On the Tee

On the Tee

Together Again

Another chapter in a long association

By Tony Rothwell

Featured Photo: Tin Whistles 1915. Donald J. Ross, second row fourth from the left. (Photograph from the Tin Whistles archives)

When the USGA brings the U.S. Open Championship to Pinehurst to play the iconic No. 2 course, a long-established Pinehurst-based golf society, the Tin Whistles, will play its part.

There will be seven Tin Whistle members in senior championship leadership positions, including Larry McWane, the volunteer chairman. Sixty-eight more will be in various volunteer positions, and the par-3 17th hole will be marshalled by a combination of Tin Whistles and Silver Foils, Pinehurst’s equivalent ladies’ golf society.

“Being the chairman sounds impressive and an honor, and it certainly is, but it requires patience and planning which sometimes seem overwhelming,” says McWane. “Somehow it all gets done, thanks to the dedication of the many who volunteer, and the clubs and organizations that support the game.”

This level of involvement is not surprising. The Tin Whistles’ ties to the USGA are extraordinary in number, both playing in USGA tournaments and in USGA management. According to Jan Ludwig, Tin Whistle historian, just some of those connections include:

  • Three Tin Whistles have been winners of the USGA Amateur Championship: William C. Fownes Jr., 1910; George T. Dunlap Jr., 1933; and Richard D. Chapman, 1940.
  • Tin Whistle members played in 27 of 32 Walker Cup matches from 1922 to 1989.

Right: Tin Whistles 2024 (Photograph by John Patota)

  • Five Tin Whistle members have been USGA presidents: William C. Fownes Jr., 1926-27; George W. Blossom Jr., 1942-43; Richard S. Tufts, 1956-57; William C. Campbell, 1982-83; and James B. Hyler, 2010-11.
  • Richard Tufts was a key figure in the negotiations between the USGA and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland, to bring the rules of golf in line on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • Tin Whistle member P.J. Boatwright Jr. was USGA executive director from 1969-80 and executive director of Rules and Competitions from 1980-91.

In addition to regular members, the Tin Whistles are proud of their honorary members, which include Jack Nicklaus, Jay Siegel, Gary Schaal, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Donald Padgett II, Rees Jones, Dan Maples, Robert Dedman, Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw, Bob Burwell, Curtis Strange and Davis Love III. If you added up all the victories and accomplishments of this group, there wouldn’t be room on the page. Of the U.S. Opens held since 1901, Tin Whistles have played in 77 of them.

The Tin Whistles society was established in 1904 when a small, like-minded group of regular golfing visitors to Pinehurst decided to hold competitions and formed the society. Donald Ross, the designer of Pinehurst No. 2, was one of them.

The society has grown into a 225-member organization that has become involved in many areas of community service, including, most notably, awarding four-year college scholarships and nursing scholarships to students from local high schools — 165 awards to date. A 1983 scholar, and a Tin Whistle member, Chris Eldridge, has come from California to be the hole captain on the second hole during the Open.

And when you’re watching the Open broadcast, look out for the marshals on the 17th. Chances are you’ll recognize some of them.  PS

Tony Rothwell moved to Pinehurst in 2017, exchanging the mind-numbing traffic of Washington, D.C., for better weather and the vagaries of golf. He spent 50 years in the hotel business but in retirement writes short stories and sings in the Moore County Choral Society. He can be reached at ajrothwell@gmail.com.



The Kingsnake and My Old Man

Learning to appreciate the unappreciated

Story and Photographs by Todd Pusser

For years, my father lived by the creed “The only good snake is a dead snake.” Any snake encountered, no matter the species, was dispatched as quickly as possible, usually with a deft stroke of a shovel to the back of the head. Dad’s fear of snakes was taught to him by his dad, who learned it from his dad, who learned it from his dad.

Ophidiophobia is a common affliction. Chances are, most readers of this magazine suffer from some form of it. Ever since the serpent tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, snakes have received a bad rap. Like taxes and politicians, most people despise them.

However, there are exceptions to every rule. For Dad, that exception was the eastern kingsnake. If the boldly patterned black and white snake was encountered in the yard, Dad let it slide. No shovels to the back of the head for this serpent. Eastern kingsnakes are powerful constrictors that readily eat other snakes, including venomous ones — a fact that had not escaped my dad, despite his serpentine prejudices.

When I came along, I broke the family mold. As a kid, I never feared any snake. Instead, I found the cold-blooded serpents immensely fascinating. If I encountered one in the woods, I did not rush to grab a stick to bash it to pieces. Instead, I marveled at the way it slithered across the ground, admiring how it navigated the landscape without the benefit of legs.

I devoured every snake book I could find in the library at West End Elementary School. I soon learned that North Carolina was blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with 39 different species of snakes, only six of which are venomous.

Each year, when the “Snake Man,” a touring natural history educator, came around to our school, I was the first to volunteer to help hold Penelope, his pet 16-foot Burmese python. I still recall with vivid clarity how it took over a dozen students to lift the immense snake out of her wooden holding box.

Then there was the time my sixth-grade science teacher, Larry Dull, captured a hognose snake on the school’s playground out by the monkey bars. Frequently called “spreading adders” by locals, for their habit of flattening their heads “cobra style” when threatened, hognose snakes are often believed, incorrectly, to be venomous — a myth that Mr. Dull dispelled by holding the wild snake with his bare hands in front of our class. The hognose remained absolutely still, occasionally flicking its tongue in and out of its mouth, making no attempt to bite. While Mr. Dull addressed our class, I hung on his every word and laughed out loud when the snake suddenly pooped on his shirt.

As my knowledge and love for North Carolina snakes grew, the eastern kingsnake quickly became a favorite. What’s not to like? The handsome black serpent has a bold pattern of white, chainlike markings that encircle its body at wide intervals from head to tail. Capable of reaching lengths of over 6 feet of pure muscle, the eastern kingsnake is North Carolina’s strongest native snake. It’s a constrictor that suffocates its prey with powerful coils from its body.

Not only are kingsnakes big and strong, they possess the superhero-like trait of being immune to snake venom. For copperheads and rattlesnakes, an eastern kingsnake is the ultimate danger noodle.

The reason Dad refuses to kill kingsnakes stems from an incident that happened during his childhood. While fishing for bluegills in an Eagle Springs farm pond, he stumbled upon a kingsnake constricting a cottonmouth along the shoreline. Despite having the cottonmouth’s fangs embedded deep in its back, the kingsnake slowly squeezed the life out of the venomous serpent, then proceeded to swallow it whole, right in front of my wide-eyed father. It left an impression.

Despite witnessing this rare behavior, Dad still grew up fearing snakes. It was not until my college days that his fear began to wane. At that time, I had a pet snake named Herman. Herman was an eastern kingsnake that traveled with me from Chapel Hill back home over the holidays. One memorable Christmas, I pulled Herman out of his aquarium in the living room, but Dad steadfastly refused to hold him, despite the snake’s obvious calm demeanor. Mom chose to remain in another room for my impromptu Crocodile Hunter performance.

After graduation, when work took me away for months at a time, Dad reluctantly agreed to snake sit for me. Fortunately, Herman was a low-maintenance pet. Dad simply had to clean his aquarium once a week and feed him the occasional frozen mouse. Still, Dad never once picked up Herman. Old habits die hard.

It was not until years later, when I took Dad on a wildlife viewing adventure through the Albemarle Peninsula, that he actually picked up a snake with his bare hands for the first time. On a humid day early in the trip, we encountered a large kingsnake crawling across a wide dirt road bordered by forest and cornfields. I hopped out of the car and immediately picked up the shiny black serpent. True to form, the snake made no effort to bite. Instead, it wrapped its elongated body around my wrist. Its iridescent scales shimmered in the late afternoon light.

Imagine my surprise when I asked Dad if he would like to hold it and he said, “Yes.” Not wanting the moment to pass, I quickly handed the snake over to him. Despite being obviously nervous — beads of sweat were forming on his forehead — both Dad and the snake remained calm. Slowly touching its scales, Dad’s expression changed from trepidation to joy. In that moment, he lost his fear of snakes.

It’s been many years since I have seen a kingsnake around Eagle Springs. Of the few snakes that still occasionally turn up in the yard, I am happy to report that Dad no longer kills them. He simply leaves them alone.

Mom recently texted me a photo of Dad helping out a family friend by capturing a large rat snake in their front yard and releasing it unharmed into a nearby patch of woods.

Looking at that picture, I can’t help but smile.  PS

Naturalist and photographer Todd Pusser grew up in Eagle Springs. He works to document the extraordinary diversity of life both near and far. His images can be found at www.ToddPusser.com.

Almanac June 2024

Almanac June 2024

June is a luscious muse, generous with her wisdom, lips to the ears of all who seek her.

Want to know how to dance? Move as the dragonfly moves, she whispers, guiding your eyes to shallow waters. Iridescent wings shimmer in hypnotic circles. The pond reflects the magic back.

In the meadow, the muse beckons a gentle wind. Be danced, she sings among the rolling grasses. Let the movement find you.

Artists: Dip your brush in milkwort and rosinweed. Watch sunlight transmute meadow-beauty. Express with the boldness of spider lily.

Poets: Attune to the frequency of bees. Can you taste the earth through your fingertips? Spend the day supping honeysuckle and catmint, then cover your legs in clover pollen.

It’s all for pleasure, the goddess intones. You cannot do it wrong.

See for yourself.

Study the language of lark sparrows. Become fluent in butterfly pea and blooming thistle. Chime in with a choir of cicadas.

Dress yourself in Queen Anne’s lace. Map out the route of a swallowtail. Translate the essence of snap beans and squash blossoms.

Let listening be an artform. Or seeing. Or tasting. 

How fully can you receive the richness of sound and color? The texture of nectar on your tongue? The depth and sweetness of these early summer days?

It’s simple. Surrender to the wild beauty. Let it move you. This is the mastery of June.


It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.

— Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy-Tacy and Tib, 1941

Night Bloomers 

The full strawberry moon rises on Friday, June 21 (one day after summer solstice). What could be dreamier than a near-full moon on a midsummer’s night? Enter the moon garden. Breathe in the earthy-fresh fragrance of evening primrose (Oenothera laciniata). The sugary sweetness of moonflower (Ipomoea alba). The citrus-laced ecstasy of night-blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum).

While not technically a night bloomer, the timeless aroma of gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) is anything but subtle. Awash in the gentle glow of moonlight, the delicate white blossoms of this evergreen shrub are a wonder to behold. Linger among them. Tell them the quiet longings of your heart. If you lean close, you just might hear their secrets, too.

Puck & Co.

Nature spirits have long been associated with the magic of summer solstice. Fae folk in particular. But what kind of mythical being is that?

The rosy maple moth is as storybook as it gets. With its woolly body, bushy antennae and candy-like pink and yellow coloration, this small silk moth is nearly unmistakable. As its name implies, maple trees are the preferred host for this visual wonder, which can be seen fluttering near forest edges throughout the state.

Perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of one this month. Though who’s to say it won’t be Puck, stirring up a bit of mischief?   PS

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



June Books


Husbands & Lovers, by Beatriz Williams

Two women — separated by decades and continents, and united by an exotic family heirloom — reclaim secrets and lost loves in this sweeping novel from The New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Wives. New England, 2022: Single mother Mallory Dunne receives the telephone call every parent dreads — her 10-year-old son Sam has been airlifted from summer camp with acute poisoning from a toxic mushroom, leaving him fighting for his life. In a search for the donor kidney that will give her son a chance for a normal life, Mallory is forced to confront two harrowing secrets from her past: her mother’s adoption from an infamous Irish orphanage in 1952, and her own all-consuming summer romance 14 years earlier with her childhood best friend, Monk Adams, a fairytale cut short by a devastating betrayal. Cairo, 1951: After suffering tragedy beyond comprehension in the war, Hungarian refugee Hannah Ainsworth has forged a respectable new life for herself — marriage to a wealthy British diplomat and a coveted posting in glamorous Cairo. A fateful encounter with the enigmatic manager of a hotel bristling with spies leads to a passionate affair that will reawaken Hannah’s longing for everything she once lost. Timeless and bittersweet, Husbands & Lovers draws readers on an unforgettable journey of heartbreak and redemption, from the revolutionary fires of midcentury Egypt to the moneyed beaches of contemporary New England.

A Happier Life, by Kristy Woodson Harvey

The bestselling author of The Summer of Songbirds presents a tender and touching novel about a young woman who discovers the family she has always longed for when she spends a life-changing summer in North Carolina. Present day: Keaton Smith is desperate for a fresh start, so when her mother needs someone to put her childhood home in Beaufort, North Carolina, on the market — the home that Keaton didn’t know existed until now — she jumps at the chance to head south. The moment she steps foot inside the abandoned house, she’s confronted with secrets about grandparents who died in a car accident before she was born. And as she gets to know her charming next-door neighbor, his precocious 10-year-old son and a flock of endearingly feisty town busybodies, she soon finds she has more questions than answers. 1976: After meeting her adoring husband, Townsend, Rebecca “Becks” Saint James abandoned the life she knew and never looked back. Forty years later, she’s made a name for herself as the best hostess North Carolina has ever seen. Her annual summer suppers have become the stuff of legend, and locals and out-of-towners alike clamor for an invitation to her stunning historic home. Becks strives to make the lives of those around her as easy as possible, but this summer she is facing a dilemma that even she can’t solve. As both Keaton and Becks face new challenges and chapters, they are connected through time by the house on Sunset Lane, which has protected the secrets, hopes and dreams of the women in their family for generations.

Summer Romance, by Annabel Monaghan

The bestselling author of Nora Goes Off Script pens this romantic and hilarious story of a professional organizer whose life is a mess, and the summer she gets unstuck with the help of someone unexpected from her past. Ali Morris is a professional organizer whose own life is a mess. Her mom died two years ago, then her husband left, and she hasn’t worn pants with a zipper in longer than she cares to remember. No one is more surprised than Ali when the first time she takes off her wedding ring and puts on pants with hardware she meets someone. Or rather, her dog claims a man for her . . . by peeing on him. Ethan looks at Ali as if she’s a younger, braver version of herself. The last thing the newly single mom needs is to make her life messier, but there’s no harm in a little summer romance. Is there?

Swan Song, by Elin Hilderbrand

The New York Times bestselling author brings her Nantucket novels to a brilliant finish when rich strangers move to the island and social mayhem — and a possible murder — follow. Can Nantucket’s best locals save the day and their way of life? Chief of police Ed Kapenash is about to retire. Blonde Sharon is going through a divorce. When a $22,000,000 summer home is purchased by the mysterious Richardsons (how did they make their money, exactly?), Ed, Sharon and everyone in the community are swept up in high drama. The Richardsons throw lavish parties, flirt with multiple locals, flaunt their wealth with not one but two yachts, and raise the impossible hopes of everyone they meet. When their house burns to the ground and their most essential employee goes missing, the entire island is up in arms.

Not In Love, by Ali Hazelwood

Rue Siebert might not have it all, but she has enough: a few friends she can always count on, the financial stability she yearned for as a kid, and a successful career as a biotech engineer at one of the most promising startups in the field of food science. Her world is stable, pleasant and hard-fought — until a hostile takeover and its offensively attractive front man threatens to bring it all crumbling down. Eli Killgore has his own reasons for pushing this deal through, and he’s a man who gets what he wants — with one burning exception: Rue, the woman he can’t stop thinking about. Torn between loyalty and an undeniable attraction, Rue and Eli throw caution out the lab and the boardroom windows. Their affair is secret, no-strings-attached, and has a built-in deadline: the day one of their companies will prevail. A forbidden, secret affair proves that all’s fair in love and science.

The First Ladies, by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray 

The daughter of formerly enslaved parents, Mary McLeod Bethune refuses to back down as white supremacists attempt to thwart her work. She marches on as an activist and an educator, and as her reputation grows she becomes a celebrity, revered by titans of business and recognized by U.S. presidents. Eleanor Roosevelt herself is awestruck and eager to make her acquaintance. Initially drawn together because of their shared belief in women’s rights and the power of education, Mary and Eleanor become fast friends, confiding their secrets, hopes and dreams — and holding each other’s hands through tragedy and triumph. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected president, the two women begin to collaborate more closely, particularly as Eleanor moves toward her own agenda separate from FDR’s, a consequence of the devastating discovery of her husband’s secret love affair. Eleanor becomes a controversial first lady for her outspokenness, particularly on civil rights. And when she receives threats because of her strong ties to Mary, it only fuels the women’s desire to fight together for justice and equality.




The Pelican Can! by Toni Yuly

Pelicans: lovely to watch and just as lovely to read about. This rhythmic picture book shares the beauty of a pelican’s day with scientific facts and delightful illustrations, making it the perfect read-together at the end of a long beach day. (Ages 2-6.)

Chloe and Maude, by Sandra Boynton

Adventures await with best friends Chloe and Maude. Art! Hiking! Even a tiny disagreement — everything is more fun with a friend. A perfect choice for fans of Elephant & Piggie or Frog and Toad who are looking for short chapter books. (Ages 5-8.)

If You Spot a Shell,
by Aimée Sicuro

Conch, whelk, scallop, moon snail . . . who hasn’t, on a beach day, seen hats and boats and spiraling wheels while looking at these stunning shells? If You Spot a Shell celebrates the beauty and creativity of beach art and is a great read-together after a long sun-washed beach day. (Ages 3-8.)

Trouble at the Tangerine, by Gillian McDunn

All Simon Hyde wants to do on the day his family moves into Tangerine Pines is settle into his forever home. But a fire alarm, a stolen necklace and a missing bracelet may send the Hydes on a path to seek a new home sooner rather than later. This charming mystery is the perfect summer story for animal lovers, adventure seekers and budding foodies. (Ages 9-12.)  PS

Compiled by Kimberly Daniels Taws and Angie Tally.

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.

Omnivorous Reader

Omnivorous Reader

Letters from Death Row

Finding purpose behind bars

By Anne Blythe

Much has been written about how the art of letter writing has been in decline for years — except in prisons. Behind the barbed fences, putting pen to paper remains a vital connection to the world outside the prison walls. It was one such letter that launched Rap and Redemption on Death Row: Seeking Justice and Finding Purpose Behind Bars, a book by Alim Braxton and Mark Katz.

Braxton, born Michael Jerome Jackson on June 1, 1974, has been in prison since he was 19 years old, incarcerated more than a quarter-century of that time on North Carolina’s death row. His co-author, Katz, is a music professor at UNC-Chapel Hill who started the Carolina Hip Hop Institute in the summer of 2019.

Braxton, who chose the Muslim name Alim in prison, read a newspaper story about the program and wrote a letter to Katz in August 2019 asking for help. Rap music had been a big part of Braxton’s life, even before prison. He had been writing and recording lyrics over the phone but was not pleased with the sound quality.

Let’s get this out of the way: Braxton killed three people and robbed two others. He accepts responsibility and apologizes for killing Emmanuel Ogauyo, Donald Bryant and Dwayne Caldwell, as he does for robbing Susan Indula and Lindanette Walker.

“I know my situation may seem despairing and perhaps unlike anyone you’ve worked with before, but despite the circumstances I still have faith and I still have a dream, and I believe that with the right sound and someone who knows what to do with my vocals I can accomplish something BIG!” Braxton wrote to Katz, who held on to the letter for a month.

“I wasn’t sure I wanted to offer my help,” Katz writes in the preface to the book. “I didn’t know him, and after all, this request was coming from a convicted murderer.” He decided to respond anyway.

“I was intrigued by his passion. I also saw an earnestness is his neatly handwritten letter that amplified the sincerity of his words,” Katz writes.

That led to a relationship and the exchange of many letters to build a team of people who worked with Braxton to record his first album — the first-ever recorded from death row — and to this book.

“It wasn’t long into our correspondence that I came to believe that Alim’s letters were worth preserving and making public, and that is what spurred me to suggest the possibility of a book,” Katz writes. “Earlier in my career, I had spent many hours in archives reading correspondence by famous musicians. I would count myself lucky anytime I found a single paragraph of interest out of a batch of letters. That is not the case with Alim’s letters.”

Braxton’s blunt but colorful accounts of how he got to prison and his life inside it are contemplative and eye-opening. He gives readers a glimpse of the inmate hierarchy, the violence, the loss of dignity, privacy and rights, the code of survival and his path to redemption, love, a wife and even hope for the future despite his circumstances.

His rap, which is interspersed with the narrative, is personal and wide-ranging. His lyrics offer views of the George Floyd protests, COVID, pop culture and much more. In telling his story, Braxton wants to make sure that the stories of others — those on death row who maintain their innocence and have cases he believes involve wrongful convictions — are lifted up with his rap.

Braxton grew up in a rough-and-tumble Raleigh neighborhood about 2 miles from Central Prison. There are times he dreams of nearby places he visited as a boy or the rolling Dix Park across the busy boulevard from the prison cell “the size of a bathroom” he now lives in.

“I have fond memories of my childhood growing up in Raleigh, but as I wrote in my song, ‘Unremarkable,’ it’s also where I learned ‘to thug it properly.’ Stealing, fighting and drinking were rites of passage in my neighborhood,” Braxton writes. “My descent into crime didn’t happen overnight. I got my feet wet shoplifting around the age of 11. By the time I was 16 I had gone to prison for two months for stealing a car. I soaked up more criminal knowledge while inside, and after my release, the front gate became a revolving door, with three dozen arrests and three additional stints in prison.”

In vivid detail, Braxton goes on to describe his first time with a gun, his move from a pistol to a sawed-off shotgun, the first time he killed a person, and the almost out-of-body experience he had during those times. It was as if he was playing a role in a movie or a TV show, he wrote. He says the adage “the decisions you make today determine your tomorrow” rolls around in his head, especially when he thinks about the 1993 robbery spree where he claimed the lives of two people.

“Why didn’t I just leave at some point during that February night in 1993?” Braxton writes. “The truth is that I was afraid that I would look weak. I know now that it’s not weak to walk away from something you don’t want to be involved in. . . . Not walking away was a pivotal decision that changed the course of my life forever.”

Not walking away from a conflict in prison is what landed him on death row. He had been spared the death penalty and given two life sentences plus 110 years for the 1993 robbery-turned-kidnapping-turned-murder. Then he stabbed a fellow inmate to death.

Although North Carolina has had a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since 2006 while lawsuits make their way through the courts, the possibility of executions starting again looms.

“The true reality of life on Death Row is that every day is a life of fear, regret and humiliation . . . ,” Braxton wrote in a newspaper letter to the editor published in the book. “I live every day with the fear of standing before my God and accounting for my deeds.”  PS

Anne Blythe has been a reporter in North Carolina for more than three decades covering city halls, higher education, the courts, crime, hurricanes, ice storms, droughts, floods, college sports, health care and many wonderful characters who make this state such an interesting place.

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

Tea Leaf Astrologer

Tea Leaf Astrologer


(May 21 – June 20)

They say the longest trek a soul can take is the one between the head and heart. While this is doubly true for you, Gemini, suffice it to say that the Venus Cazimi on June 4 is going to expedite your journey. While you’re used to staying camped out in the frenzied chambers of your own mind, get ready for a month that’s all about feeling. Despite past experiences, being vulnerable with others is not, in fact, your kryptonite. Bon voyage!

Tea leaf “fortunes” for the rest of you:

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

Easy does it.

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

Two words: airplane mode.

Virgo (August 23 – September 22)

Take your vitamins.

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

Don’t pick the scab.

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

There’s treasure to be found.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

Listen for what’s behind the words.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

Give yourself some grace.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

Breathe into your belly.

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

It’s going to be dicey.

Aries (March 21 – April 19) 

Hit the pause button.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

Just walk away.  PS

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

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