February Books


Milk Blood Heat, by Dantiel W. Moniz

A livewire debut novel that depicts the sultry lives of Floridians in intergenerational tales that contemplate human connection, race, womanhood, inheritance and the elemental darkness in us all. Set among the cities and suburbs of Florida, each story delves into the ordinary worlds of young girls, women and men who find themselves confronted by extraordinary moments of violent personal reckoning.

The Unwilling, by John Hart

Gibby’s older brothers have already been to war. One died there. The other, Jason, came back misunderstood and hard, and ended up in prison. After his release, and determined to make a connection with his brother, Jason coaxes Gibby into a day at the lake: long hours of sunshine, whisky and two older women. When one of the women is savagely murdered, suspicion turns to Jason; but when later the second woman is kidnapped, the police suspect Gibby, too. Determined to prove Jason innocent, Gibby must avoid the cops and dive deep into his brother’s hidden life. What he discovers is a truth more disturbing than he could have imagined. Crime fiction at its most raw.

The Four Winds, by Kristin Hannah

Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as drought grips the Great Plains. The crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. Elsa Martinelli — like so many of her neighbors — must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. Written by the author of The Nightingale, Winds is an indelible portrait of America during the Great Depression as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

The Nature of Fragile Things,
by Susan Meissner

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. Widower Martin Hocking is mesmerizingly handsome, but Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved. When the 1906 earthquake happens, they are all forever changed.


Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,
by Harriet Jacobs

A perfect book club selection, Incidents is the reissued autobiography of a woman born into slavery in Edenton, North Carolina. A compelling read in modern day, it was written between 1853 and 1858 and published in 1861 under the name Linda Brent.

Walk in My Combat Boots,
y James Patterson and Chris Mooney

These are the brutally honest stories usually shared only between comrades in arms. Here, in the voices of the men and women who have fought overseas from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, is a poignant look into what wearing the uniform, fighting in combat, losing friends and coming home is really like.

Romantics and Classics: Style in the English Country House, by Jeremy Musson

In this coffee table book featuring houses of the English countryside, Musson and photographer Hugo Rittson Thomas have assembled a stunning collection of charming homes that reveal a remarkable wealth of taste and style, ranging from classic to contemporary and bohemian. In addition to featuring homes like Haddon Hall, Smedmore, Court of Noke and The Laskett, the book includes essays expanding on the essential components of country style.

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation,
by Anna Malaika Tubbs

In this groundbreaking debut, Tubbs celebrates Black motherhood by telling the story of Berdis Baldwin, Alberta King and Louise Little, who taught resistance and a fundamental belief in the worth of Black people to their sons, even when these beliefs flew in the face of America’s racist practices and led to ramifications for all three families’ safety. The fight for equal justice and dignity came above all else for the three mothers who pushed their children toward greatness.


I’ll Love You Till the Cows Come Home, by Kathryn Cristaldi

Oh, my goodness, this is the sweetest thing — a perfect read-together that will make you want to cuddle with your favorite 3-year-old and share the yaks in Cadillacs and frogs on big-wheeled bikes. “I will love you till the cows come home, from a trip to Mars through skies unknown, in a rocket ship made of glass and stone . . . I will love you till the cows come home.” (Ages 1-4.)

The Beak Book, by Robin Page

Straining, sniffing, tossing, crushing, cooling, filtering, snapping — beaks are incredibly versatile, and the birds that own them wildly diverse. Budding ornithologists and nature lovers will enjoy learning about the wide world of birds and their beaks in this fun new title. (Ages 3-8.)

Bear Island, by Matthew Cordell

There is no one good way to get through a bad time, but after losing her best dog, Charlie, Louise retreats to a tiny island near her home, where her days are filled with warm sun, quiet animals and time — time to think and be and find a path forward. A lovely story of healing after loss from a picture book wizard. (Ages 3-6.)

The Cousins, by Karen McManus

Milly, Aubrey and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. When they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised and curious. The longer the cousins are on the island, the more they realize how mysterious — and dark — their family’s past is. A fast-paced thriller for fans of Genuine Fraud or We Were Liars. (Age 14 and up.)  PS

Compiled by Kimberly Daniels Taws and Angie Tally.


Unexpected Guests

The red crossbill makes an appearance

By Susan Campbell

This winter has been quite a season for birders across the Eastern United States. Here in North Carolina, it has been incredible with a variety of unexpected species scattered across the state. A few of them, like the snowy owl on the Outer Banks, were only around for a day. But others have been surprisingly widespread, are persisting and are being found in numbers. One such species is the red crossbill.

This feisty little seedeater with the oddly crisscrossed bill is native to the boreal forest, where conifers are abundant. They are uniquely adapted to pry open the sizable cones of spruces, firs, pines and even the small, compact cones of hemlocks. Crossbills are after the oily, nutrient-rich seeds found within. With short legs and strong feet, they cling easily to not only the bark and branches of the trees they forage on, but to the needles and cones as well.

The challenge for these birds of the North is that the cone crop that they depend on, especially during the colder months, is not predictable. Some years there is more than enough food to sustain them. But in seasons such as this one, red crossbills are forced to migrate much farther south than usual to find enough seed to make it through the winter.  They may appear at feeders, especially those with hulled sunflower (referred to as “hearts” or “meats”) that the birds can easily consume.

Red crossbills often give themselves away, since they travel in noisy flocks. Their distinctive “jip” calls are unlike any other vocalization you might hear in the winter in central North Carolina. Although the adult males are a bright red-orange color, the females and immature birds are more muted. They may get overlooked as one of our more common finches or sparrows. The streaky brown plumage of a female crossbill might cause confusion: They look very much like our familiar female house finches. So, be sure to look very closely at the bills of all the “little brown jobs” that show up at your feeder. And if you get lucky and spot a crossbill or two, I would love to hear about it.

Interestingly, we do have a small population of red crossbills that breed in the northwestern corner of our state. The habitat on Mount Mitchell is the equivalent of the boreal forests of Canada and northern New England. So, if you don’t happen upon any in the coming weeks, should you find yourself at elevation in the mountains this summer, you may, nonetheless, catch a glimpse of one of these unusual birds. PS

Susan would love to receive your wildlife observations and/or photos at


TRUST BUT VERIFY: As our communities deal with the challenges presented by the novel coronavirus, please be aware that events may have been postponed, rescheduled or existed only in our dreams. Check before attending.

Eats and Art

The Encore Center and Ashten’s Restaurant will bring dinner theater to downtown Southern Pines with a performance of Love Letters on Friday, Feb. 12, at 6:30 p.m. There will be additional performances on Feb. 13 at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., and on Feb. 14 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $30-$50. For information call (910) 725-0758 or go to

Is Groundhog on the Menu?

The Sandhills Woman’s Exchange opens on Feb. 2, either for the spring season or for six more weeks of winter. Delicious lunches are available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the gift shop, featuring 25 artisans, will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information call (910) 295-4677 or go to

Cupid II

Join the Southern Pines downtown businesses and the Sunrise Theater’s marketplace for an afternoon of shopping, adult beverages and Valentine’s Day perks in the second annual Cupid’s Crawl on Saturday, Feb. 6, from 12 to 4 p.m. No further information is necessary, just support our local businesses.

Born to Zoom

February features a pair of electronically-distanced author events. John Grisham joins John Hart to talk about Hart’s new book, The Unwilling, from 6 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 3. For information go to Then, on Wednesday, Feb. 10, you can join a conversation with James Patterson, Matt Eversmann and former Air Force Combat Controller Dan Schilling about the book Walk in My Combat Boots. For more information go to

Golftown Journal

All Four One

A magic number creating memories

By Lee Pace

There are the four seasons, the four corners of the globe, four points on a compass, four phases of the moon, the four Gospels, the four elements. There are the Four Horsemen and the Four Tops. The number four in East Asia is considered unlucky; some hospitals and apartment buildings skip the number four as many in America do with the dreaded number 13.

And in golf, there are four players. The foursome.

There is no pat answer on the number’s evolution through the history of golf as the standard size of a group taking to the course. The fact that in the early days clubs and balls were expensive and often shared by two or more players lends credence to the idea that golf developed in Scotland as a game for two players playing alternate shot, aka foursomes. The Rules of Golf of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in 1858 specifically mentions that golf is played “by two persons, or by four (two a side) playing alternately.”

And so it was that four men in their late 20s arrived by happenstance on the first tee of a small-town Illinois country club in 1978.

Bill Shaw, a fifth-generation newspaperman.

Jock Heaton and Bob Branson, both attorneys.

And Dr. Joe Crisham, an orthodontist.

“The club had a traditional men’s day — you played golf in the afternoon and stayed for drinks and dinner afterward,” Shaw says. “You needed to play in a group, so the four of us hooked up. We clicked for whatever reason.

“The same four guys — for 39 years.”

Dixon is a town of about 16,000 located a hundred miles west of Chicago, and its claim to fame is being the boyhood home of Ronald Reagan, who worked as a lifeguard at a park just north of town and caddied at the golf course (known today as Timber Creek Golf Course). The golfer who hit the first shot in the first Masters, Ralph Stonehouse, was the club pro in the early 1940s.

“After about 20 years, we became the senior group at the club, and we kept going,” Shaw says. “We not only shared our golf together, but life experiences, the good and the bad as our conversations evolved from raising our young families to Social Security and Medicare.”

They played a game of nine point that revolved around the standard low-ball and low-total from two-man sides but featured extra points for birdies, sandies, a “sneaky par” (getting up-and-down) and a “poley” (making a putt longer than the length of the flagstick). Rarely did anyone lose more than $100. But unlike most foursomes, they never settled up at the end of the round. Crisham was appointed the group’s treasurer, set up a checking account and sent out a bill every month for each player’s obligation. A tidy sum of a few thousand bucks accumulated, and the guys decided in the mid-1990s to spend their money on a golf trip. They picked Pinehurst and in 1996 traveled south and played Pine Needles, Pinewild and Pinehurst Plantation (later renamed Mid South Club).

“What small-town Midwestern golfer would not be impressed with what Pinehurst has to offer?” Shaw reflects. “It has a multitude of fine golfing venues, as well as watering holes like the Pine Crest Inn and Dugan’s Pub. The village with its winding streets and old-time charm captivated us from the beginning.”

“Pinehurst, I love it,” Branson adds. “It’s the best place in the world.”

About this time a burgeoning golf enterprise was evolving on land just northeast of the village. The Meyer family had Chicago and Illinois roots and for many years had used “The Farm,” as they called their expanse that at its height numbered 2,500 acres, for family trips to pursue equestrian and golfing pursuits. The family’s third generation, comprised of brothers Terry and Louis Brown and their cousin Heidi Hall-Jones, decided to develop some of their land into a private golf and residential community. The first course at Forest Creek Golf Club opened in 1996, and the family used its connections in Chicago and throughout the Midwest to promote the club and the Sandhills community.

“After our first trip to Pinehurst, a friend heard about our experience and told me about Terry and his new club,” Shaw says. “On a lark, I called Terry and soon after returned to Pinehurst to check things out. He invited me to play golf. I was thrilled with it. It seemed like every hole was a signature hole.”

They played the Tom Fazio-designed course (it would later be deemed the South Course when Fazio completed the North Course in 2005). Then they moved on to the par-3 19th hole — a one-shotter over water that connects the 18th hole to the clubhouse. It’s called “The Hog Hole” as you can go “whole hog” and bet all of the day’s winnings on one par-3.

“Terry didn’t need to send me a bill,” Shaw says. “I wrote a check for a charter membership standing on the green.”

So now Shaw’s foursome had a home base for its annual golf trip. For two decades each autumn the golfers stayed at the Comfort Inn in Southern Pines, played two rounds of golf at Forest Creek, and ventured throughout the community as time and weather allowed. And they watched as Forest Creek matured into a club celebrating its 25-year anniversary in 2021.

“We were in golfing heaven,” Shaw says. “As the years passed, our time together became more precious. The memories piled up.”

Sadly, the group was reduced to three in June 2017, when Jock Heaton succumbed to cancer.

“He is always with us in spirit,” Shaw says. “The second seat in my golf cart is occupied by a lifetime of memories. I invited his son Jon to join us at Forest Creek in the spring of 2019. It was an emotional day, to say the least.”

Shaw still lives in Dixon but visits Forest Creek at least a couple of times a year. Branson is retired and lives in Aiken, S.C., and has joined Shaw on the membership roll at Forest Creek. Crisham lives in Vero Beach, Fla.

“When you reach retirement and a certain age, you can reflect upon what was really special in a lifetime,” Shaw says. “How lucky we were to have golf, to have our foursome, to have Forest Creek, to have Pinehurst. As I’ve gotten older, I have a few more aches and pains. But the azaleas, the birds singing, the scent of the place — all of that’s still there.”   PS

Chapel Hill-based writer Lee Pace has written about the charms of the Sandhills and Carolinas for more than three decades. Write him at and follow him at @LeePaceTweet.

The Creators of N.C.

A Walk in the Woods

In writing and in life, Belle Boggs explores a sense of place and belonging

By Wiley Cash     Photographs by Mallory Cash

As they do most days, especially since the coronavirus pandemic began, writer Belle Boggs and her 7-year-old daughter, Bea, are walking through the woods near their home in Pittsboro to the banks of the Eno River. Boggs, whose most recent novel, The Gulf (2019), tells the humorous yet complicated story of a struggling writer and teacher, is a teacher herself. Her inclination to educate is evident as she pauses now and then to point out varieties of mushrooms, species of birds and the best places to ford the various creeks that criss-cross the landscape on the way to the river.

While Boggs is clearly not in the classroom at North Carolina State University, where she has taught Creative Writing since 2014, the classroom never seems very far from her mind. The names and stories of her students — both past and present — find their way into conversation easily, as does her interest in the broader implications of education in rural North Carolina, especially Alamance County, where she is at work on a book-length study of the public schools there.

Boggs and her husband, Richard, settled in North Carolina after a stint in New York City, where Boggs taught first grade in Brooklyn while simultaneously earning an education degree from Pace University. Before that, she lived in California, where she earned an M.F.A. from UC Irvine. She knew she wanted to come back to the South, and she and her husband chose North Carolina because they had friends here from his years as an undergraduate in Chapel Hill. But there was something else that brought her back: the sense of place and the benefits and challenges that come along with it. “I’m interested in the challenge of being an artist when you’re from the South,” she says.

But while Belle Boggs has lived in North Carolina since 2005, one of the greatest challenges she faced was that of focusing her literary eye on her adopted state. “It took a long time for me to identify as a North Carolinian because I’d always identified as someone from a very particular place in Virginia,” she says. Her first book, the story collection Mattaponi Queen (2010), is set on the Mattaponi River in the tidewater region of Boggs’ youth and reflects her deep appreciation for place, which must have rung true to native Virginians as the book won the Library of Virginia Literary Award. It was also a finalist for the 2010 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, proving that the most powerful regional writing often resonates far outside the region of its birth.

Although Tidewater Virginia certainly informed Boggs’ earlier writing, rural Chatham County is clearly full of marvels for her, and she talks about them with an infectious sense of wonder. Across the river, she points to the spot where eagles are nesting in an impossibly tall tree; in the summer, she says that the waters of the Eno are often low enough that one can sit in a beach chair midstream and read a book; and she follows a path to an oak tree with a hole in its trunk that is large enough for young Bea to climb inside of and nearly disappear. But, for Belle Boggs, life outside of the woods is approached with these same investigatory powers. Along with the environment, other themes that have long held her interest — specifically race, class, education and motherhood — are rendered with the same precise detail that she uses to describe the world that she chronicles on these daily walks.

The issues of race, class, education and motherhood — instead of competing — have found a way of intertwining in Boggs’ recent work, especially once she became a mother. Her 2016 essay collection, The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Motherhood, and Medicine, chronicles her use of in vitro fertilization after years of confronting the possibility of being childless. And while IVF led to the birth to her daughter, Bea, followed a few years later with the surprise birth of her daughter, Harriet, the process was not without its financial burdens. “As I was waiting for the medication for my IVF cycle, which is like $3,000, our well failed,” she says, “and we had to drill a new one. Both of those things were big stretches for us to pay for, and there was so much uncertainty behind them both. They became a natural metaphor for one another.” This radical honesty, both the struggle to conceive a life and the struggle to keep her own afloat, is the kind of honesty that readers appreciate in Boggs’ writing, something which she finds surprising. “I think in general I’m a pretty reserved writer,” she says, “and I try to let the facts and the details speak for what I’m describing.”

Never were the facts and details more important to undergirding the radical honesty of an experience than when Boggs recently published an essay about her and Bea and a group of people being pepper-sprayed during a peaceful march to the polls in Graham, on the last day of early voting. Boggs had taken her daughter to the march to give her an education in democracy, but what she got instead was a lesson in power: who has it, who does not and how it is used. These same issues of power are what led her to undertake her current project on public education in Alamance County, especially as it pertains to race, class and the issues of regional segregation. It is clear that Boggs’ time some years ago in the first grade classroom fuels both her current work and her deep emotional connection to primary education. “I’m lucky to be teaching in a program like the one at N.C. State,” she says. “But sometimes I feel guilty that I’m not still a first grade teacher, because I think that may be some of the most good you can do in the world.”

But while Boggs teaches undergraduates and graduate students, she has found a way to keep one foot in primary education. Over the course of the pandemic, she and Bea created a Zoom-based writing club for children in kindergarten through second grade, and, perhaps following Boggs’ lead, several of her graduate students have begun working on writing projects with school-age children.

The day is ending. The woods are growing dark. Boggs and her daughter walk back uphill away from the river toward home, where 3-year-old Harriet and Boggs’ husband are waiting. Bea walks ahead of her mother on a trail toward the house, but Boggs stops, calls her daughter back. Boggs has spotted a mushroom, and while she cannot remember the name of it, she believes her daughter may know. The two of them kneel on the forest floor to get a better look. The light is fading, but there is still enough light to see, and there is still so much to learn.  PS

Wiley Cash is the writer-in-residence at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. His new novel, When Ghosts Come Home, will be released this year.

Out of the Blue

The Day of Doing Nothing

And being all the better for it

By Deborah Salomon

People bandy the word stress like it’s vanilla ice cream . . .  you know, commonplace, ordinary. So if everyday life is stressful, what happens when a pandemic on top of political chaos on top of financial uncertainties happens?

Hide under the covers.

By comparison to most old ladies, my stress appears manageable. I’m in reasonably good health, have a satisfying part-time job I can accomplish from home. My grandkids are doing well. I can just about pay my bills and haven’t lost my car keys in years. But stuff happens: a serious family illness, an expensive dental procedure. A misspelled name. All of a sudden, I’m sliding down that slippery slope, now more twisty than an Olympic luge run.

Suppose I contract the virus? Suppose one of my kitties falls ill? What if my creaky computer or my 8-year-old car breaks down?

Fatigue sets in, caused partially by the ungodly hour I rise every morning, a lifelong habit for which going to bed early no longer compensates. Mind and body demand respite. Not tomorrow or over the weekend. Now.

After the kitties had been fed, let out and in; after the emails had been answered, the news watched, the coffee and toast consumed, I turned off the phone and crawled back into bed with my arthritic shoulder on the heating pad. Ahhh . . .

The clock frowned 5:15 a.m. Lucky and Missy looked at each other, puzzled. They are cats of habit. Morning naps are their purview, not mine. Then they hopped in beside me.

The hell with everything.

Slowly, my painful neck and shoulder relaxed. I slept until 8:00. Glorious.

Now what? A second breakfast. I love breakfast, mostly the unconventional kind like cold macaroni or a grilled cheese, tomato and spinach sandwich. Nobody’s watching, might as well. Maybe I can sleep a bit more.

As I lay there, eyes wide open, the sun climbed higher and higher on the wall, illuminating one picture, then another. I glance at them every day but haven’t studied them in a while; my daughter at about 10 months, like a cameo, displaying the beauty that would blossom and, after years of illness and suffering, fade. A house that had provided so much pleasure — but not for long. An enormous Chagall poster, wedding-themed, as he was wont to paint, with animals floating among the clouds and his omnipresent fiddler. A clay mask from a pottery shop in the serpentine lanes of Venice. A photograph of my mother, her parents and her baby brother looking grimmer than grim, as subjects did in 1906.

I stared at each until they absorbed me into their background.

And then I nodded off.

I awoke around noon, disoriented, but with no compulsion to get up. Time was out of joint, yet I felt rested, empowered to continue looking at the objects I see every day; a snapshot of my grandson, frowning intently, from the sidelines of his soccer game. Not many people keep photos of frowning grandkids but this one displayed the concentration and the will that propelled him through grueling years of study, culminating in a law degree, at 22.

Silly, but I still have three artifacts from Duke: a pin (the attached ribbon long disintegrated) freshman girls had to wear during orientation, a small felt banner and a stuffed, baby Blue Devil that sat on my bed for four years, and on my other daughter’s for her four years there.

Then I looked straight up, at the rough stucco ceiling. What is that black dot — a fly, in December? I stared, hard. The dot began to move towards the wall but never arrived — an optical illusion with a name, probably. I had to find out, since I don’t put much store by the unexplained. I once heard that Mona Lisa’s eyes follow the person walking by her roped-off enclosure in the Louvre. Unfortunately, she and I failed to make eye contact, or maybe I was distracted by her small size (less than 30 inches) and poor lighting.

Again, Google failed me.

By now the winter sun was dropping low, the kitties agitated for their supper, the pandemic and politicians were still raging and I had accomplished absolutely nothing the entire day. Except for this: less tension in my shoulders, less fatigue in my brain. Less stress.

Stress is difficult to define. What one person can absorb sends another over the wall and under the covers, to watch a black speck not crawl across the ceiling, to squeeze memories from photographs.

Beats pills, any day.    PS

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

Good Natured

The Heart Chakra

Connecting to a love-focused life

By Karen Frye

The chakra system, comprised of seven major energetic centers, is inside each of us. Constantly spinning, these centers run vertically through the body from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, creating a kind of spiritual nervous system.

Each of the seven chakras has a particular organ or gland to assist. In order to operate efficiently, the chakras must be balanced. Tuning in to the seven centers in the morning before getting out of bed is the best way to ensure they are all in sync, helping you maintain an energetic body. Often, physical and emotional imbalances improve.

The heart chakra is the fourth chakra located in the center of our being. It represents love, which is the glue of the universe. The field of love that is all around us is intelligent and compassionate, ready to embrace us and bring us countless blessings. We need only to melt away the barriers we build around ourselves to receive it. When we open our hearts fully, we wash away the fears that keep love away.

February is the month to open your heart, connect to the love you feel, and receive the love given to you by others.

Generosity, compassion and forgiveness can all generate the opening of the heart. You never know when selfless acts of kindness will have a ripple effect in the world, creating positive change.

When you live from your heart center and address situations with love rather than a negative state of mind, the most incredible, and seemingly impossible, outcomes can emerge. Grasping the power of a “love-focused life” can lead to less hardship, sadness and anxiety.

Let it begin one day at a time.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Nature’s Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.

Weekend Away

Georgia on Our Minds

The Madcap Cottage gents scamper off to Savannah

By Jason Oliver Nixon

I hadn’t been to Savannah in years, and John had never visited.

Pre-pandemic, Savannah was often bandied about as a possible Madcap weekend away destination, but somehow we always wound up in places like London or, closer to home, Charleston instead. And we do love Charleston, but sometimes the Holy City can be a tad too polished.

“Savannah is like Charleston’s wild child,” noted a friend with deep ties to the Georgia coast. “We aren’t as uptight and formal, and we really like to kick up our heels and throw a good party. After all, our nickname is the ‘Hostess City.’ And remember that we are an open-container city, so always get your cocktail to go!”

Meanwhile, our next-door neighbors in High Point spend most of their time in Savannah, where they have a second home and run a ghost tour company, Savannah History & Haunts. The pair has been urging us to visit for years.

“You will love it,” said Bridgette, one half of the powerhouse behind the couple’s multi-city tour company. “There are great hotels and restaurants, and the history is off the charts. Plus, you can take one of our tours!”

John and I re-read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and, yes, screened Forrest Gump late one night to get into a Savannah state of mind.

Weekend away, here we come!

We decided to take George, our pound-rescue Boston terrier, along for the adventure and left the pug posse back home in the capable hands of the dog sitter.

For the five-hour drive from the Triad, John and I meandered through Cheraw and Florence, S.C., instead of facing — or more like being smoked by — Charlotte’s notorious speed demons. Still, after a few hours on the I-95 leg, John and I were ready for a strong libation as we pulled up at our weekend roost: the recently opened and absolutely stunning, dog-friendly Drayton Hotel.

George trotted in like he owned the place, and we all settled into The Drayton’s colorful Living Room, aka the lobby, where masterfully crafted, medicinal martinis were quickly rustled up. George perched happily atop a poof and preened.

Housed within the historic American Trust and Bank, The Drayton calls to mind an intimate, London-style hotel that mixes colors and patterns, giving a nod to the past with modern flourishes and understated — but beautifully presented — service. Smack on the corner of busy East Bay and Drayton streets, The Drayton offers the perfect location but feels worlds away from nearby River Street with its tourist hustle-bustle. The five-story hostelry boasts a terrific restaurant, St. Neo’s Brasserie, a chic, high-ceilinged dining room and first-rate service (our server, Libbie, was a gem). The rooftop bar wasn’t open for the season, but there is a slick, tucked-away bar in the basement and a coffee outpost just off the lobby that didn’t disappoint. Our intimate suite was equally cool with knockout views of the container ships plying the Savannah River (Savannah is the third largest container port in the nation) and a truly inspired bathroom with a wet room that paired a shower and clawfoot soaking tub.

With refreshed to-go cocktails in hand and George happily tucked away, we decided it was time to hit the town.

Savannah is the perfect walking city. Of course, the city celebrates its 22 signature squares, verdant and dripping with Spanish moss, which span one square-mile of its downtown. You will probably pick a favorite over the course of your visit. For us, it was Lafayette, but be sure to visit Chippewa, the site of Forrest’s iconic bench (his actual bench was a prop, now found at the Savannah History Museum). The squares are surrounded by historic residences with gated gardens, many of which you can tour, including the Davenport House and the Mercer-Williams home, site of the murder detailed in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. There’s also dreamy Forsyth Park and museums aplenty.

“SCAD seems to be gobbling up the city,” noted John as we found our Savannah sea legs and looked around for more gin to accompany lonely olives. SCAD, of course, refers to the Savannah College of Art and Design, and the institution does, indeed, seem to have kudzued here, there and everywhere in between.

We passed the famed Olde Pink House eatery (too crowded!) and questioned whether we had to wear masks outdoors — you’re supposed to.

Geographically and pandemically situated, John and I decided to follow our friend’s lead, and we truly kicked up our slip-on Converse-clad heels.

We dined at The Fat Radish (bliss!), the farm-to-table Cha Bella, The Collins Quarter and The Fitzroy. We sipped cocktails on the roof of the glamorous Perry Lane Hotel and brunched at Clary’s Cafe, the Little Duck Diner and B. Matthews Eatery. And then, we shopped.

Savannah boasts a glorious assortment of design outposts such as Courtland & Co., PW Short General Store (incredible!), Alex Raskin Antiques (the crumbling building alone is worth the visit) and minimalist favorite Asher + Rye (too Scandi spare for Madcap maximalists!). We were in home design heaven.

Our neighbors’ 90-minute 9 p.m. candlelit ghost tour was an especial highlight of the weekend. Throughout, we explored dark byways and atmospheric squares and learned about the ghosts and cemeteries that haunt and dot Savannah. Dan, our High Point neighbor, guided the tour. Decked in historic-styled garb, he was a font of knowledge paired with heaps of charisma and a true spirit of fun.

John and I trotted George out for long walks (Savannah is super dog friendly), sampled ice cream at fabled Leopold’s, sipped more potent potables at Artillery and the Lone Wolf Lounge, nibbled treats from Byrd Cookie Company and explored the refurbished Plant Riverside District with its power-station-meets-pure-glitz JW Marriott Hotel and river-facing sushi and biergarten eateries.

And, whew, there went the weekend . . .

But there is so much more to see and experience in Savannah. We will most certainly be back — with cool Chatham Artillery Punch cocktails in hand, of course.  PS

For more information about The Drayton Hotel, visit

The Madcap Cottage gents, John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon, embrace the new reality of COVID-friendly travel — heaps of road trips.

The Omnivorous Reader

Waiting for Gurganus

And savoring his short fiction

By D.G. Martin

Like two other important North Carolina authors’ debut novels, Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel in 1929 and Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain in 1997, Allan Gurganus’ Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All in 1989 caught the nation’s attention and stayed at the top of the bestseller lists for months. It has sold over 4 million copies and become an American classic.

Set in the 1980s, the book is narrated by 99-year-old Lucy Marsden, who married 50-year-old Col. William Marsden when she was 15. She tells of her marriage to the Confederate veteran, his wartime experiences and the entertaining and poignant routine of her daily life in the fictional town of Falls, located somewhere near Rocky Mount.

Widow was followed in 1997 by Plays Well with Others. Sandwiched between the two novels are a couple of collections of short fiction, White People and The Practical Heart, the last published in 1993.

So, what had he been doing in the years afterward? “Writing, every day,” he says, “and getting up at 6 a.m. to do it.” Finally, in 2013 Gurganus published Local Souls, taking us back to Falls, where Widow and many of his short stories are set.

Local Souls is neither a novel nor a collection of short stories, but three separate novellas. All are set in Falls, but the characters and stories are independent and quite different. Susan, the main character in the first novella, “Fear Not,” is a 14-year-old all-American girl growing up in Falls when her father dies in a boating accident. Seduced and made pregnant by her godfather, she gives up her baby, pulls her life together, later marries, has two children, and leads a normal life until she is reunited with the child she gave up. Then her life is transformed in a surprising and puzzling way, one that only Gurganus could conjure up.

In the second novella, “Saints Have Mothers,” a divorced woman, smart and ambitious enough to have published a poem in The Atlantic magazine, has two sons and a 17-year-old daughter. The daughter is more committed to serving those in need than she is to her mother, whose life is wrapped up in hopes for her daughter’s future. When the daughter announces that she plans to go to Africa on a service project, the mother objects. But the daughter still goes. Communication with her daughter is spotty until a middle-of-the-night phone call brings word of the daughter’s death. As the mother and the Falls community prepare for a memorial service, Gurganus brings the story to a shocking and touching conclusion.

The third novella, “Decoy,” is the history of a relationship between two men. One is a beloved family doctor, part of an established Falls family. The other is a newcomer, who came from the poverty of struggling farm life, but has achieved modest financial success and near acceptance by Falls’ elite. When the doctor retires, their friendship is disturbed and then swept away by a “Fran-like” flood that destroys both men’s homes and much of Falls.

With its complex characters and plot, “Decoy” deserved to be a separate book. In 2015 that happened, and it sold well as a stand-alone.

In his latest book, The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus (January 2021), several stories take readers back to Falls.

In one story, “The Deluxe $19.95 Walking Tour of Historic Falls (NC),” a tour guide narrates and takes a hard look at the town. She begins: “Moving along nicely. No stragglers, please. Incorporated in 1824, almost immediately made the county seat, Falls still boasts five thousand local souls. We’re down from our peak seven thousand during the commercial boom of ’98, 18 — 98. See that arched bridge? Some say that yonder River Lithium accounts for both our citizens’ soothed temperaments and for how hard we find leaving home. Few local students, matriculating up north, last long there.”

Longtime fans of Gurganus will appreciate the inside look at his favorite town. Newcomers will find that the tour of Falls forms the basis for another engaging Gurganus tale.

The new book includes one of my favorites. In “A Fool for Christmas,” Vernon Ricketts, a pet store manager in a mall near Falls, is the lead character and narrator. He is the fool for Christmas who cannot resist a call to take care of a homeless teenager, keep her warm, and help her hide from the security officer, who is dedicated to getting such undesirables out of the mall. The teenager is pregnant, and Gurganus’ story draws on the Biblical account of Christ’s birth in a way that brings out the same sort of deep feelings.

Gurganus wrote this story for NPR’s All Things Considered in 2004 and read it on the program. He has rewritten it regularly. Last year it made its way into print in a limited edition that sold out quickly. The story’s inclusion assures that the new book will be a family treasure.

Perhaps the book’s most timely story is “The Wish for a Good Young Country Doctor,” which was published first in The New Yorker in April last year. It is set in a rural village in the Midwest during a cholera epidemic in 1850, where a young doctor does his best to save its citizens. But when many die, the doctor is blamed.

How did Gurganus manage to time his story to coincide with the current pandemic? He says he finished the story early in 2020, “on the day that coronavirus appeared for the first time in The New York Times. And the context was completely changed. I sent it to my agent, who sent it to The New Yorker, which bought it in a day, and it appeared two weeks later.”

These stories and six more in the new book will remind us of the talented North Carolinian’s ability to make us laugh painfully at ourselves and our neighbors while we wait for his long-promised, long-delayed opus, An Erotic History of a Southern Baptist Church.

When I pushed him to tell us when it would be finished, Gurganus smiled and said, “I’ve got a lot of material. Every time I think I’ve finished the book, somebody tells me another story about a corrupt preacher and the choir director. And I add another chapter. So I think it might be a trilogy instead of a single volume.”

I am waiting hopefully.

But I am not holding my breath.  PS

D.G. Martin hosts North Carolina Bookwatch Sunday at 3:30 p.m. and Tuesday at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.

Late Bloomer

Though he never swung a club until age 34, Walter J. Travis became America’s first great golfer

By Bill Case 

In late March 1904, Walter J. Travis checked into the Holly Inn for three weeks of golf, hoping it would culminate in winning the coveted United North and South Amateur Championship. His arrival was considered a big deal because the Australian immigrant was generally recognized to be the best golfer in the United States — amateur or pro. Called “the most conspicuous figure in the golfing world today” by the Pinehurst Outlook, the 42-year-old Travis, playing out of Garden City Golf Club on Long Island, had won three of the preceding four U.S. Amateur championships, capturing the Havemeyer trophy in 1900, ’01 and ’03.

It was a return trip for Travis, who had already won the resort’s special “Inauguration” tournament in January. “Mr. Travis was delighted with his first visit to Pinehurst,” proclaimed the Outlook, “and he returns, not only with the championship cup in his mind’s eye, but to renew pleasant associations.”

Pleasantness certainly marked his March golf. In a casual four-ball match, the homburg-hatted Travis, partnering with Charles B. Corey, carded a record score of 69 on Course No. 1, then measuring 5,408 yards. In the North and South, he posted the best medal score of all qualifiers and trounced each of his match play opponents en route to the 36-hole final against his four-ball partner, Corey. Emitting clouds of smoke from pungent black cigars, Travis played brilliantly from the outset, leaving his erstwhile partner six holes in arrears after the morning round. Following lunch, he coasted to an 8 and 7 championship victory.

While the North and South was a valued title, Travis had his eye on a greater prize: the British Amateur championship in May at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England. No American had ever accomplished anything noteworthy in the event. It seemed a pipedream for Travis to think he could stand toe-to-toe with British stars like John Ball and Harold Hilton, considered far superior players to the best in America.

C.B. MacDonald, the renowned course architect and 1896 U.S. amateur champion, thought otherwise, pointing out that Travis was four strokes better over 36 holes than any other American. If Travis (already approaching the life expectancy of the average American male in the first decade of the 20th century) could withstand the rigors of the ocean voyage and change in climate, reasoned MacDonald, he would likely give a good account of himself.

Most golf aficionados “on the other side of the pond” scoffed at the idea. On his previous trip to Great Britain in 1901, Hilton had beaten him easily. Short of stature and weighing less than 140 pounds, Travis was admittedly not a long hitter, a problem because Royal St. George’s was tailor-made for powerful drivers. Could he carry the venue’s vast bunkers like the aptly named Sahara and Himalayas? Most of all, British golf cognoscenti doubted that anyone who hadn’t taken up the game until the age of 34 — and looked even older than his years — could hope to be a true championship player.

Nothing about Travis’ hardscrabble early life suggested that he would become a celebrated sportsman. Born in Maldon, Australia, in 1862, he was the fourth child of Charles and Susan Travis. A native Englishman, Charles had emigrated Down Under in 1852, seeking to capitalize on the country’s gold rush. Though he failed to amass riches, he did land a respected position as a mining engineer. Tragedy struck in 1880, when Charles was killed in a mining accident, leaving wife Susan and their seven children in dire circumstances. When Walter’s older brother perished the following year, the burden of supporting the family fell primarily on him. After it became apparent that work in a grocery store and sheepherding on the side wouldn’t support a family, he took a position with the hardware merchants McLean Brothers in Melbourne. He rose rapidly up the company ranks and, when McLean Brothers decided to open a New York City branch in 1885, 23-year-old Travis agreed to head up the satellite office.

Travis diligently attended to McLean Brothers’ affairs. Though a bit standoffish, he spent convivial evenings with his mates, drinking whiskey, shooting billiards and playing poker. His interests expanded to include bicycle racing, tennis and bird hunting. But his most intense outside interest was courting the comely and spirited Anne Bent.

“For a man seen as dour, abrupt and serious for much of his public life, Travis was effusive, romantic and smitten while courting Anne,” says Bob Labbance, author of The Old Man, a biography of Travis. “He could write six pages about nothing more than how much he loved her, missed her, and couldn’t possibly wait until they were together again.” Anne would play hard to get, but Walter’s persistence won her over, and the couple married on Jan. 9, 1890, settling in Flushing, New York, and parenting a son and daughter.

In 1895, McLean Brothers sent Travis to London on temporary assignment. While there, he learned that several friends back in Flushing intended to become members of a new golf club.

At first, Travis rejected any notion of joining them. He would write that “the game made no appeal to me. I am free to confess that I had mild contempt for it.” But, not wanting to be left out of the mix, Travis grudgingly purchased a set of clubs, “and with anything but pride, brought them over on my return.”

He joined the Oakland Golf Club in the fall of 1896 and embarked on his improbable golf journey. Just a month after hitting his first ball, he won a handicap competition. The next month he finished second in a scratch competition. He was hooked. The golf convert assiduously studied golf instructional books authored by British golf greats Willie Park and Horace Hutchinson. Together with “an enormous amount of experimentation,” it culminated in Travis gaining a well-grooved swing that invariably resulted in an exquisitely controlled hook.

The following summer, Travis, now down to a 7 handicap, entered numerous medal play events, acquitting himself with distinction. He won an event at the Meadow Brook Hunt Club after riding his bicycle to the first tee to submit his entry for the competition. That triumph was followed by a victory in Oakland’s club championship. He won his first foray into a match play event and lost in the finals of another. The press took notice of what was rapidly becoming a Cinderella story. One headline read, “Travis a Surprise — Almost an Unknown Man.”

More titles followed in the summer of 1898. Encouraged, he entered the U.S. Amateur that September. Incredibly, the player of less than two years’ experience made the semifinals. Dogged by poor putting, Travis was beaten decisively in the penultimate match by Findlay Douglas, a player who would become a perennial foe. The two met for a second time in the semis of the 1899 Amateur championship, and Douglas would prevail once again 2 and 1. It was clear, however, that Walter’s golfing skill was fast approaching that of his fiercest rival.

Prior to the 1899 Amateur, Travis was approached by a friend, James Taylor, to see if he would be interested in working with architect John Duncan Dunn in designing a new course, Ekwanok Golf Club, in Manchester, Vermont. America’s early courses often featured flat, square-shaped greens with bunkers, chocolate drop mounds, and hazards sprinkled across the entire width of fairways. Travis believed such hindrances should be placed at the sides of fairways so as not to penalize straight hitting, and that greens should have varying shapes and undulations. Sensing he could design a layout with more challenging features than most he had encountered, he accepted the invitation.

Travis spent much of September and October of 1899 in Vermont, immersed in Ekwanok’s construction. His detail-oriented mind and organizational skills proved well-suited for the multi-faceted task of designing and building a golf course, and he relished the work. The finished course, recognized as excellent in all regards, helped establish Travis as an architect of stature.

Early in 1900, the Travis family moved from Flushing to a house in Garden City, where he joined the Garden City Golf Club, a short walk from home. He was immediately appointed club captain and chairman of the green committee. As such, he made numerous design changes which toughened the course. His choice of Garden City proved especially timely because the club was hosting the 1900 U.S. Amateur. By the time the championship began, Travis knew every blade of grass on the course’s 6,070-yard layout. Medalist in the 36-hole qualifier, Travis blitzed through four opponents to the final where, once again, he confronted Findlay Douglas.

Despite having lost twice before to Douglas in the championship, Travis exhibited fearless confidence in this encounter. “Always be on the aggressive,” Travis would write in his autobiography. “(Be) quite sure of yourself and never give an opponent the psychological advantage of imagining you are the least afraid of him.”

Travis more than made up for his relative lack of length with stellar pitch shots and sand play. “Eight times Travis got into the sand hazards or in the long grass,” reported Golf magazine, “and each time with his iron he laid himself dead to the hole.” He led Douglas by three holes after the morning round. During the afternoon, Douglas made inroads on the lead, and was only 1 down coming down the 18th. By then a torrential downpour had flooded the course, and the home green was transformed into a virtual lake. Still, play continued.

After successfully splashing his approach onto the waterlogged green, Travis needed to get down in two strokes for the championship. He concluded, however, that rolling a putt with a mostly submerged ball was impossible. Instead, he executed a brilliant flop shot that left his ball inches from the hole, clinching the match. Just three years and nine months after his first strike of a golf ball, Travis had won the national amateur and vanquished his nemesis Douglas. He repeated as amateur champion in 1901 and won the title a third time in 1903. He also finished runner-up to Scotland’s Laurie Auchterlonie in the 1902 U.S. Open, also contested at Garden City.

Thus, while the Brits airily belittled his chances of winning the 1904 British Amateur, Travis was quietly optimistic, having just won the North and South in Pinehurst. Four Garden City club members accompanied him to Great Britain. The entourage referred to themselves as Walter’s “board of strategy.” The jocular Simeon Ford was among them. Ford would cheekily recall Travis’ debilitating seasickness during the ocean voyage. “He (Travis) spent the major portion of the time leaning over the rail, perfecting his follow through, and casting his bread upon the water.”

Once on shore, Travis’ queasy stomach became the least of his concerns. His good form vanished in wretched practice rounds at St. Andrews and Prestwick. He felt completely lost. Fortunately, his game markedly improved once he arrived at Royal St. George’s.

“From the first ball I struck, I knew I was on the road to recovery,” he wrote.

Travis’ putting had been particularly atrocious. On the eve of his opening match, an alarmed board of strategy cohort lent his personal putter to Travis. The “Schenectady” was a center-shafted mallet putter quite unlike the paper-thin blades then universally used. The loaner proved to be a godsend. In his final practice round, Travis suddenly began holing putts from outlandish lengths.

His golf was turning around, but Travis was growing increasingly resentful of how the Brits were treating him and his friends. Presumably due to oversight, no rooms had been reserved for them at the hotel where the other players were housed. The club failed to provide Travis a locker; he was relegated to changing clothes in a public hallway. The better players declined playing with him in practice rounds. The caddie assigned to Travis was beyond incompetent, “a natural-born idiot, and cross-eyed at that,” he groused. Officials refused Travis’ request for a replacement. Unlike the top British players, he was not afforded a first-round bye. British spectators cheered his misses. For the seething American, these incidents provided what would have been bulletin board material, had such a thing existed. The slights spurred Travis on, as he later acknowledged metaphorically. “A reasonable number of fleas is good for a dog,” he mused. “It keeps him from forgetting he is a dog.”

In The Story of American Golf, Herbert Warren Wind described the unusual methods the board of strategy employed each evening to prepare Travis for the following day’s matches. “They played cribbage with him and fed him large portions of stout,” while lauding the talents of prospective opponents. Goaded and fortified, a steely Travis stormed to the semifinal, leaving four opponents in his wake. His deadly accuracy with the Schenectady astounded everyone. Fears that his shortish drives would not surmount Royal St. George’s cavernous bunkers proved unfounded — but just barely. Time and again, he would carry the sand by about a yard, frustrating his opponents and those touting British superiority.

In his semifinal match, Travis confronted none other than Horace Hutchinson, the man whose instructional book he had devoured. With spectators openly rooting against the upstart American, Travis fought his way to the championship match, defeating his “teacher” 4 and 2. In the final, he faced Ted Blackwell, regarded as one of the game’s longest hitters. But Travis assumed control of the match from the outset.

“I had a comfortable feeling all through,’ he would recall, “and after the first few holes had been played, I felt certain of winning.” His black cigar smoke permeating the crisp air, Travis coasted to a 4 and 3 victory. The Scotsman described him as “coolness personified.”

The triumph marked the first glimpse of the coming American hegemony in golf. “No international sporting event for a long time has created the widespread interest that has been excited by Travis’ victory. Travis may now justly be called the amateur golf champion of the world,” claimed The New York Times.

Westchester Country Club, West Links

Feted as a conquering hero upon his return to New York, Travis’ celebrity status opened the door to lucrative opportunities including new course design assignments. Having authored his own instruction book, Practical Golf, in 1901, Travis was widely sought as a contributing writer by golf-related magazines and penned pieces on topics ranging from proper upkeep of greens to the art of putting. In 1908, he became the owner and editor of a new magazine, The American Golfer, a publication that he promised would promote “the best traditions of the Royal and Ancient game.” Among the backers of the venture was Pinehurst mogul Leonard Tufts.

Able to mostly support himself from golf-related activities, Travis resigned his post with McLean Brothers. There were occasional mutterings that his receipt of income from golf architecture and writing ought to disqualify him from amateur competitions, but USGA rules were not specific on the matter, and most concluded that Travis wasn’t doing anything wrong.

By the time Travis took the reins of The American Golfer, the 46-year-old had already been tagged with the moniker “the old man.” Due perhaps to advancing age or focus on the magazine, the single-minded competitive drive that had characterized his golf began to wane. His days of winning national titles were behind him as talented young stars like Chick Evans and Jerry Travers rose to prominence.

Still, Travis remained a threat to win any tournament he entered throughout his 40s. He relished playing, particularly in Pinehurst, which from 1904 until 1915 served as a second home for him from January to April. Travis would typically arrive after Christmas and stay at either the Holly or The Carolina through Valentine’s Day, then migrate to Palm Beach for a month before returning to Pinehurst in mid-March. It would be Travis’ headquarters until the conclusion of the United North and South Championship in mid-April. In all, he won that coveted event three times, following up his 1904 title with victories in 1910 and 1912 — at age 50.

Travis participated in a number of lesser Pinehurst tournaments, winning more than his share. His trophies included the Mid-Winter, St. Valentine’s Day, and Spring tournaments. The competition he faced was stiff, and he lost more than he won. He played numerous four-ball exhibition matches, many involving the Ross brothers, Donald and Alex. Hundreds of resort guests eager to see him in action attended. His conspicuous presence undeniably enhanced Pinehurst’s growing reputation and, as editor of The American Golfer, he arranged for extensive coverage of Pinehurst golf doings throughout its season.

Travis’ most important contribution to Pinehurst golf, however, may have been his role in transforming easy and bunker-free Course No. 2 into a venerated championship venue, maintaining that he was the person who persuaded the resort’s owner to redesign the course. “For several years, I had been at Mr. Tufts, the proprietor, to make this (No. 2) an exacting test,” wrote Travis in his 1920 piece for The American Golfer. “Finally, in 1906, I won him around to my way of thinking . . . ”

He further claimed that Tufts gave him the job of making the required changes to No. 2. “He gave me carte blanche to go ahead,” he wrote. Travis maintained that he was responsible for bringing Donald Ross onto the project. “I knew the changes I had in mind would result in a big uproar at the start, and I didn’t feel like shouldering the whole responsibility. So I suggested that Donald Ross and I should go over the course together and, without conferring, each propose a separate plan. I knew what the result would be.”

While stopping short of taking credit for No. 2’s redesign, Travis did say that Ross adopted virtually all of his suggestions, and that the Scottish transplant “was merely an echo of my own views regarding golf course architecture.”

While it’s fair to speculate whether Travis could have been exaggerating his role given his substantial ego — and the fact that he made these boasts 14 years after the events in question — it’s also reasonable to assume that in redesigning No. 2, Ross would have listened to anything the country’s leading golf figure (and fellow architect) had to say. And Ross never publicly contradicted Travis’ account. Whatever the extent of his involvement, it would seem Travis deserves, at minimum, some credit for contributing to the Ross masterpiece.

While normally restrained in his emotions, Travis effusively expressed his affinity for Pinehurst in remarks at a 1911 banquet at the Holly Inn. Travis said Pinehurst had come to have a “very warm place” in his heart and that “what St. Andrews is to golf on the other side, Pinehurst is to the game in America.”

The Old Man competed in Pinehurst events well into his sixth decade and, at age 53, won the resort’s March 1915 Spring Tournament. “Surely golfers may come and go,” reflected an admiring piece in the Outlook, “but Travis goes on forever! Straight down the alley, straight for the pin, straight for the cup.” But age was taking a toll on his already insubstantial drives, something that didn’t escape the notice of frequent playing companion Ross. “I watched him get crabbier and crabbier the older he got,” confided Pinehurst’s masterful architect. “He was always a great putter . . . but his long shots became shorter and shorter and he couldn’t reconcile himself to his loss of distance.”

Not long after that final Pinehurst victory, Travis decided to quit playing major events. While the decline in his play surely factored into the decision, the USGA was also on the threshold of adopting a rule that would result in golf course architects losing their amateur status. Travis was looking forward to expanding his course design business and, realizing it might be problematic, retreated from competitive efforts altogether. He elected to make the 1915 Metropolitan Amateur at The Apawamis Club in Rye, New York, his last important event. He shocked everybody with a series of impressive victories in the preliminary matches, even edging the formidable Travers, en route to the final where he faced John G. Anderson.

Travis’ supporters questioned whether he could still summon the necessary stamina and concentration for a 36-hole match, and he did flag down the stretch, blowing a 3-up lead over Anderson in the final nine holes. The match stood dead even as Travis staggered to the final green. He needed two putts from 40 feet to send the contest to extra holes. Instead, he electrified onlookers by holing the mammoth putt for the championship, his fourth Met title, and a spectacular farewell to big time golf for “The Old Man.”

Travis’ architectural services were increasingly in demand. Over his lifetime, Travis would design or remodel at least 50 courses, many now regarded as timeless classics. His notable projects include courses at Yahnudasis Country Club (Troy, N.Y.); Westchester Country Club (Rye, N.Y.); Equinox Golf Links (Vermont); Jekyll Island Golf Club (Georgia); Hollywood Golf Club (Deal, N.J.); Country Club of Scranton (Pa.); and modifications at Garden City. He designed courses until the end of his life in 1927, and today the Walter Travis Society continues to celebrate his accomplishments.

In 1979 he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Given his late start, it is difficult to conceive how Travis managed to pack so much achievement into such a short period of time. Still, it was never quite enough. “Full as my cup has been,” Travis reflected, “I shall never cease to regret the many prior years which were wasted.”  PS

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