastic hotbed of golf, so it provides the opportunity to get closer to our customers, our core golfers,” added USGA chief brand officer Craig Annis. “We also see Pinehurst as striving to innovate, and that is also what we are doing. We are proud of our history. Both the USGA and Pinehurst Resort are celebrating their 125th anniversary this year, but we also need to look for what we can do to bring the game into the future.”

Left: USGA/Chris Keane

Right: USGA/Jason E. Miczek

The $54 million Golf House Pinehurst facility is situated on the former site of club tennis courts on the west side of Carolina Vista Drive. The design for the buildings evokes the architectural heritage of Pinehurst with wide verandas punctuated by columns, hipped-roof features with dormers, large windows, and textured clapboard and shake siding details. The landscape around and between the buildings highlights the USGA’s ongoing work to help make golf more sustainable with native plants and pollinator habitats.

“We’ve spent more money on the façade and the grasses and the outdoor walking gardens than you can imagine, making sure we look like a 125-year-old neighbor and not a 12-year-old neighbor,” says Mike Whan, who followed Davis as the USGA’s CEO in 2021.

Six hundred yards to the north is the Carolina Hotel. Three hundred yards to the east is the first tee of Pinehurst No. 2. Four hundred yards to the south are The Cradle and Thistle Dhu, the immensely popular duo of ancillary golf venues just outside the resort clubhouse at Pinehurst Country Club.

The new USGA Experience Building and World Golf Hall of Fame are in the thick if it all — in contrast to the first rendition of the Hall of Fame in Pinehurst from 1974-98, when it was situated in the woods on the opposite side of the fourth green and fifth tee on No. 2.

“The original hall was not on the beaten path for golfers going to play Pinehurst No. 2 and all the other courses at the resort,” Whan says. “If you’re at the Carolina Hotel or in the village and you’re going to play No. 2 or The Cradle, you’re going to be within walking distance of the World Golf Hall of Fame. That’s very different.”

The Test Center and Administrative Building has been occupied by approximately 70 USGA staffers since late 2023. Next door, the USGA Experience Building with the World Golf Hall of Fame on the second floor opened in May.

This second building is open to the public. With the lower floor at 9,500 square feet and the Hall of Fame at 8,000, the building is large enough to display a significant amount of educational content about the game of golf and historical artifacts saluting its history, without being saddled with exorbitant maintenance costs.

“Everyone who plays golf will make the pilgrimage to Pinehurst at one point or another,” Whan says. “This is not a separate trip. Golfers are already coming. Together with the Hall of Fame, we’re more committed than ever to delivering experiences that build even deeper connections between golf fans and those who have truly led the way in this great game.”

The USGA Experience tells the story of golf’s governing body in America, beyond the national championships it conducts. One gallery highlights the science of the game with agronomy and equipment testing, the two areas in which the USGA has significant footprints. Another gallery embraces the U.S. Open and all the other championships, a total of 16 annually. One area will be devoted to a rotating exhibit, with some artifacts and memorabilia coming out of storage from the USGA’s headquarters in New Jersey.

Appropriately enough, that area for its debut theme will feature Pinehurst history and how the resort and town evolved into the “St. Andrews of American golf.” Interactive displays and kiosks, along with film and video snippets, enhance the experience. The area pays homage to a Pinehurst/USGA marriage that grows deeper in years to come.

In addition to the Opens set for 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047 on No. 2, the USGA has set Pinehurst for the 2027 U.S. Women’s Amateur, the 2032 U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior, the 2038 U.S. Amateur, the 2044 U.S. Women’s Amateur and a future U.S. Adaptive Open. The 2027 and 2044 U.S. Women’s Amateurs and 2038 U.S. Amateur will also be held on Pinehurst No. 2.

Middle: USGA/Jason E. Miczek

Right: USGA/Jason E. Miczek

“Bringing more championships to a venue like Pinehurst is a testament to the USGA’s commitment to our long-term partnership with the resort and our promise of expanding the presence of our organization in the area,” says John Bodenhamer, USGA chief championships officer. “Pinehurst’s rich golf heritage and commitment to excellence make it the perfect setting for all of the USGA’s world-class events. Their commitment to our Open championships is incredible, and now we are able to shine a light on the amateur game here as well.”

The headline display area in the World Golf Hall of Fame will be the locker room concept relocated from St. Augustine. Lockers assigned to its 164 members feature personal memorabilia stored behind plexiglass walls, items such as Johnny Miller’s clubs used in shooting a final-round 63 in the 1973 Open at Oakmont; Jack Nicklaus’ MacGregor bag from the 1965 Masters; Bob Jones’ Spalding 9-wood; the Wilson Pay-Off putter Sam Snead used throughout most of the 1950s; Beth Daniels’ 1990 Solheim Cup bag autographed by both U.S. and European teams; and a pair of plaid golf shoes and black and white-checkered houndstooth cap and white plus-fours worn by Bob Hope. Visitors can access a mobile app on their phones to hear voice recordings and footage from various inductees.

“Putting these displays in Pinehurst in front of the hundreds of thousands of people who come here every year will be a major benefit to the game of golf,” says Hillary Cronheim, senior director of the USGA Golf Museum and Library. “St. Augustine wasn’t particularly easy to get to. We certainly have our challenges in Liberty Corner. Pinehurst is just such a mecca for golfers, we’re confident we’ll get a lot of people here.”

It has been 31 years since the USGA announced at the 1993 Open at Baltusrol that it had awarded the Open to Pinehurst six years later, and Reg Jones has been a central part of the USGA/Pinehurst relationship for all but one of those years. Jones was fresh out of Wake Forest University and was hired as an intern in 1994 by Pinehurst Championship Management, a department within Pinehurst Resort & Country Club created to market and manage the golf championships set for the Sandhills in the 1990s — the 1991 and ’92 Tour Championship, the 1994 U.S. Senior Open, the 1996 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles, and the big one, the U.S. Open itself in 1999.

His first office was in the catacombs of the Member Clubhouse, and from there he learned the gritty details involved in setting up the mini-city a golf tournament becomes — how to find and manage volunteers, where to rent Port-A-Lets and buy ice, where to position concessions and grandstands. When the ’99 U.S. Open arrived, “our tents, signage and landscaping all needed to look like what you would expect to find at Pinehurst 365 days a year,” Jones says. The corporate village had white columns to match the look of the Carolina Hotel. The media center featured 300 custom-built desks with state-of-the-art communications. Signs welcomed you coming in and thanked you going out. “Over the years, we’ve developed the ability to give each Open a flavor of its own. It’s not just a cookie-cutter operation.”

Jones was promoted to championship director for the 2005 Open at Pinehurst and then was hired by the USGA to manage the outside-the-ropes operation at all its U.S. Opens. He was allowed to maintain his base of operations in Pinehurst, and for nearly two decades Jones and his staff worked out of offices on the second floor of the Department Store Building in the village of Pinehurst.

Now he runs the Open from the sparkling new USGA building on Carolina Vista. “Going back to ’99, I remember the newness, the anticipation, the excitement, sometimes the trepidation,” says Jones. “There was the question hanging over the week of whether or not Pinehurst could host the championship from an agronomic and logistical perspective. I think we answered those questions. Then there was the finish — the weather, how eerie it felt to have Scottish weather in June in North Carolina, the one putt by Payne Stewart to win it all.

“Then you go to 2005 and the memories are a lot about the people, the spectators, the volume of the galleries. The sheer numbers were incredible — right around 325,000 for the week.

“And 2014 was all about having the men and women back-to-back. On Sunday the first week, we had Martin Kaymer and Ricky Fowler warming up on the range getting ready to go out, and the women were arriving to register and practice. It was really cool having the leaders of the men’s championship on one side of the hitting area, and Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer on the other.”

Ticket sales will be limited to 35,000 per day for the 2024 championship, the same as the 1999 Open. The USGA could handle a larger crowd but learned in 2005 that bigger is not necessarily better.

“In 2005, it was cool to see all the people and the energy, but I’m not sure it was the best spectator experience. We want to make sure that our fans that come here have that bucket list experience,” Jones says. “It’s the little details that make the experience that much better. We’ve learned each year, and that’s why coming back to Pinehurst is so good for us because we’ve got a plan that has worked so well. We like to say, ‘This is a home game for us.’”  PS

Behind the Curtain

Behind the Curtain

The making of NBC’s award-winning golf telecasts

By Bill Fields

Feature Photograph: (L-R) Joe Martin, Tommy Roy and Tom Randolph (Photograph by Kent Horner/NBC Sports)

As the people who love me could testify, for better or worse I have watched a lot of golf on television in a lifetime around the sport. This was the case when it was only a couple of hours and a handful of holes on weekends in the 1970s and ’80s, and in the 21st century, when major championships get sunrise-to-sunset treatment with technology that was the stuff of fantasy years ago.

But until the fall of 2017, despite decades in golf media during which I’d written, edited and photographed, I had never worked on a broadcast. Then Gil Capps, longtime NBC Sports’ editorial adviser and 18th tower mainstay, called to see if I wanted to fill in as a researcher/statistician for someone who recently had left the position. I soon had a new gig at a dozen or so events each season — and a perspective on televised golf that wasn’t possible watching from home or a press room where I was chronicling a tournament for one periodical or another.

Hundreds of shows later, I’m in my seventh year as a contributing researcher assisting talent in the main booth, a spoke in the large wheel that is NBC Sports’ golf production team, which will bring the 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst to millions of viewers. What was at first an alien new world is now familiar. Strangers have become friends. Sometimes, at least, I even remember to not place my backpack on a damp floor before our attentive stage manager, Kathy Noce, has issued a warning.

I’ve been pumped when an announcer has used a meaningful tidbit or framed a moment with the context I suggested, and bummed on the occasions (fortunately rare) when I passed along something to talent that was incorrect. Television is a tightrope that typing stories, even on a short deadline, isn’t.

“When you’re on live television everything’s immediate,” says Capps, a Hickory native and Davidson College graduate, who worked his first U.S. Open in 1995 at Shinnecock Hills and has been alongside golf host Dan Hicks since 2000. “There are no backspace keys, no eraser. You’re obviously striving to be right all the time, but it’s not just that — it’s being able to show things or tell things that make sense, that do justice to what you’re seeing.”

Many people and much equipment are needed to broadcast golf, more than a casual viewer would imagine. That includes production managers who handle logistics for the traveling circus, to caterers who feed us, and support staff who toil long hours making sure everybody has what they need to do their jobs, whether that’s getting index cards to the tower or putting down plywood to make it possible to traverse a muddy compound.

“The producer is telling the story. The director is painting the pictures,” says Joe Martin, an industry veteran who has directed NBC’s tournament broadcasts since 2021. “But the technical team — technical director Mark Causey, the replay guys, the camera operators, the audio technicians — are really the backbone of getting a golf show on the air. It doesn’t happen without them.”

It is hard to imagine NBC’s golf coverage without lead producer Tommy Roy, who has been at the helm since 1993, and co-producer Tom Randolph, who has been alongside him for the whole ride. Both men got into golf TV years earlier, Roy while he was a student at the University of Arizona, Randolph after playing collegiately at UCLA, where he was a teammate of Corey Pavin. (His cousin, Sam Randolph, won the 1985 U.S. Amateur.)

Left: (L-R) Joe Martin, Tommy Roy and Tom Randolph (Photograph Kent Horner/NBC Sports)

Middle: Brad Faxon, left, and Mike Tirico will be joined in the 18th tower at the U.S. Open by Dan Hicks and Brandel Chamblee (Photographs by Bill Fields)

Right: (L-R) Dan Hicks, Brandel Chamblee, Brad Faxon, Steve Sands on camera, and researcher Harrison Root

 

Roy comes from a golf family as well. His late father, Billy, a native of Manitoba, was a longtime club professional in Tucson, where he moved to be in a warm climate after contracting polio as a young adult. “He was in the hospital for a year and lost the muscles in his legs,” Roy says. “He could play golf but not with power, and he walked stiffly. He became known in the Tucson area for giving lessons to handicapped people and the elderly. I was always very proud that my dad was a golf pro.”

In 1978, when Roy was on holiday break in the middle of his sophomore year at Arizona, his dad helped him get a job at the Tucson Open. He had a choice of working in an on-course bar or as a runner for NBC delivering coffee to cameramen. He chose the latter because a friend had done it the prior year, the perk being the use of a rental car during the tournament.

But a week to earn spending money and drive fresh wheels turned into something of greater consequence when he was asked to help in the control room on Saturday. “When I went into the truck for the very first time, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” says Roy, who was instantly attracted to the organized chaos. “Most of the time you’re taught to take your time, think about the possibilities, then make your decision. In the truck, you have to make a decision ‘now.’ It kind of goes against what normal jobs are.”

When Roy returned home that evening, he told his mother, Luanne, that his future had a shape, and soon he was on the road during the spring as part of the golf crew, joining NBC full time when he graduated in 1981.

That was the year that Randolph, who grew up in Menlo Park, California, got his start. He was a golf partner and friend of John Brodie, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who was an NBC announcer. Brodie thought Randolph’s playing experience could be put to good use on a crew that at the time was somewhat thin in golf knowledge. As had been the case with Roy, Randolph enjoyed the hectic environment of many voices from Day One.

Left: Photograph by Bill Fields

Middle: Photograph by Tomas Ovalle/NBC

Right: Editorial advisor Gil ( Photograph byCapps Katie Capps)

 

“Some people are fascinated by it and love it, and others come in there and have to get out as quick as possible because it’s too much,” Randolph says. “I had a little trouble studying and reading books, but I could watch two games at once, hear a conversation next to me and play cards at the same time. For most people, that would be hard. But I sometimes focus better doing more than one thing at a time.”

Randolph stands behind and between Roy and Martin during shows, his eyes on dozens of monitors. “I’m kind of a traffic controller in the truck,” Randolph says. “I have a lot of spotters and other people helping me. I’m looking at many monitors and figuring out where we go live. If Tommy wants to do a replay, or show some taped shots or other elements, where can we get those in without missing the most critical live shots? It is definitely a team effort.”

Martin will have roughly 65 cameras at his disposal in Pinehurst. Many are operated by experienced and expert hands such as Mike Wimberley, Gunnar Garrity and Rick Rice, who have done golf for years. Martin is communicating with them throughout broadcasts along with volunteer spotters reporting who is hitting what shot where. “I can listen to three conversations at once and know which one I need to actually pay attention to, and why it matters to me,” Martin says.

Drones and an airplane will be in the Sandhills skies during the U.S. Open to capture distinctive views. Remember the dramatic images looking down at Tiger Woods as he exulted his must-make putt on the 72nd green of the 2008 U.S. Open? Those were shot by Bob Mikkelson, who will be flying above No. 2 in June.

Overseeing it all is the intense, Pepsi-fueled Roy, the 29-time Sports Emmy winner who in addition to working about 500 golf events has excelled at coverage of the Olympic Games (producing every medal-winning race of Michael Phelps’ glorious swimming career), the NBA and the NFL. Roy is the definitive and decisive captain of the golf ship.

“These are gigantic sports productions, and you have to have a leader,” says Hicks, who coincidentally also grew up in Tucson and graduated from Arizona, although he didn’t meet Roy until 1992. “Without a leader, you’re lost. Tommy has a huge swath of responsibility, and he’s done the job very well for a long time. He is our leader.”

Complacency doesn’t fly with Roy. “I’m just driven for greatness,” he says. “I’ve seen people who get in positions who no longer strive for greatness. They strive just to be good enough to get by. And I don’t ever want that to happen for me personally or for anybody who works with us. We give our best all the time. We’re relying on so many people to do their jobs perfectly.”

As Mike Tirico, who will share the lead announcing duties with Hicks in Pinehurst, says, “You don’t ever want to let Tommy down. He has a bar for excellence that is higher than most people, and it’s there all the time. I’ve worked with great people, and he’s got a passion, an ability, an energy like nobody else. Nolan Ryan had command, a presence. He threw in the 90s for a long time. Tommy is just as good as he was when I first worked with him 25 years ago. That’s a lot of shots and a lot of miles to keep your fastball at 95, and Tommy’s is 95 with movement.”

Hicks and Tirico still bring it too, many years since their childhood aspirations of becoming broadcasters turned into esteemed careers on the air. Working closely with them affords a better appreciation of their talent: how fully they prepare, the cool under pressure, the ability to deal with an unanticipated detour, the judgment to let a moment breathe.

Capps has worked alongside Hicks for nearly 30 years. “I’m awfully biased, but at the same time I try to be objective, and I just don’t think there’s been a better golf play-by-play host all-time than Dan,” Capps says. “It’s a role that’s been blessed with a lot of good folks, Jim McKay and Dick Enberg among them. The list is deep with Hall of Famers. But Dan is unique in the way he can tell stories, weave them throughout an entire show, explaining what you’re seeing and why it’s important.”

Left: (L-R)Gil Capps, Dan Hicks and Jack Nicklaus (Photograph by Bill Fields)

Right: Tommy Roy (Photograph Courtesy of Jennifer Logue, Ponte Vedra Recorder)

 

“All hell can be breaking loose, and he’s going to come through time after time with the proper coverage,” Roy says of Hicks. “We’ve done so many hours of television together. That’s why there’s trust — he comes through every single time.”

Tirico, because of his extensive NFL play-by-play and Olympics hosting work, is more widely known to casual sports fans. He knows and appreciates that golf is different.

“You can’t please everyone,” Tirico says. “Some people want ball speed on every shot. Some people like the backstories of players. And some people just want to take a nap — they want the golf to be background noise. Golf is interesting because every time you show someone, as an announcer you could have so many different angles to explore. There’s statistics, there’s data, there’s historical material, there’s personal details about the player, there’s the shot that he’s facing or she’s facing. There are a lot of choices, and sometimes the best one in the biggest moment is to set up the shot and shut up, let people watch.”

Everyone on the crew will be looking forward to having the chance to broadcast the big moments in Pinehurst.

“Tommy has produced so many big events, and he’s clutch in the big moments,” Randolph says. “The thing I respect the most in Tommy is that he takes every show seriously and never mails it in. That said, he excels when the moment gets bigger.”

It will be the fourth Pinehurst U.S. Open that NBC has done, starting with the first one in 1999, when a star-heavy battle on a cool and misty Sunday came down to Payne Stewart’s clutch par putt on the 18th green.

“Your greatest hope in those types of moments is to take a back seat to what has happened, but you want to be able to enhance it,” says Hicks. “It can be easy to do, but you also can get in the way — and that’s what you don’t want to do.”

Hicks nailed the call after Woods sank his tying birdie on Sunday at Torrey Pines in 2008. “Expect anything different!” Hicks said, a brilliantly terse call for the ages that captured what everyone was thinking. Then he yielded to the many visuals that detailed the historic 12-footer in all its glory.

“There are always things I know we could have done better,” Roy says, “but Tiger making that putt in the 2008 U.S. Open was close to perfect. Dan’s call. All the angles. All the replays we had. Everything worked out.”

NBC’s last Pinehurst Open, in 2014, was bittersweet because it was the final one before the USGA took its championships to Fox. But in 2020, NBC regained the rights, doing the COVID 19-delayed one that year at Winged Foot and each championship since. The 2024 U.S. Open, the USGA’s 1,000th championship, will be the 25th U.S. Open for Roy and his team. (The network did a run of them in the early years of sports TV, ending in 1965.)

“It’s really cool to produce historical events, events that mean something,” Roy says. “The U.S. Open is huge.”

Like the golfers, we’ll be ready.  PS

A Country Boy from Springfield

A Country Boy from Springfield

By Jim Moriarty

Feature Photograph: Payne Stewart during the fourth round of the 1999 U.S. Open Championship held at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club No. 2 Course in Pinehurst, N.C., Sunday, June 20, 1999. (USGA/John Mummert)

Springfield is a small town on the Ozark Plateau in a state that was red before anyone thought about color-coding them. It’s the third-biggest city in Missouri, but if it was in California, it would barely crack the top 30. The Trail of Tears passed through Springfield on what was once called the Military Road. The North and the South fought over it, and in 1865, three months after Lee surrendered to Grant, “Wild Bill” Hickok shot a man dead on its streets over a pocket watch.

In the post-World War II craze over a new medium, television, Springfield took country music nationwide with The Ozark Jubilee. A year later Chris Schenkel and Bud Palmer debuted on CBS at the Masters. Three men born in Springfield have won major golf championships, and two of them are in the World Golf Hall of Fame. St. Andrews might be the only small city east of Fort Worth to equal its output.

If Payne Stewart wasn’t in uniform, knickers custom made from bolts of Italian cloth, silk stockings, gold- or silver-tipped spiked shoes and an ivy cap in the Ben Hogan style, he was as unrecognizable in public as if a Maserati had been stripped down to a Dodge Dart. “He comes off as this real urbane, Great Gatsby type of guy,” said his longtime swing coach, Chuck Cook, “but, really, he was a Missouri mule. Just a country boy from Springfield.”

Back in the heyday of newspapers, when a sports star needed a nickname the way a clipper ship needs wind, Stewart was preceded as a major champion by Horton Smith, the Missouri Rover, and Herman Keiser, the Missouri Mortician, who won three Masters between them. While Smith was eventually associated more closely with the Detroit Golf Club and Keiser with Firestone Country Club in Akron, for a time they were both at Hickory Hills Country Club in Springfield, where Keiser worked as Smith’s shop assistant.

Hickory Hills is where Stewart learned to play, as aware of the champions who came before him as he was of characters like Ky Laffoon, who favored sky blue sweaters and socks as yellow as two daffodils, and once hustled the young Stewart on its chipping green. While Springfield’s other major champions both made their reputations in the Masters, Augusta was the big moment Stewart enjoyed least. Deeply patriotic, the National Open was above all others to him. At his father, Bill’s, insistence, he always signed his U.S. Open entry with his full name, William Payne Stewart. He didn’t like the Masters because he thought the little people were treated shabbily there, particularly the caddies.

“He really felt uncomfortable,” said Cook. “When we would go to Augusta, we’d always eat in the employee dining room instead of out front with everybody else.” Before ugly false teeth became a Halloween cliché available at every party store in America, Stewart had a set custom made by a Springfield dentist, Dr. Kurt H’Doubler. He stuck them in his mouth frequently for effect, but took particular pleasure in wearing them in the par-3 contest at the Masters.

Even if he’d lived in the age of nicknames, Stewart was too complicated for that kind of lazy gimmick. He could be arrogant and thoughtless or generous and compassionate, sometimes in the same sentence. He was a devoted practitioner of the sporting jibe, what’s mostly described now as trash talking, though it didn’t always come in the form of talk. “He was an awful fan,” said John Cook, a former U.S. Amateur champion who, like Stewart, lived in Orlando, Florida. “Just awful. I’d pick him up and we’d go to the Magic games. He’d be yelling at somebody the minute he got in the arena.”

Stewart’s seats for the NBA games were four rows behind the Magic bench, and he took great delight in ceaselessly taunting the head coach at the time, Matt Goukas. “Poor old Matty,” said Dr. Dick Coop, Stewart’s sports psychologist. “Payne just lit him up every night.” After only one season Stewart’s seats were moved, not just from behind the bench, but to the other side of the arena.

The canvas for Stewart’s needlework included golf, and he didn’t care whom he skewered. “Jack Nicklaus. Arnold Palmer. It did not matter,” said his longtime caddie, Mike Hicks. “And you know what? A lot of guys didn’t like it. Some guys didn’t mind, and if they didn’t mind, they liked Payne. But if they minded it, they didn’t like him. If they all say they liked him, they’re lying because he was tough, man. He would needle you, and he would go overboard with it. He could take it, too. But he’d get under your skin if you let him.”

Once, when Stewart was visiting Jim Morris, an old family friend in LaQuinta, California, they arranged a money game with Donald Trump. The wealthy developer was five minutes late to the first tee, but Morris and Stewart didn’t wait for him. By the time Trump pulled up in his golf cart, they were ahead on the first fairway. Stewart yelled back at him, “Trump, this ain’t one of them corporate meetings. It’s 1 o’clock and you’re either here or you ain’t here.”

Coop, at the time a faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, began working with Stewart the same year Hicks became his caddie, 1988. “The first day he came to see me,” Coop said, “I told him what I’d heard about him very bluntly, very forthrightly. He calls Tracey (his wife) and she says, ‘What did he say?’ And Payne said, ‘Well, he told me I was arrogant, cocky, brash, insensitive, etc.’ She said, ‘What did you say?’ Payne said, ‘Well, I told him he was probably right.’ We started off that way.”

Stewart grew up in a one-story house on Link Street with three women and a traveling salesman, which could be a joke if it wasn’t true. His father, Bill, sold mattresses and box springs and was often on the road, leaving Payne with his sisters, Susan and Lora, and his mother, Bee, who was as rare a species in Springfield as a snow leopard: a staunch Democrat. In election season Bee filled the yard with political placards like dandelions.

“He had a lot of girl in him,” said Cook. “Ironed his own clothes. He loved to cook. He liked to dress up. Then, when he’d be with the boys, he’d be about as macho as anybody. He wasn’t afraid to try to outdrink you or outplay you or anything else.” Stewart made French toast on a local Springfield cooking show when he was 3 and reveled in making a breakfast of waffles and pancakes for his own children, Aaron and Chelsea, whenever he wasn’t traveling to play golf.

In the late 1970s, if you didn’t make it through the PGA Tour’s soulless meat grinder that was its qualifying tournament, your playing options were few. One was to go to Florida and join a mini-tour, where the prize money was the aggregate of the entry fees, less what the tour organizer skimmed off the top for himself. If they were unscrupulous, that included the prize money too. You were essentially playing for your own cash, plus everyone else’s. It was a hard lesson for even the best young former college star, being picked clean by local legends with garage-band swings who knew every blemish and blade of grass on the undistinguished courses they played. The other most commonly chosen option was the Far East, and that was where Stewart found himself after graduating from Southern Methodist University and failing to get his tour card.

Two of his traveling buddies in Asia were the Anton twins, Terry and Tom, who had played at the University of Florida. Because of the springy way they stepped, with their heels off the ground, Stewart called them Tip Toe I and Tip Toe II. While Stewart’s confidence in his golf game crossed the border of cockiness without clearing customs, it was actually more a case of the sum being greater than its parts. He swept the club back with a lag reminiscent of Bobby Jones and the hickory-shaft era. His tempo looked as effortless as the human eye wandering through a Cézanne still life, but he was neither a great driver of the ball nor the best iron player nor the best putter. In his prime, though, when it came to the short shots around the green, inside 75 yards or so, he had no peer. Some of that was learned from the hustlers in Springfield, but some of it was imported from Asia.

“We had a tremendous admiration for the Asian players’ short games. All of us learned,” said Tom Anton. “It was a great training ground. They showed us techniques around the greens, out of the bunkers, shots we’d never seen before. We’d bomb it by them but from 100 yards in, they were magicians.”

Besides a short game, the other significant acquisition Stewart made was in Kuala Lumpur when he met a 20-year-old Australian woman named Tracey Ferguson, who was at one time a draftsperson employed by Greg Norman’s father at Mount Isa Mines. He fell in love with her the moment he saw her in a string bikini. Stewart succeeded in making it through the PGA Tour’s spring qualifying school in June ’81, the same month David Graham played a near-flawless final round at Merion Golf Club to become the first Australian to win the U.S. Open. He and Tracey were married that November.

While Stewart won twice in Asia and again at the ’82 Quad Cities Open, the only tour tournament his father saw him win, his early reputation was that of a player who could come close but not finish it off at the end. He lost playoffs in ’84, ’85, ’86 and ’88. He compiled so many seconds his nickname was Avis. When he finally won the ’87 Hertz Bay Hill Classic, he donated the winner’s check to charity in honor of his father, who had passed away two years before from cancer.

After finishing in a tie for 24th in the Masters in ’89, Stewart won the next week at the Harbour Town Golf Links, an event played on a classic South Carolina low country course designed by architect Pete Dye and known for the quality of its champions, a list that included Palmer and Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson. Stewart would become the first player to successfully defend that title. It was in August ’89 at a Chicago suburban course named for an insurance company, Kemper Lakes, where Stewart captured his first major championship in typically controversial style.

By that time, it felt like most of the big stuff had already been done. Nick Faldo won the first of his three Masters on the second hole of sudden death when Scott Hoch agonized over, and then missed, a 2-foot sidehill wobbler on Augusta National’s 10th. The big story of the year was Curtis Strange, who took advantage of Tom Kite’s final-round 78 to become the first player since Ben Hogan to win back-to-back National Opens. “Move over, Ben,” said Strange. In the wake of the Open Championship, all the conversation was about how star-crossed Greg Norman let yet another major championship elude him. Mark Calcavecchia won at Royal Troon, defeating Australians Wayne Grady and Norman, who couldn’t even post a score in the four-hole aggregate playoff.

Stewart had played progressively better in each of the 1989 majors, going into the final round at Royal Troon just two shots behind Grady, one better than Calcavecchia. After closing with a 74, however, he was nothing more than an afterthought going into the PGA at what would become storm-ravaged Kemper Lakes — especially since he’d shot 75-76 in Memphis the weekend before. It was Mike Reid, a product of Brigham Young University, slender as a cattail stalk whose reverse-C finish was so pronounced it made grown men wince, who took command almost from the outset. Reid, nicknamed “Radar” because his drives, though short, tracked the center of what seemed like every fairway, was tied for the lead after the first round and alone at the top after 36 and 54 holes. Stewart, dressed as he did every Sunday in the colors of the local National Football League team, this time the Bears, went into the final round a full six shots off the pace.

A five-birdie back nine of 31 pulled Stewart within two of Reid’s lead and gave him reason to stick around. In April Reid had led the Masters after 13 holes on Sunday and didn’t finish well, but that disappointment was nothing compared to what happened at Kemper Lakes. He bogeyed the 16th to lose half his lead, and then smothered a lob shot from just off the 17th green and double-bogeyed, shockingly dropping a shot behind. Stewart couldn’t be still in the scoring area, pacing back and forth, even mugging for the camera. Reid had a chance to birdie the 18th to tie him but missed a 7-footer.

Stewart’s glee was demonstrable. He emerged from the scoring tent slapping high fives with anyone he saw, and that, unfortunately, included Reid as he came off the course. Stewart’s pleasure seemed blissfully ignorant of Reid’s pain. “I’m 32. I hadn’t won a major, and everybody all over the world is always asking me why,” he said. “They did the same thing to Curtis and look what happened. He won back-to-back U.S. Opens.” The contrast of Stewart’s self-satisfaction and the unselfconscious tears of the mild-mannered Reid was so stark that what should have been the affirmation of the skill and ability Stewart always believed he possessed became, instead, the coast-to-coast confirmation of his most unpleasant character traits.

Very soon after Coop began working with Stewart, he suspected his new client had attention deficit disorder and sent him to a clinician for a proper diagnosis. “I’ve got to give him tremendous credit,” said Coop. “When he found out what he had, he talked to people about it. He didn’t hide it. God gave him tremendous rhythm and tempo and neuromuscular skills, but God didn’t give him concentration.”

The knowledge of the condition led Coop and Cook to devise practice sessions tailored for someone whose ability to concentrate was, at times, tenuous. It wasn’t always, though. “With the ADD, the U.S. Open was always set up so hard that he was able to focus during the tournament,” said Cook. “The rough was so tough and greens were so fast and hard, it created a lot of focus for him that he didn’t have in a run-of-the-mill tournament.”

In March ’91 Stewart was wearing a brace to stabilize a herniated disk in his neck that had caused him to lose strength in his left arm. Reduced to nothing more than a spectator in his own backyard at Bay Hill during Arnold Palmer’s tournament, he was out for 10 weeks and unable to play in the Masters. An exercise regimen helped rehabilitate the neck, but Stewart would struggle the rest of his career with three degenerative disks in his lower back. He played at Harbour Town the week after Augusta, tied for fourth, and took aim on his most prized goal, the U.S. Open at Hazeltine CC, outside Minneapolis.

The U.S. Open had been at Hazeltine on one previous occasion, when the Englishman Tony Jacklin won in 1970, and the layout of architect Robert Trent Jones was mocked as if it had been drawn up by a 4-year-old with finger paints. After the ’70 Open, Jones made some changes, augmented later by his youngest son, Rees, a second-generation golf course architect like his older brother, Bobby.

By the time the U.S. Open returned to Minnesota, it had a trio of finishing holes as tough as any in golf, holes that would cost Scott Simpson a second national championship. Simpson, who would later become almost as well known for being actor Bill Murray’s patient partner in the annual Pebble Beach pro-am started by Bing Crosby, birdied the 14th, 15th and 16th holes in the ’87 U.S. Open at Olympic Club outside San Francisco to beat eight-time major champion and local favorite Tom Watson, who had attended Stanford University, just up the 101 Freeway.

Simpson, a University of Southern California product himself, finished in the top 10 in the next two U.S. Opens (the ones won by Curtis Strange) to earn a reputation as a dependable Open player. He had an unusual action. At address he’d slowly lower his upper body toward the ball and then rise up as he took the club back to the top. Though their swings were as similar as a Van Gogh and a mechanical drawing, Stewart and Simpson had at least one trait in common: Neither was given to making the big mistake. In a U.S. Open brilliance has far less to do with swashbuckling shotmaking than it does the ability to avoid calamity, shot-by-shot, hole-by-hole, until you’ve simply outlasted your peers. It’s about as glamorous as being stuck with the check.

Just like at Kemper Lakes two years before, a violent summer thunderstorm hit Hazeltine, but this was far worse than just an interruption in play. A darkening sky filled with electricity halted the first round just after 1 o’clock, and six men took shelter underneath the branches of a small willow tree 30 yards or so from the 11th tee. Two flashes of lightning knocked all six to the ground. William Faddell, who was not even a golf fan but who had been given the tickets by his father, died of cardiac arrest. Two months later, at the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick outside Indianapolis, another spectator, Thomas Weaver, was killed by lightning in the parking lot. The confluence of tragic events led to golf’s organizers forever changing the way they treated hazardous weather.

When play resumed, the rain-softened course gave up some good scores, including Stewart’s opening 67, which tied him with Nolan Henke, a Battle Creek, Michigan, native who would just as soon have been fishing as leading the U.S. Open. By the end of three rounds Stewart and Simpson had managed to separate themselves from the field by three shots. For almost all of Sunday Simpson was in firm control. Almost is the operative word. He reached the final three holes with a 2-shot lead over Stewart but bogeyed the 16th and 18th, while Stewart made a brave 5-footer at the last to force the Monday playoff. By the next day Hazeltine’s greens had baked out, turning crusty and unforgiving. Again, Simpson came to the last three holes with a 2-shot lead, and, again, it wouldn’t hold up. Stewart made a 20-footer for birdie on the 16th, while Simpson missed from inside 3 feet for bogey. Rattled, Simpson pulled his 4-iron on the 17th into the pond and scrambled for another bogey. Now, he was down a shot. Simpson’s approach at the 18th ran through the green, and with Stewart 5 feet away for par, he tried to chip in but couldn’t. Stewart won, 75-77.

Left: Payne Stewart during the third round at the 1999 U.S. Open Championship. (USGA/J.D. Cuban)

Middle: Payne Stewart holding the trophy after the final round of the 1999 U.S. Open. (J. D. Cuban/Courtesy USGA Museum)

Right: Payne Stewart during the fourth round of the 1999 U.S. Open Championship held at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club No. 2 Course in Pinehurst, N.C., Sunday, June 20, 1999. (USGA/J.D. Cuban)

“It’s disappointing to lose the U.S. Open two days in a row,” said Simpson, who had played those last three holes eight over par for the week to Stewart’s one under. When it was over Stewart bought champagne for the media, a grandiose gesture he now shared with Tony Lema, who died in a plane crash 33 years before Stewart did. “I come off as arrogant sometimes,” Stewart explained to the press. “Maybe you guys caught me at the wrong time a couple of times. If you got to know me, I’m a pretty nice guy, and by God, I’ll buy champagne anytime you want it.”

In some ways the next few years were not kind to Stewart. In others they were the kindest of all. With two major championships he could command lucrative, for those days, endorsements, and he landed an equipment deal that paid him handsomely but poisoned his game. If Scott Simpson had had a reputation as a man who showed up in the U.S. Open, Stewart did, too, finishing a gut-wrenching second to Lee Janzen, not once but twice. In 1993 at Baltusrol GC in New Jersey, Janzen hit it through trees on the 10th, chipped in on the 16th, and caromed a shot off another tree and into the fairway on the 17th. He hit just six fairways and 11 greens on Sunday and beat Stewart by two.

Stewart’s back had become a never-ending source of discomfort. And, by 1994, he had the kind of midlife career malaise many top players experience. He began to wonder if it was all worth it. There is little doubt Stewart became a different person the last years of his life. He found a peace of mind that had eluded him from the time he was a boy in the balcony of Springfield’s Grace Methodist Church, where he couldn’t sit still and his father sang too loudly. “The last two years of his life, he was a really good person,” said Hicks. “He just walked a different walk.”

Everyone who knew him saw it. “He was so much more thoughtful. He was so much more concerned about other people,” said Coop. “He was more at peace with himself, too. It wasn’t a logical peace. He fought to find that peace by playing harder or playing better or being more popular, and that’s just not where it comes from. The religion really gave him a sense of what was important. I think he didn’t try as hard to be liked, and he was liked more. He was accepted more by not trying so hard to be accepted.”

Stewart, who had won only once following Hazeltine, finished second to Janzen again in the U.S. Open, this time at the Olympic Club in ’98. On Friday the USGA used a lamentable back pin position on the steeply sloped 18th green, and, with the possible exception of Tom Lehman, who four-putted it, few were bitten harder than Stewart. After missing a short, curling birdie putt, Stewart could only fold his arms, furiously chew his gum, and watch stone-faced as his ball rolled and rolled 25 feet back down the slope. Though he’d held a 4-shot lead going into Sunday, Stewart played poorly in the final round. While luck shined on Janzen once again, this time on the fifth when his tee shot into the tops of the cypress trees dropped to the ground even as he was walking back to re-tee, Stewart wasn’t as fortunate. After struggling to find a fairway, he finally did with a 3-wood on the 12th, but the ball settled into a sand-filled divot. The bad break led to two more bogeys, the most critical at the 16th, and he eventually lost to Janzen by a shot. But this was a far different Stewart than the one who had seemed so callous in victory over Mike Reid at Kemper Lakes. “He was about as gracious a loser as you could possibly have,” said Cook. “He congratulated Lee. Talked about how well Lee played, about how he just didn’t have it that day.”

Stewart’s showing in San Francisco had reinforced his self-belief for the following year in Pinehurst. Generally considered Donald Ross’ finest work among the 400 or so courses he created, the heart and soul of the No. 2 Course are its domed greens. The Pinehurst Resort suffered through some tough financial times in the ’70s and ’80s, and the No. 2 Course’s reputation had taken a hit as well. With rough grown up right to the collars of the putting surfaces, it was thought to be too easy a mark for the modern player. It wasn’t until PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman brought the Tour Championship there in 1991, shaving the green embankments to restore the character of the course, that No. 2’s challenge emerged from its own shadow. The only course in America easily identified simply by an integer, only the best-struck shot would hold No. 2’s greens. If a player’s ball rolled off into a collection area, his next shot offered a dicey set of choices — lob it up on top, pitch it into the bank, putt it up the hill. That’s all well and good if you’re smoking cheap cigars and playing a $5 Nassau with a group of high handicaps, but when there’s a national championship at stake, those decisions become a hall of mirrors.

Stewart traveled to North Carolina after missing the cut in Memphis. He put the weekend to good use, playing a practice round with Cook, and carrying just his chipping clubs and a putter. They mapped the greens, marking them with red lights, green lights and yellow lights for the places he could not, or should not, hit the ball.

Pinehurst wasn’t the first time he and Cook had plotted a course that way. They did the same thing for every Open Championship links, too. Pinehurst, however, was the only time Stewart ever carried his yardage book himself, usually preferring to leave that job to his caddie, Hicks.

For the second straight year Stewart went into Sunday’s final round with a lead, just one stroke this time instead of the four shots he had in hand at the Olympic Club. And, for the second straight year, he was overtaken on the back nine, this time by the man he was playing beside, Phil Mickelson. And, for the second straight year, he had a tee shot land in a sand-filled divot, this time on the fourth hole. But after his experience at Olympic, he’d spent time practicing the shot and saved his par. Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods took runs at the lead, but, in the end, the championship came down to Stewart and Mickelson and the final three holes.

Only once during the week did Stewart make a red-light mistake, missing the green in the worst possible spot on the par-3 15th on Sunday. The designation earned its distinction when he had to make a long putt just to salvage the bogey that dropped him a shot behind Mickelson. Sunday of the U.S. Open always falls on Father’s Day, and Mickelson, who had just turned 29 and had yet to win his first major, was carrying a buzzer in his golf bag waiting for a call from his wife, Amy, who was expecting the couple’s first child.

On the 16th, normally a par-5 played as a par-4 during the Open, Mickelson gave Stewart’s shot back with a bogey of his own. Both players missed the green, and Stewart hit one of his weakest chips of the week, leaving himself a downhill, double-breaking 20-footer. When he curled it in the center, he barely reacted. For Coop, this was one of the most telling moments of their 11 years together.

“That putt on 16, you couldn’t make with a bushel of balls,” said Coop. “All he did was raise his right index finger to acknowledge the crowd and went right back into concentration. We worked so hard on that, so hard, not to get too high, not to get too low. He worked on his deficiencies.” With Stewart in the hole with par, Mickelson’s 8-footer missed, and now they were tied again with two to play and no one else really in the game after Woods’ bogey at the par-3 17th.

Stewart hit his 6-iron 4 feet from the hole on the 17th, and Mickelson followed with a 7-iron 8 feet away. Mickelson missed on the right, and Stewart holed to retake the lead going to the last, an uphill par four of 446 yards. Mickelson found the fairway, but Stewart’s drive landed in the right rough. All day it had been wet and uncharacteristically cool for North Carolina in June, when it’s more likely to be in the 90s than the 60s. On the practice ground, a place called Maniac Hill, Stewart had taken out his navy blue rain jacket during his warm-up but didn’t like the way it restricted his swing, so he cut the sleeves off with a pair of scissors. As Hicks and Stewart walked up the hill against the cold drizzle, the carillon from The Village Chapel, just a couple of blocks away, chimed “Amazing Grace.”

The moment Stewart saw his lie in the thick Bermuda rough, he never thought of anything but laying up short of the cross bunker. From there he’d have a 75-yard wedge shot into the back-left pin. Mickelson hit his second on the green but left himself a 25-footer with a huge right-to-left swing in it, hardly a putt he could expect to make. Trying to cobble together a classic, scrambling U.S. Open par, Stewart wedged his third 20 feet below the hole. Mickelson missed, and Stewart made his right in the middle again. This time he rose up on one leg and punched the air. Hicks tossed the flagstick away and flew into his player’s arms, wrapping his legs around him.

After picking up his golf ball, Stewart took Mickelson’s face in both his hands and told him, “You’re going to be a father. You’re going to be a father.”

That night the Open champion and his caddie drove to Mebane, North Carolina, Hicks’ hometown, for a fundraiser the following day. Stewart never entertained the notion of not showing up. Instead, the two of them sat up most of the night in Hicks’ kitchen taking turns drinking champagne from the U.S. Open trophy until the caddie could sneak away to bed unnoticed.

In September, as the days shorten, the Ryder Cup Matches have early starts, particularly the morning sessions of either four ball or foursomes. Warm-ups can begin before sunrise, and often the matches don’t end until dark. Stewart loved his music. He played in Peter Jacobsen’s band Jake Trout and the Flounders, and he was a devoted Jimmy Buffett parrothead. He traveled with a case of harmonicas in a range of keys, all of which he could violate without the slightest hint of remorse. But he was never more purposefully musical than he was at a Ryder Cup. Whenever Stewart was on the U.S. side, which he was five times, wake-up calls were completely unnecessary. Up before any of his teammates, Stewart would blast Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” at full throttle for everyone in the hotel, American and European alike, to hear. If Seve Ballesteros liked nothing better than beating Americans, Payne Stewart liked nothing better than playing for his country.

At The Country Club in Brookline, the course where Francis Ouimet won the 1913 U.S. Open in a playoff against British legends Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, the U.S. team fell woefully behind after the first two days. The Americans were four points behind, 10-6. No lead that large had ever been overcome in the history of the matches. U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw front-loaded his lineup, and the Americans won the first six singles. When Justin Leonard rolled in an improbable monster putt on the 17th, the green near Ouimet’s house where he made the crucial stroke against Vardon and Ray, the Americans stormed thoughtlessly onto the green while José Maria Olazábal stood in stoic dignity, still with a chance to halve the hole. He didn’t, though. Crenshaw kissed the green where Ouimet had beaten the Brits. The stunning U.S. comeback was complete but for one thing.

The match directly behind Leonard and Olazábal was Payne Stewart and Colin Montgomerie. The Boston crowd had been enormously unkind to Montgomerie, hurling insults about his game, his team, his body, anything they could think of. Some particularly well-lubricated and obnoxious fans were ejected from the grounds at Stewart’s insistence. When Stewart picked up Montgomerie’s ball on the 18th green at The Country Club, giving him the match, Hicks thought it was his player’s finest moment, greater even than the 18th green at Pinehurst just months before.

“What he did with Monty was the proudest moment I ever had,” said Hicks. “The old Payne Stewart wouldn’t have done that. He wouldn’t have been thinking about the big picture. I was proud of the way he handled himself the whole day. Those people were ruthless.”

The first person Stewart saw on the green was Montgomerie’s wife at the time, Eimeer. He hugged her and apologized for the fans’ behavior. At 42 Stewart had become a man in full.

It was a cool morning in Orlando, Florida, on October 25, with a few puffy white clouds in the sky. By afternoon it would be in the 70s, a perfect day for golf, and flying. Michael Kling, a captain for Sunjet Aviation, came to work at 6:30 a.m. His first officer, Stephanie Bellegarrigue, arrived 15 minutes later. They inspected and fueled Learjet n47bA, loaded a cooler with ice and soft drinks on board, and left Sanford, Florida, for Orlando International Airport at 7:54 a.m. to pick up their passengers: Payne Stewart; his agents, Van Arden and Robert Fraley; and Bruce Borland, a last-minute addition from Jack Nicklaus’ architectural team who was anxious to work with Stewart on a golf course project near Dallas.

Stewart and his wife, Tracey, were up early that morning, too. She had an appointment with a chiropractor, and Payne made pancakes for the children, Chelsea and Aaron, before the three of them left for school around 7:30 a.m. Stewart had angered some of his professional friends because he’d backed out of a commitment to play in a fundraising event that day hosted by Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill. Instead, he would stop in Dallas on his way to Houston for the Tour Championship.

The Learjet took off from Orlando International Airport at 9:19 a.m. After a series of altitude clearances, at 9:26 a.m. the pilot was instructed to change radio frequency and contact a Jacksonville controller, who cleared them to climb to, and maintain, flight level 390 to Dallas. The response, “Three nine zero bravo alpha,” are the last known words to have been spoken on the airplane.

From that moment until 12:12 p.m. central daylight time, n47bA was first intercepted by an F-16 from the Fortieth Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, then followed by two Oklahoma Air National Guard F-16s, joined by a pair of North Dakota Air National Guard F-16s. All reported the windows fogged or frozen and no signs of life. A cataclysmic loss of cabin pressure had turned it into a ghost ship. For nearly four hours, first in great confusion and then heartbreaking resignation, the saga played out on cable news as the Learjet flew like a porpoise through the air. Stuck in a climb, it bumped up against its maximum altitude of 48,900 feet, descended to a level where its engines functioned more efficiently, and then climbed back to its apex over and over again until its fuel tanks ran dry.

It came down like a javelin in a field outside of Mina, South Dakota, down a dirt road, behind bales of hay, where Jon Hoffman’s cows grazed. The entry wound in the Earth was shockingly compact, as much a grave as a crash site. “That’s where they are,” Hoffman said. Stewart’s last flight ended on land owned by a working man who built his own driving range just off his back porch so he could hit balls on summer evenings.

A polished stone unearthed by the force of the crash serves as its memorial. In part the engraving on it says:

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction,

Out of the miry clay;

And he set my foot upon a rock

And he gave me a firm place to stand. PS

Adapted from Playing Through: Modern Golf’s Most Iconic Players and Moments by Jim Moriarty by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Copyright 2016 by Jim Moriarty. Copies of Playing Through can be obtained at https://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/nebraska/9780803278653/

Blast from the Past

Blast from the Past

Photographs by Tim Sayer

The great Harry Vardon won the sixth U.S. Open ever played in 1900 at the Chicago Golf Club. Max Busser, the lead assistant professional at Pinehurst No. 8, strikes the pose.

Francis Ouimet stunned the world when he defeated Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Boston. Cole Stiles, the head professional at Pinehurst No. 7 and No. 9, stands in for Ouimet while his son, Parker, assumes the role of Ouimet’s faithful caddie, Eddie Lowrey.

The immortal Bobby Jones won the U.S. Open four times between 1923 and 1930 in addition to his three Open Championship titles, his five U.S. Amateur championships and a single victory in the British Amateur. Matt Barksdale, Pinehurst Resort’s director of golf, plays the part.

Gene Sarazen, the inventor of the modern sand wedge, won the U.S. Open in 1922 and 1932. He’s appropriately portrayed by Rob Lane, the lead assistant at Pinehurst’s newest course, No. 10, the Sandmines.

The Hawk, Ben Hogan, won the U.S. Open four times between 1948 and 1953 in addition to his five victories in golf’s other three major championships. Andrew Swindon, the assistant professional at Pinehurst’s No. 7 and No. 9, steps into his shoes.

Arnold Palmer, the King, charged from behind at Cherry Hills Country Club to add his lone U.S. Open crown to his four Masters titles and two Open Championship victories. Matt Nunez, the head professional at Pinehurst Country Club, holes the putt.

Jack Nicklaus, whose 18 major championships place him alone at the pinnacle of the sport, captured four U.S. Open titles, the first in 1962 and the last in 1980. Tyler Yancey, the head professional at Pinehurst Sandmines, the new No. 10, plays the Golden Bear.

Lee Trevino, the Merry Mex, won the U.S. Open in 1968 and 1971, outdueling Jack Nicklaus in each. The toss of the cap is by Carlos Rodriguez, Pinehurst’s assistant pro at the No. 7 and No. 9 courses.

Johnny Miller’s final round of 63 on his way to winning the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club was one of the greatest rounds in Open history. Evin Wheaton, the assistant golf professional at the Padgett Learning Center, lines up the putt.

Pinehurst’s first U.S. Open in 1999 provided one of the most exciting finishes the championship has ever seen. The statue of Payne Stewart, relocated temporarily for the 2024 U.S. Open, occupies a place of honor behind the 18th green to prove it. Ryan Shpak, the manager of the Padgett Learning Center and a Pinehurst Golf Academy instructor, kicks up his heels.

The U.S. Open Issue

The U.S. Open Issue

Feature Photograph: USGA/Fred Vuich

It’s golf’s most demanding test; it’s most exhausting week.


A U.S. Open examines every aspect of a player’s game and seeks to reveal every attribute a golfer can possess — awesome power, an angelic touch, a gladiator’s heart. Our tribute to this year’s National Open begins with a nod to history, portrayed by some of Pinehurst Resort’s own professionals assuming the poses of champions past. Tom Stewart, owner of Old Sport & Gallery provided the vintage clubs with costuming help from Showboat Costumes. Of course, it’s been 25 years since the late Payne Stewart made his stunning par on the 72nd hole to finish off one of the most exciting U.S. Opens ever played. In honor of Stewart, we’re running an excerpt about him, “A Country Boy from Springfield,” from the 2016 book Playing Through. Sandhills native Bill Fields is a researcher on NBC’s golf telecasts and he invites us inside the compound for a behind the scenes look at what it takes to broadcast the U.S. Open across the globe. Lee Pace, whose golf knowledge of Pinehurst is unparalleled, tells us all about the USGA’s new Golf House Pinehurst and the return of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Jim Dodson plays a round of golf with Bob Dedman Jr., the most laid-back, down-to- earth guy who ever owned his own U.S. Open venue. Last, but far from least, Charlotte native Ron Green Jr. — for our money the best golf writer in America — answers the question “Where have all our champions gone?” And, just think, we get to do this all over again in five short years.

Poem June 2024

Poem June 2024

Feature Photograph: Courtesy Tufts Archives

To Donald Ross

(On receiving a picture of this famous

golf architect studying a 6-foot putt)

Brave Donald, in your suit of brown,

I see you studying your putt,

And well I know you’ll run it down;

It is a splendid picture, but

For all the woes you’ve worked for me,

Deep in a bunker you should be.

I smile to see your kindly eye;

’Tis good to see your figure fair;

Six feet away, I’ll say you lie,

And know your second put your there;

They took your picture on the green —

A pit had made a merrier scene.

I should have laughed to see you caught,

Your niblick tightly clutched in hand,

Standing where I so oft have fought

To battle with the stubborn sand;

It would have pleased me more to see

Your ball where mine so oft must be.

Yet, Donald, if perchance the day

Shall come to me when I can brag

That I, like you, have learned to play

My second shots up to the flag,

If I reach any green in two

I’ll have my picture made for you.

    — Edgar A. Guest

(Edgar A. Guest, 1881-1959, was known as the People’s Poet.
He wrote this poem for the testimonial dinner honoring Donald Ross at the Pinehurst County Club on March 20, 1930.)

Party Animals

Party Animals

N.C. Zoo celebrates five decades

By Jim Moriarty

Photographs Courtesy of N.C. Zoo

Feature Photo: Southern White Rhinos (from left to right: Bonnie, Abby and Nandi) and Fringe-Eared Oryx in background

It began with Sonny Jurgensen, Tort and Retort. None of them moved very fast, but all of them played significant roles in the birth of the North Carolina Zoo 50 years ago.

The zoo, built initially on 1,371 acres in Randolph County near Asheboro, is the largest natural habitat zoo in the world. It entertained over a million visitors last year, including nearly 90,000 students who attended free of charge. The formal celebration will be on Aug. 2, the day the interim facility was officially dedicated in 1974. Among the many promotions staged throughout the year will be the recognition, probably sometime in June or July, of the zoo’s 30 millionth guest, who will be showered with a lifetime membership, a Zoofari (an open-air trip through the Watani Grasslands), and every manner of zoological swag known to man.

Left to Right: Giraffe (Turbo), African Elephant (C’sar), Red Wolves (from left to right: Catawba and Pearl), American Alligators (from left to right: Liv and Gatorboy)

The seed money for the zoo came, in part, from a series of four preseason football games that raised money for the feasibility study to determine the location of the zoo. The first of those games was on Aug. 19, 1967. The Washington Redskins (now Commanders, though that’s likely to change) were led by their quarterback, Jurgensen, a Wilmington native, and linebacker Chris Hanburger, who was born at Fort Bragg (now Liberty) and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Giants had a Carolina connection of their own: Darrell Dess, a guard/tackle who had attended N.C. State University. The game was played at night, the first such event, at what was then called Carter Stadium in Raleigh. Washington won 31-13 in front of 33,525 who paid six bucks apiece to attend.

Left to Right: Southern White Rhinos (from left to right: Linda and Jojo), Southern White Rhinos (from left to right: Linda and Jojo), Galapagos Tortoise (Retort), Galapagos Tortoise (Retort)

The location that was eventually settled on for the zoo was known as the Purgatory Mountain site, named, according to legend, for the fires from the moonshine stills visible at night. Randolph County donated the land, the state legislature earmarked $2 million for the project, and hiring began.

The interim zoo, today nothing more than a staging and construction area, became home to the first animals, two endangered Galapagos tortoises named Tort and Retort, who were sent to other zoos long ago for propagation, one of the zoo’s foundational purposes. “The interim zoo was chain link, that’s all it was,” says Diane Villa, the zoo’s director of communications and marketing. “But that’s not what we were going for. What sets our zoo apart from other zoos is the original vision for what they wanted it to be. They wanted it to be good for the animals.” Its creation marked a turning point from concrete, fenced facilities to the creation of environments as close to the animal’s natural habitat as possible.

Left to Right: African Elephants (from left to right: C’sar, Batir, Rafiki, Nekhanda and Tonga), African Lion (Mekita), American Bison (Calf), Red River Hog (Patience)

Bill Parker was one of the facility’s earliest zookeepers. A graduate of Pfeiffer University (Pfeiffer College at the time), he began in ’74 and retired six years ago this September. “When I started there were probably fewer than double digits of permanent employees, mostly in administration,” he says. “They started acquiring animals in the late summer and early fall of ’74.” And it was definitely learn as you go.

By the end of the decade he was working in animal care. “I was on the African grasslands, at the time we called it the African Plains,” he says. “We were riding on the back of a truck and we had an antelope, called a nyala, that was breach birth. So we called out the vets and we started doing what we could to help the animal deliver, but it looked like it wasn’t going to survive. So, in the back of the truck, the vet did an emergency C-section and pulled the calf out. The lady I was working with — her name was Nancy Lou Gay Kiessler — who was training me to be a keeper, immediately took the calf out of the vet’s hands, wiped the mucous off its snout, and she put the snout in her mouth and started giving it resuscitation. I thought, ‘Boy, if I’m ever called to do that, I don’t know if I could.’ What it demonstrated to me was the level of care and compassion she had for that group of animals, and that calf survived.”

Left to Right: Ocelot (Inca) Chimpanzee (Obi), Fringe-Eared Oryx, Zebra (Spirit), Grizzly (Ronan)

Part of the zoo’s commitment in helping to restore populations of endangered species involves transporting animals to facilitate breeding recommendations in a program implemented by zoos and aquariums called the Species Survival Plan. These days the animals are shipped FedEx, but Goldston has done it driving down I-85. “My first transport was in ’99. We had a recommendation to move our male gorilla to a zoo in Atlanta. Myself and another keeper, I think we were somewhere in South Carolina, we needed to stop to refuel. It was one of those combo stations where it’s a Wendy’s on one side and a fuel stop on the other. So I’m standing in line waiting to get our food and I’m just reeking with gorilla musk. People are sniffing and turning around. ‘Where’s it coming from? Who is it?’ We just sort of cracked up.”

Left to Right: Elephant (Tonga) & Rhinos (from left to right: Nandi and Bonnie), Red Wolf (Warrior), Western Lowland Gorilla (Hadari), Desert Dome

If the early days had its challenges, over five decades the zoo has grown, gazelle-like, by leaps and bounds. Today it manages 2,805 acres and broke ground on an Asia region in August of ’22 that will feature tigers, Komodo dragons and king cobras, to name a few species, when it opens in two years. There are currently 305 permanent state employees with a staff that expands to roughly 700 during the highest traffic months. The zoo has three full-time vets on staff and a number of vet techs. “They work on everything from Madagascar hissing cockroaches to African elephants and everything in between,” says Villa. The zoo won the 2021 World Association of Zoos and Aquariums sustainability award.

A monitoring and reporting tool called SMART, developed by the North Carolina zoo in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society and several other zoos, is being used in over 80 countries to track animals and combat poaching. “A lot of animals are in trouble. African lions, African elephants, vultures. One of our signature programs here is vulture tracking,” says Villa. “They’re part of the circle of life. African vultures are one of the steepest declining birds in the world. One of our scientists, Dr. Corinne Kendall, is one of the leading vulture experts. If there was one thing that we try to let people know, it’s that just by coming to the zoo, your admission price helps support our conservation efforts. We’re trying to be a leader for our guests.” Man and animal alike.  PS