Time Capsule

A hall devoted to Carolinas golf history

By Lee Pace

Pinehurst in the 1970s was the repository of the United States’ most impressive golf museum. The $2.5 million structure christened in 1974 as the World Golf Hall of Fame loomed behind the fourth green of Pinehurst No. 2 and featured bronze busts of its honorees, a replica Scottish clubmaker’s shop and all manner of memorabilia. Alas, the building cost too much to operate and visitors to Pinehurst would rather play golf than study its history, so the museum was bought by the PGA of America, closed in the early 1990s, moved to St. Augustine and reopened there in 1998. The building was eventually razed, and that parcel today is owned by Pinehurst
Resort and sits vacant, awaiting possible development.

That has left the Tufts Archives in the village of Pinehurst and Heritage Hall in the Resort Clubhouse at Pinehurst as the area’s nods to the rich golf history that has been building here since Dr. Leroy Culver staked out the first nine holes in 1898, drawing on his visions and notes from a recent visit to St. Andrews, Scotland.

The Tufts Archives, an adjunct of the Given Memorial Library, chronicles the development of the village and resort with maps, photos, postcards, letters, and assorted documents and displays. Less than half a mile away, Heritage Hall runs from the front door of the clubhouse back to the golf shop and salutes Pinehurst’s rich competitive history — particularly through the boards listing winners of its prestigious North and South Amateur and long-defunct North and South Open.

The Sandhills’ newest development in the museum arena is the Xan Law Jr. Hall of History that opened in February in the Carolinas Golf Association’s headquarters in Southern Pines. The CGA, which celebrated its centennial in 2009, opened Carolinas Golf House in 2014 across Ridge Road from Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club and set aside 1,500 square feet for an eventual museum.

CGA Executive Director Jack Nance and the association’s Executive Committee then set about raising approximately $1 million for the museum and decided to name it in honor of the Charlotte businessman and avid golfer who died in 2016 shortly after a watershed fundraising dinner that gave the museum an important underwriting base.

“Golf, like life, is a puzzle to be worked on but never solved,” Law said that evening.

The CGA retained the services of Andy Mutch, a former USGA museum director who, for the last 17 years, has operated Golf Curator Inc. in assisting clubs and associations organize, document, preserve and display their heritage.

“I was struck by how tight the golf network is in the Carolinas,” Mutch says. “Jack made calls to people who knew people who donated artifacts. We were able to acquire a museum full of authentic original artifacts — not loans or purchases, but donations — which was amazing. Even the folks at the USGA were incredulous that the only real loans we had for the entire Hall of History were from them. We were able to build a pretty serious museum of North and South Carolina golf history through this close network of committed CGA golfers. I think this authenticity comes through when you see the displays.”

A visit to the Hall of History can take from 30 to 60 minutes or longer, depending on how closely you delve into the photos and descriptive text at each of the displays. Here is the story behind the story of five of the artifacts on display:

The 1910 Carolinas Amateur contestants photo. The CGA was founded in October 1909 in Charleston and scheduled its inaugural Carolinas Amateur for the following June at Sans Souci Country Club in Greenville, South Carolina. One of the first images you’ll see in the Hall of History is a massive blown-up group shot of 23 of the contestants on the front steps of the clubhouse, the gang accented with bow ties, a cigarette or cigar in many hands and mouths, and bowler or straw boat hats on many heads. There are enough grins and bad posture to indicate the golfers have flubbed a few shots of golf and slaked a few shots of adult beverages. “On the final night, two hardy contestants commenced their next day’s contest in the bar room and left there for the first tee in the morning. One is reported to have broken five clubs in the first nine holes,” reported the local newspaper.

Peggy Kirk Bell’s Titleholders Blazer. The jacket is made of green velvet and was young Peggy Kirk’s prize for winning the 1949 Titleholders — a tournament on the fledgling women’s professional tour held at Augusta Country Club and modeled in the fashion of the Masters at nearby Augusta National. It was Peggy’s only professional win, and in time she would focus on the resort and golf teaching business with husband Warren “Bullet” Bell at Pine Needles, which they began running in 1953 and later purchased outright. In recognition of that Titleholders win, the Bells acquired the rights to the tournament in 1972 and moved it for one year to Pine Needles, with Sandra Palmer winning. Today a 40-inch bronze statue in the shape of the Titleholders crown logo still hangs in front of the Pine Needles entrance.

Paul Simson’s Ping Zing Putter. The Raleigh insurance executive arrived at Yeamans Hall outside Charleston in the fall of 1990 for the Carolinas Mid-Am and discovered he’d left his Ping Zing putter at home. Fellow competitor Vic Long said he just happened to have that very model in the trunk of his car that Simson could use. Simson liked the feel and function of the putter and won by five shots, breaking through after years of second-place finishes. “That opened the floodgates,” Simson says. “If a putter feels good and you win with it, how am I going to change?” Long gave Simson the putter in return for two dozen golf balls, and Simson used the club for many of his 33 CGA victories — giving it up finally in 2012 for a more modern version of the same putter.

Lionel Callaway display case. Donald Ross as an architect, Richard Tufts as an administrator — those leaders in early 1900s American golf are well known. Not as visible was Lionel Callaway, who was the teaching pro at Pinehurst for some 40 years in the mid-1900s. Today the Callaway Handicap System exists as a method for scoring golfers without established handicaps in competition. Callaway is also credited with developing putting cups with collapsible sides, grip molds to encourage proper hand placement on the club, practice nets and the standard of selling golf balls in packages of three. A variety of artifacts including photos, a scrapbook, his PGA of America membership cards and a handicapping gauge are collected under glass in the Hall of History.

Ben Hogan at Biltmore Forest photo. One of the best pictures on display is a gem from a gray day in the 1940s when Hogan is captured teeing off in front of a well-dressed and attentive gallery in the Land of the Sky Open, held in Asheville from 1933-51. North Carolina was a key juncture in the evolution of Hogan’s career. He was winless through eight years of pro golf when he came to Pinehurst in March 1940 for the North and South Open. He finally won, then went to Greensboro and on to Asheville for three consecutive victories. In three tournaments, Hogan played 216 holes 34-under-par, breaking par 11 of 12 rounds. “I won just in time,” Hogan later reflected on his remarkable trilogy. “I had finished second and third so many times I was beginning to think I was an also-ran. I know it’s what finally got me in the groove to win.”  PS

The museum is open during regular CGA business hours, 8:50 to 5:00 Monday through Friday.

Chapel Hill-based writer Lee Pace authored the CGA’s centennial commemorative book, Golf In The Carolinas, which was published in 2008.

The Raynor Touch

Remembering Donald Ross’ greatest rival

By Lee Pace

Golfers in these parts speak of Donald Ross as if he’s a next-door neighbor or first cousin. And why not? Just a few generations ago, he was building seven golf courses in Moore County, running the Pine Crest Inn and hopping the nearest train to head south to Palm Beach or north to Rochester to lay out another showpiece. In North Carolina alone, you can’t sling a 7-iron without landing on a Ross design.

That said and his immense talents acknowledged, how fun might it have been for the golf world if Ross, who designed an estimated 385 courses over nearly half a century, had had to compete mano a mano with another architect with a similar background in agronomy and construction?

Someone like Seth Raynor, for example?

In 1923, officers at the Country Club of Charleston were moving their course from a site north of the city to a new location on James Island, just across the Ashley River from the Battery. They retained Olmsted Brothers landscape designers, the second-generation offshoot from the esteemed Frederick Law Olmsted, to develop a master plan, and one letter from Olmsted staff to club leadership read as follows:

“Suggestions.  (1) Golf Architect: Ross best known so his name probably has best advertising value. Raynor or some other good architect (Strong) probably easier to get when you want him and fees perhaps a little less.”

Raynor got the job there and another concurrent assignment at a new course being planned a dozen miles inland, Yeamans Hall Club. He designed both concurrently, and the Country Club course opened in May 1925 and Yeamans Hall in November.

Ross was prolific designing courses in the mid-to-late 1920s during stout economic times. But so was Raynor. His schedule in early 1926 was reflective of his popularity and the innate desire of any industrious businessman to take on as much work as reasonable.

Raynor’s first trip in early 1926 took him from his home on Long Island west to California by train. From there he took a boat to and from the island of Hawaii, then journeyed back across the nation by train to Florida. Under construction amid the palm trees of Oahu was Waialae Country Club, and within the dense forests of the California coast was the Dunes Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. There was a new venture at Monterey to plan for as well — an elite club to be known as Cypress Point. Raynor had been approached for the job through his Eastern connections with Marion Hollins, the 1921 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion who was tapped by Cypress  Point founder Samuel Morse to help plan and develop the club. In Florida, Raynor had already designed and built nine holes at the Everglades Club for Paris Singer, the heir to the sewing machine fortune, and his visit in early 1926 would be to fine-tune a new 18-hole layout for Singer to be known as North Palm Beach Country Club (it now exists as a Jack Nicklaus-signature course with no remnants of Raynor’s work).

The intense physical toll manifested itself on the train trip east when Raynor developed fever, coughing and chills — he had contracted pneumonia. He checked into the Helen Wilkes Resident Hotel in Palm Beach and died on Jan. 22, 1926. He was 51 years old.

“It was too much travel, too much work, too little relaxation,” one of his relatives later lamented.

One obituary notice in his hometown paper in Suffolk County, N.Y., was brief but lauded Raynor for his place in golf. “Mr. Raynor was internationally known for his genius in laying out golf courses and overcoming engineering obstacles in his work.”

And this from a tribute in the Metropolitan Golfer written by Gould Martin:

“It is the irony of life that every once in a while one who has risen to the very top of his chosen profession passes away from this existence with almost no contemporary notice. Seth J. Raynor was not only at the top of his profession but he was an artist, indeed a genius as well.”

And to think: Raynor developed these skills and nuances in a sport he didn’t play as a child and never even remotely mastered as an adult. He claimed that if he played too much golf, his courses would become too easy. He felt the ideal links should not come down to the playing level of a poor golfer.

Raynor actually worked less than two full decades in golf course design and construction, roughly half that time as an associate of Charles Blair Macdonald and the rest under his own shingle. He’s credited with nearly 50 designs by Ron Whitten and Geoffrey Cornish in their book The Golf Course, and four of his courses are listed in the Golf Digest Top 100 rankings for 2017-18 — Fishers Island, Camargo, Shore Acres and Yeamans Hall, as is one he was intimately involved in building for Macdonald, National Golf Links, and another he remodeled years later, Chicago Golf Club.

Macdonald in 1906 decried the lack of sophisticated golf venues in the States, saying, “As yet we have no first-class golf course comparable with the classic golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland.” He proposed to solve the problem himself by buying land on the eastern extreme of Long Island and building a links-style course that would become the National Golf Links of America. Macdonald knew golf and he knew great holes. But he didn’t know construction, drainage, agronomy or greenkeeping.

“It was imperative I secure an associate, one well-educated with wide engineering capabilities, including surveying, companionable, with a fine sense of humor, but above all, earnest and ideally honorable. Such a man I found in Seth J. Raynor,” Macdonald said of retaining Raynor in 1907 to survey the site for his new course.

Raynor was born in Manorville, N.Y., and studied engineering at Princeton. He worked for himself as a land surveyor and landscaper in Southampton when Macdonald brought him into the National project — first to survey the land and then with an invitation to supervise construction once Macdonald learned of Raynor’s skills and meticulous work ethic.

“He scarcely knew a golf ball from a tennis ball when we first met,” Macdonald said, “and although he never became much of an expert in playing golf, the facility with which he absorbed the feeling which animates old and enthusiastic golfers to the manner born was truly amazing, eventually qualifying him to discriminate between a really fine hole and an indifferent one.”

Macdonald’s goal with the National was to help expose Americans to a quality golf experience like they would find overseas, and one of his ideas was to take the concepts for the well-known holes in Britain and adapt and tweak them for particular sites in the States. They became known as “template holes,” and Raynor would carry on the philosophy when he hung his own shingle in 1915 after Macdonald retired. Among them were the Short, Eden, Redan, Bottle, Sahara, Cape, Alps and many others.

Architect Tom Doak in his foreword to George Bahto’s book The Evangelist of Golf, the Story of Charles Blair McDonald, observed that “playing a course by Raynor or Macdonald is like visiting an old best friend — the familiarity returns almost instantly, even if you have never seen it before!”

Doak wondered if he was a hypocrite for finding it distasteful when modern architects repeat their own work while acknowledging a fondness when Macdonald and Raynor did the same thing. But he noted a distinct difference.

“Macdonald and Raynor were paying homage to a classic form, and at the same time, trying to devise improvements to it based on the local situation,” Doak wrote.

Raynor met with fortuitous timing in spreading his design wings after leaving Macdonald, as the United States was reaping the financial rewards of the Industrial Revolution and enjoying the heady economic times of the Roaring ’20s. Golf was growing in popularity, and Ross was handling a myriad of jobs, including the Pine Needles and Mid Pines projects in Southern Pines. There was plenty of work to go around.

Imagine what Seth Raynor might have accomplished had he not died so young.

“Sad to say he died ere his prime,” Macdonald wrote. “Raynor was a great loss to the community, but a still greater loss to me. I admired him from every point of view.”  PS

Chapel Hill-based writer Lee Pace is currently working on a history book for the Country Club of Charleston, set to be released prior to the club hosting the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open.

Still Dormie

New life for the Coore-Crenshaw course

By Lee Pace

It was exactly 10 years ago this spring that Bob Hansen sat down to breakfast at the Pine Crest Inn to talk about his lifelong love affair with golf, his memorabilia collection, his involvement in a Brunswick County golf course called The Thistle, and a new club he was developing located 5 miles to the northwest of the village of Pinehurst.

The new enterprise was called Dormie Club. It was to be a private enclave with local and national membership components, a place for purists to congregate and walk a rough-hewn and old-style course designed by North Carolina native Bill Coore and his design partner, Ben Crenshaw. Hansen waxed eloquent about the old-soul template for the club and what he hoped would be a lack of pretense — just golfers sticking a peg in the ground and having a game.

“Golf is life-shaping,” Hansen said. “You get an opportunity to be completely away from the business world, from cellphones and traffic and all the noise out there. You get out on the golf course with people, and you find out real quick what’s on their minds. For the most part, you’ll see that fog from their everyday life evaporate and see that their commitment is to the game. Guys are wrought up with stress, but put your bag on your shoulder and go hit some shots and it changes your whole day.”

Hansen spoke of the genesis of the name “Dormie,” taken from the golf term meaning that a golfer in match play has a lead equal to the number of holes left to play. He cannot lose.

“’Dormie’ has been in the Scottish language for hundreds of years,” Hansen says. “In the context of this club, its primary meaning is that you have come to a point in life where nothing much bad can happen, where you can do me no harm. ‘I am dormie’ — the worst I can do is tie. I am at a point where I am comfortable and can relax.”

It turns out the “dormie” metaphor was far more ticklish than Hansen and his partners would ever dream. Over the following 12 months, the S&P 500 would be cut in half, and two venerable financial institutions would implode and go belly up. The timing for a new club was horrendous at best, dreadful at worst. The course opened in 2010, but the lofty visions of the Dormie brain trust never materialized. The golf operation never actually closed, but the original plans and infrastructure were stuck in the muck. In recent times, there was not even a head golf professional, just a clerk to take golf fees from the public and the package players that the club needed for its trickle of cash flow.

“Bob had excellent vision for the club,” says Mike Phillips, the club’s original membership and sales director who first worked at Dormie from 2009-13. “He was very smart in bringing Coore and Crenshaw in and basically giving them carte blanche to do what they wanted to do on the golf course. He showed them the boundaries of the property and said, ‘Use what you want and call me when you’re through.’

“The fact that the course never closed during some tough times says volumes about how good it is. The site is hard to match in terms of peace and tranquility.”

Coore and Crenshaw’s first smash hit in the golf design business was Sand Hills, a 1995 build-it-and-they-will-come club in central Nebraska. A member there is Tom Peed, who built a publishing empire centered in the heavy machinery and agricultural worlds of the Midwest and has three sons working for the business. One of them, Zach, is a crack golfer who played at Nebraska Wesleyan College and now is running a division of the company that has purchased four golf courses from Nebraska to Texas to Virginia and, now, to the Sandhills of North Carolina.

Dormie Club was bought in January by Dormie One Properties, which will operate it as one of a network of clubs that includes Briggs Ranch Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas, Ballyhack Golf Club in Roanoke, Virginia, and Arbor Links in Nebraska City, Nebraska. New management will honor tee times and outings already on the books, but in time the club will be strictly private — per the original vision. Local, national and corporate memberships will be available, and membership at one club includes access to each club in the Dormie One network, which the Peed family intends to expand. Plans for a clubhouse and 15 four-bedroom villas are in the works. Phillips, who has returned to the Dormie team as membership director and land sales broker, says the owners hope to break ground by summer, and plans call for no more than 60 to 70 golfers a day.

Coore visited the club in early January 2018 and planned a second trip soon after to complete a punch list of to-do items for the club maintenance staff, things mostly a result of tree and underbrush growth over the eight years since the course opened.

“Ben and I are very pleased with the new developments,” Coore says. “In talking to the Peed family and walking the golf course with them, they really do want it to reach its potential. It’s not been that far off. It’s a very positive thing — not just for Dormie, but for golf in the Pinehurst area. Basically the course just needs a little polishing, nothing major. It’s actually in very good condition.”

The club is located near the intersection of Hwy. 73 and Beulah Hill Church Road and has two lakes (one of them 55 acres large) and 100 feet of elevation change. There are the pine forests typical of the area, but a rich abundance of hardwoods as well.

The designers’ idea for the course when they began in 2006 was to incorporate the look and feel of the No. 2 course, which Coore played often as a junior in the 1950s and ’60s — hard running, plenty of width for strategy, interesting green complexes, no Bermuda rough anywhere. Tees, fairways and greens would be maintained, everything else left as nature had created it. Since there is no real estate within the course, it’s relatively compact and walkable (caddies are available).

“By no means did we envision a copy of No. 2,” Coore says. “But we wanted to take some of the principles we felt applied to No. 2 and other courses Mr. Ross had done in the Sandhills and say, ‘This is our interpretation of what golf in the Sandhills might look and feel like.’”

The finished design requires a deft touch in places — there are two par-4s drivable for long-hitters (the third and 14th, both under 300 yards), but often a player will deduce the smart attack is to lay back and have a full spinning wedge from a hundred yards. Delicacy is also required on the par-3 12th, which stretches only 98 yards with tees stair-stepping upward from back to front. Brute force is demanded on the closing holes — 17 is a par-5 with a vast expanse of sand and nature to carry, and 18 is a long par-4 uphill.

Coore remembers routing the course from walking the land and surveying the topo maps — before wetlands had been designated. He knew from experience and instinct which areas of the property would likely be deemed wetlands and thus untouchable for the playing areas. He was amused and pleased to learn that his routing and the government-issued wetlands map meshed nicely.

“If they had handed me a map at first with the wetlands delineated, I’d have handed them back and said, ‘You can’t do a golf course here,’” Coore says. “But it worked out fine. It just proved to me that if you lay the golf course out the way the land wants to go, in most cases the wetlands are going to be OK. The topos will tell you a lot of things, but they won’t tell you the feel of the place. You have to go walk a site and experience it, get a feel for the way the golf course will circulate. Because we laid the holes out the way you would naturally play from one high, across a low to the next high, the wetlands had little impact.”

And so Dormie Club enters its second iteration, hopefully one that will see it emerge as a winner in extra holes.

Chapel Hill-based writer Lee Pace wrote about Coore and Crenshaw and their restoration of Pinehurst No. 2 in his 2012 book, The Golden Age of Pinehurst.

You Can Go Home Again

Courtney Stiles makes an impact in her own backyard

By Lisa D. Mickey

There was always something about the wind in the pines, the sandy soil and the ubiquitous pine needles that felt like home to Courtney Pomeranz Stiles.

And while golf-industry jobs took the Lee County native to different and lovely places to live and work, something was missing. She found that Florida was fine in the winter and coastal Georgia was gorgeous nearly all the time, but try as she might, Carolina was always on her mind.

So when Stiles got the opportunity to return to the Pinehurst area three years ago as executive director of The First Tee of the Sandhills, out came the suitcases.

It was a chance to bring her golf career back to the place where she had learned to play and an opportunity to offer guiding direction for Pinehurst-area junior golfers — just as she had experienced years ago.

“It’s pretty awesome she’s stayed in golf and come back to this area,” said her first teacher, Bonnie Bell McGowan, co-owner of Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club. “She loves her home roots.”

As a youngster growing up just down the road from Pinehurst and Southern Pines, Stiles found golf was an easy sport to embrace in the state’s avowed mecca of the game. Her father’s first cousin, Jay Overton, a PGA Life Member with longtime ties to Pinehurst Country Club, showed her the business of golf.

And with top instruction nearby, the youngster honed her skills under the tutelage of McGowan — whose mother, legendary instructor Peggy Kirk Bell, sometimes popped in to offer her thoughts during lessons.

“I ate a lot of banana pudding with Mrs. Bell at Pine Needles,” admitted Stiles, 35.

“Spending time with her was never about golf tips,” she added. “(She) had a huge heart and always gave back to the game.”

Stiles played college golf at North Carolina State University, where she earned a communications degree in 2004. But even as a collegiate player, she made an impression on Wolfpack coach Page Marsh, who saw valuable qualities in the young woman. Marsh called Stiles “relentless, but gracious” and described her as “a great ambassador” of the game.

Transitioning from college to professional golf, Stiles qualified for the Futures Tour (now Symetra Tour), where she played from 2005-2006.

“I loved the experience because it was highly competitive,” she said. “I also learned how to handle my emotions while traveling alone on a very tight budget.”

But life on the road as a touring pro was a grind for Stiles. The highway miles seemed endless, and the paychecks barely covered her expenses. Stiles also hoped to start a family in the near future.

After two seasons, Stiles decided to make a change. In late 2006, she made a phone call to the PGA Tour through a contact she had made on the Futures Tour.

That phone call turned into a job in new media at the PGA Tour. It was there that Stiles learned about customer service with golf fans and media research. She also worked with the Tour’s marketing campaigns.

Interested in tournament operations, she was at the right place at the right time when the PGA Tour launched the McGladrey Classic. Stiles was assigned to run the event in St. Simons Island, Ga.

She worked there from 2007-2010, and moved on to the Davis Love Foundation in St. Simons Island from 2010-2014. It was an easy transition for the North Carolinian, who enjoyed working with community charities and nonprofits.

“We had 85 different charities at the tournament there, so I really got exposed to all of the needs of people in the community,” she said.

It was actually Love who approached Stiles about starting a First Tee chapter in St. Simons. For two years, Stiles molded and guided what would become The First Tee of the Golden Isles.

About the same time the First Tee program was fully chartered in St. Simons Island, another job opened that caught Stiles’ attention. The First Tee of the Sandhills was looking to replace its executive director.

On one hand, she had invested massive amounts of time and energy into developing the coastal Georgia program. On the other hand, this was a job in a place she loved.

Stiles applied for the position and was offered the job. And with the blessing of Love, she headed home.

“It was a great fit to go back home, and my kids were at an age when it was just right,” said Stiles, who married PGA Professional Cole Stiles in 2007 at Pinehurst, where he currently oversees Pinehurst courses No. 6 and 8.

“To be able to stay in golf, essentially in my backyard — with my home county eventually becoming a part of our chapter as we expand — is a big thing I wanted to do when I took the job,” she added.

The First Tee of the Sandhills currently serves six counties in the Pinehurst area. The next step for the local chapter is to expand the program into Fayetteville and its Fort Bragg Army base — a plan that excites Stiles in an effort to include children of area military families.

But her work in the Sandhills has already drawn praise from her former teacher.

“Courtney has put her heart and soul into it and has already taken the First Tee program here and grown it to four times its previous size,” said McGowan.

“It’s not just a job,” McGowan added. “She truly loves the game and wants to see it grow, so we’re blessed to have her here.”

Marsh noted that the former college player she once guided has now come full circle to make her own mark in the game.

“Courtney loves the game and is a great role model,” said Marsh.

The former professional regained her amateur status in 2008, but family and career demands have limited her rounds for nearly a decade. She estimates that she played three rounds of golf in 2015, and “maybe” six rounds in 2016.

When she learned there was going to be a summer qualifying tournament in the Pinehurst area for the USGA’s 2017 Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, she began practicing with a goal. She won that August qualifier at the Country Club of North Carolina to advance into the national championship — rediscovering an energized competitive spirit.

“The competitive juices definitely tried to come out, and I’ve tried to push them away because I don’t want to put any expectations on myself,” she said. “The reality is, I work 60 hours a week, have two kids, a husband and a household.”

But while her rounds are few, Stiles finds greater satisfaction in being back on familiar turf.

She also knows it’s her turn to help teach the next generation in her home state. Fortunately for Stiles, her mentors are now her peers and are still offering to help.

“I want the kids I work with to see this as a lifelong sport,” she said. “I want to show them that you can do things through hard work and perseverance.”

And sometimes, all of that work finally brings you right back home to where you want to be.  PS

Lisa D. Mickey is a North Carolina native and Florida-based freelance golf writer.

Strokes of Fame

Shots heard ‘round the Sandhills

By Lee Pace

Payne Stewart’s 20-foot putt to win the 1999 U.S. Open on the last stroke of the championship on Pinehurst No. 2 is certainly one of the most famous strokes in golf history, let alone the annals of this little Sandhills burgh. Films have been made, books have been written about Stewart’s masterful stroke under enormous pressure; the photo of him extending his fist in celebration just as the ball trickles into the hole with thousands of spectators packed around the green is an image for the ages.

But let’s face it: That was a putt, a whack that any 8-year-old could replicate through a lion’s mouth at Myrtle Beach. What about full shots or at least chips and pitches, strokes that require the ball to at least get airborne and some fusion of multiple moving body parts?

Golf has been played at Pinehurst since 1898 on as many as three dozen courses if you include all Moore County. Here, then, are 10 of the best shots ever made in the Sandhills.

Denny Shute’s 3-wood, 1936 — The PGA Championship was Pinehurst’s first taste of major championship golf when the match-play event came to No. 2 in November 1936. Favorites for the title like Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Paul Runyan and Tommy Armour lost earlier matches, leaving Denny Shute, the 1933 British Open winner, to face Jimmy Thomson in the 36-hole championship match. Shute was 2-up over Thomson through 33 holes coming to the par-5 16th hole in the afternoon round. He nailed a 3-wood second shot on the 475-yard par 5 to five feet and was conceded the eagle putt, giving him a 3 and 2 victory.

Ben Hogan’s sand wedge, 1940 — The 28-year-old Texan was winless on the PGA Tour and seriously considering giving it up when he came to Pinehurst in March 1940 for the North and South Open, a tournament considered one of pro golf’s top events of the era. In the opening round, Hogan holed out a shot from a greenside bunker on the par-4 11th for a birdie, fueling him to a 6-under 66. He led by seven shots after 36 holes and wound up beating Sam Snead by three for his first professional victory. He went on to win consecutive tournaments in Greensboro and Asheville, and the match for a Hall of Fame career was lit. “I had finished second and third so many times I was beginning to think I was an also ran. I needed that win,” Hogan said.

Sam Snead’s 4-iron, 1941 — It was a heavyweight threesome if there ever was one — Snead, Hogan and Charlotte’s Clayton Heafner in the last group of the final round of the 1941 North and South Open on No. 2. Hogan faded early, leaving Snead and Heafner in the spotlight. “They were trailed by almost all of the final day gallery of 4,000, and these two big hitters traded birdie punches from start to finish of the last 18 holes,” said one newspaper account. Snead had a one-shot lead coming to the final hole and ripped his 4-iron approach to within inches, securing a three-shot win. “As he broke through the ring of galleryites to tap the ball in, he got a hand such as few golfers ever receive,” the newspaper continued. Snead would win three North and South titles.

Harvie Ward’s sand wedge, 1948 — Harvie Ward had no designs on winning the North and South Amateur when he traveled to Pinehurst from Chapel Hill in April 1948. In fact, the Tarboro native and University of North Carolina golfer didn’t even pack a change of clothes. But he advanced day by day in match play until he reached the final against Frank Stranahan. The big shot came with a 1-up lead through 34 holes. Ward hit into the front bunker on the par-3 17th, then into the back bunker. Then Ward hit a magnificent recovery from that bunker to inches away for a tap-in bogey. Rattled, Stranahan missed a 3-footer for par and the hole was halved. Ward collected his 1-up win with a par on 18.

Hobart Manley’s run of threes, 1951 — It wasn’t just one shot from the 24-year-old Savannah amateur that makes the archives of great golf in Pinehurst — it was 15 of them. Manley and Billy Joe Patton were locked in a tight battle for the North and South Amateur title, and Patton was 2-up through the 13th hole of the afternoon round of the 36-hole finale. Patton would play the last five holes 1-under par, but he lost to Manley, who ripped off five straight threes, which were four-under with birdie, par, eagle, par, birdie. “Just watching the drama unfold made my heart pound and left me limp,” Bill Campbell remembered. Manley won the title, 1-up.

Billy Joe Patton’s 4-wood, late 1950s — The career amateur known for his uncanny recovery ability and gregarious nature hit any number of outstanding shots on No. 2 in winning three North and South Amateurs, but it was a certain 4-wood shot from a troubled lie in the late 1950s that summarized his gift to golf. Patton was in a playoff against Dr. Bud Taylor in the North and South and they came to the second hole. Patton’s tee shot came to rest in a bunker to left of the fairway, near Palmetto Road. He addressed his shot with one foot in the sand, one above it and his ball hung up in tall grass. At that very moment a woman stopped in her car and called out to no one in particular, “Does anyone know where I can get a room for the night?” Nonplussed, Patton continued to address the ball and said, “Lady, if you can wait a few minutes you can probably get mine.” He made bogey, lost the match and vacated his room for a trip back home to Morganton.

Tom Watson’s 8-iron, 1973 — Executives at the Diamondhead Corp., Pinehurst’s new owners since late 1970, conceived the idea of the World Open — a 144-hole marathon on the PGA Tour for a $100,000 first prize. The first one was held on No. 2 in November 1973, and twice a new course record was set. Gibby Gilbert shot a nine-under 62 in the first round and Watson followed with another 62 in the second round. The key shot for Watson was his 8-iron approach for eagle on the 14th hole, and he followed that with four straight birdies. “I was in a daze after that,” Watson said of the eagle. “I felt I could make everything after that.” Alas, the 24-year-old Watson had not quite learned to win and faded with rounds of 76-76-77 as Miller Barber collected first prize.

Mark O’Meara’s 6-iron, 1980 — O’Meara burst onto the national golf scene with a runaway 8-and-7 win over John Cook in the 1979 U.S. Amateur at Canterbury in Cleveland and came to the Country Club of North Carolina the following year as the defending champion. But he almost missed match play as Houston golfer Fred Couples shot rounds of 69-70 to collect the medal and O’Meara was one of 12 players who tied for 57th place, necessitating a playoff to determine the last seven spots in match play. The playoff started at 10 and, on the par-4 11th hole, O’Meara hit his 3-iron into the hole from the fairway. He promptly turned and walked back to the clubhouse. O’Meara lost to Willie Wood in the first round.

Annika Sorenstam’s 3-wood, 1996 — The young Swedish golfer won her first major in the 1995 U.S. Women’s Open at the Broadmoor in Colorado and came to Pine Needles in Southern Pines as the defending champion. Her coach, Pia Nilsson, accompanied her and spoke of golfers in Sweden as looking “at things differently — we’re trying to find ways to shoot 54, make birdies on every hole.” Sorenstam made it look that easy with a final-round 66 that staked her to a six-shot win over Kris Tschetter. The key shot was a 220-yard 3-wood on the par-5 10th and the ensuing 25-foot eagle putt.  “I was in a zone today,” she said. “It was like I could close my eyes and hit. Whatever I did, my shots went straight, my putts went in. It was unbelievable.”

Payne Stewart’s 6-iron, 1999 — Everyone remembers Stewart’s U.S. Open winning putt on the last hole. But the shot that staked Stewart to a one-shot lead on the last hole was his 6-iron to four feet on the 17th hole. Caddie Mike Hicks said the roars when Stewart hit his ball and when Phil Mickelson knocked his to six feet were greater than anything he’d ever heard on a golf course — including the Ryder Cup. “It’s getting kinda wild out here,” NBC’s Roger Maltbie said. Mickelson missed his putt and Stewart made his. “It was a gimme,” Hicks said. “He hadn’t missed inside four feet all week.”  PS

Chapel Hill writer Lee Pace has chronicled many of these memorable shots in Pinehurst lore in three of his books—Pinehurst Stories (1991), The Spirit of Pinehurst (2004) and The Golden Age of Pinehurst (2012).

Ready to Rock

The Cradle, Pinehurst Resort’s latest gift to American golf, is short and oh so sweet

By Lee Pace

An entrepreneur from Boston believed in the late 1800s this barren and arid land in south-central North Carolina ideal to establish a colony for treating consumptives, and soon after he launched full bore into the peach growing industry. But the contagious nature of what became understood as tuberculosis and a pest infestation into the fruit crop stopped both those ideas dead in their tracks.

James Tufts was nothing if not nimble.

The sport of golf was taking root in America, and when Tufts observed some hotel guests flailing away in the dairy fields south of the Village Green with crude implements and rubber balls, he arranged to have nine holes constructed. A fence surrounded the premises, and sheep provided the grass maintenance. But Tufts wasn’t sold on the game’s prospects and inquired of the manager of the Holly Inn, Allen Treadway, if he thought nine more holes would be a good idea.

“Save your money,” answered Treadway. “Golf is a fad and will never last.”

Treadway later went into politics (he served as a Massachusetts Congressional Representative). Enough said there. And Tufts trusted his gut and built more golf. The first 18-hole course at Pinehurst opened in 1899 and ran over ground now occupied by the first and 18th holes of the No. 2 course, the “Maniac Hill” practice range and the area to the south of the existing clubhouse, where until recent times, the first holes of the No. 3 and 5 courses commenced.

“Golf is our third business model — and this one stuck,” says Tom Pashley, president of Pinehurst Inc.

Pinehurst’s quick ascension in the golf world over the first two decades of the 20th century — four courses open by 1919, all available to the traveling public — led to it being called the “St. Andrews of American golf” and the “Cradle of American golf.” Donald Ross, a young greenkeeper and clubmaker who emigrated from Scotland in 1899, developed an aptitude for course design and became quite prolific at it as golfers came from all points in the Northeast and Midwest, enjoyed the experience and enlisted Ross to come to their towns and build 18 holes.

Over time, Ross’s tour de force in the No. 2 course would serve as the venue for seven of golf’s most prestigious competitions — the PGA Championship, Ryder Cup, U.S. Amateur for men and women, U.S. Open for men and women and U.S. Senior Open. Replica trophies for each of those events are housed in a glass case just inside the clubhouse door.

“There’s no other collection of trophies like that in the country,” says Pashley. “Those trophies help give us a sense of place like no other.”

That sense of place has been buffed up in the last half dozen years.

The first domino to fall was the successful conversion in 2010-11 of No. 2 from a burnished and monochromatic green presentation to a rough-hewn and jagged-edge template more in keeping with Ross’s original vision. Then followed a new starter’s hut on the first tee as a replica of the one at St. Andrews and an expansive putting course called Thistle Dhu, also patterned after the Himalayas course at St. Andrews. The resort in the fall of 2016 turned a retail shop overlooking the 18th green into a lively restaurant and veranda bar called “The Deuce” — complete with vintage photos and an appetizer featuring gourmet tater tots and candied bacon.

The latest chapter to Pinehurst’s efforts to be innovative and cutting edge without losing sight of its roots is a nine-hole course called The Cradle, harkening to those early holes from 120 years ago. Pinehurst officials removed the first holes of courses No. 3 and 5 and reconfigured them within the existing routings on the west side of Hwy. 5 and gave that 10-acre parcel to Gil Hanse and partner Jim Wagner. They started work in early June and over the summer sculpted a 789-yard course with holes ranging from 48 to 120 yards long.

The course opened in late September and one of the debut functions held for members and the golf media featured the strains of funk and alternative rock music bellowing out of speakers near the first tee. One golfer played barefoot. Others played with wooden-shafted niblicks, and most carried three or four clubs around in customized Sunday bags — white canvas with leather and tartan trim.

“I have never been to one of our openings where Red Hot Chili Peppers and Cage the Elephant were playing across the sound system,” said Hanse, the 54-year-old architect whose resume includes the 2016 Olympics course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Castle Stuart in the Highlands of Scotland. “Fun has started from the word ‘Go.’ That’s the operative word with The Cradle — fun.”

Hanse’s engagement to design and build the short course sprung from his connection with the resort announced in the fall of 2016 when he was commissioned to redesign course No. 4 at the behest of Pinehurst owner Bob Dedman Jr. and Pashley. They envisioned a companion piece to No. 2 with Bermuda greens and a Sandhills flavor of hardpan, wire grass and raw edges. Dedman had long wanted a par-three course somewhere in the Pinehurst menu, and the idea was hatched to build it and simultaneously redesign the Thistle Dhu course that first opened in 2013, moving it closer to the clubhouse from its footprint a hundred yards away.

“We’d be out on the bulldozers this summer and every time you’d get off and look at this clubhouse and Putter Boy and kind of pinch yourself,” Hanse says. “I mean, really? Are we really getting to work here, in the front yard of Pinehurst?”

The south facade of the clubhouse is vintage Pinehurst, the weathered brick steps and white columns heralding days when the likes of Ben Hogan and Harvie Ward stood there to accept North and South trophies — as pros or amateurs. Today it overlooks The Cradle, with its canted putting greens, meandering bunker shapes and dimensions that run from 56 yards uphill on the sixth to 112 yards downhill to a shallow green on the ninth.

“I love how you see the clubhouse the entire time you’re out here,” says Director of Golf Ben Bridgers. “It’s sort of like Shinnecock in that regard.”

“I think The Cradle will be a great benefit to players’ short games,” adds Pashley. “This course will help them feel how far a 60-yard shot is versus 85 versus 105. Most of us don’t practice those shots often enough and struggle with the feel required to hit shorter distances.”

Hanse applauded the first two aces on The Cradle — one from a 14-year-old, the other from an 84-year-old.

“That encapsulates exactly what we were hoping for,” he says. “We have built a playground where kids and elders can enjoy the game — they can hoot and holler and high-five all they want. It’s a relaxed and comfortable feeling.

“We all remember what brought us into golf in the first place — to hit it hard and laugh and giggle. No one at the beginning sweats over a three-foot putt. Hopefully, we can connect with that innocent, fun part of the game.”

Pinehurst management is noodling all manner of special events built around The Cradle and Thistle Dhu, which has 18 holes laid out and marked with wooden tee markers. The Cradle will cost $50 for an all-day pass, and kids 17 and under play free with a paying adult. The putting course is free. Both are open to the public.

“There are no links in the South to be compared to those at Pinehurst,” noted the local newspaper upon one course opening at Pinehurst, “and they will prove the great magnet of attraction to lovers of the game.”

True in 1898. True as well in 2017.  PS

Long-time PineStraw golf columnist Lee Pace recorded the fifth hole-in-one on The Cradle, cozying in a 66-yard sand wedge on the third hole on Oct. 4.

The Tale of Henry Picard

The classy star of the Great Depression who helped shape the modern game

By Lee Pace

Henry Picard was 25 years old and one year into his position as head golf professional at the Country Club of Charleston in 1931 when the Great Depression choked the club and forced it to tell Picard it could no longer afford his salary. Picard had five dollars cash in his pocket one day when he went to his bank to make a withdrawal and found a sign on the door: “Closed Indefinitely.”

Picard, a Massachusetts native who learned golf as a caddie at Plymouth Country Club, was tall at 6-foot-3, impeccably dressed and well-mannered. He patterned his golf swing after Bobby Jones and was known as a particularly adept long-iron player. He and his wife, Annie, were expecting their first child in the fall of ’31, and some kindhearted benefactors at the club stepped up to say they’d pay him based on his golf scores — $5 for even-par, $10 for one-under and so on. So “Pic,” as he was known to the members and his fellow golf pros, at a young age learned the pressure of parlaying good golf scores into food for his family.

He responded with aplomb and his game blossomed in 1932. He won the Charlotte Open at Charlotte Country Club in September and beat Walter Hagen by 10 shots in a playoff for the Carolinas Open in Greensboro in October.

“Pic is the pick of the pack,” the always quotable Hagen said after getting whipped in Greensboro.

He told Picard privately, “Nice work, kid. You can be one of the greatest golfers in the world if you work hard on your game.”

Picard then tied Al Watrous and Al Houghton in the Mid-South Open, played in mid-November at Pinehurst No. 2. It was a one-day, 36-hole affair, and Picard seemed well on his way to victory until he double-bogeyed the 11th and three-putted 17 in the afternoon round. He hung on for the first-place tie and made an impression on Donald Ross, the golf architect and manager of the Pinehurst golf operation.

“He has everything,” Ross said, “the strength of youth, the temperament, a sound swing, and above all a beautiful putting stroke that is as good in practice as it is in theory.”

Several days later, Picard returned home to Charleston for an exhibition with Hagen on his home course. He shot a 73 to beat the wily veteran by three strokes.

“That boy is a beautiful golfer,” Hagen said. “He is going to go somewhere.”

Indeed he did, and he did so in the most curious of times — during the Depression and into the early years of World War II. Picard essentially retired from regular travel on the pro tour in 1942 to spend time with his wife and four children and settle into club pro jobs, the most noteworthy of which were at Canterbury in Cleveland in the summer, and Seminole in Palm Beach in the winter.

“Money and fame, they never meant a damn to me,” he said.

To say Picard’s timing was off is to put it mildly. He won the fifth Masters in 1938 — but before they gave green jackets to the champions. He had 26 career wins on the PGA Tour — more than Johnny Miller, Gary Player, Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin, Greg Norman and Ben Crenshaw. But few recognize the name, and one national wire service account of his win in Augusta in 1938 added a “k” to his last name, spelling it “Pickard.”

“A lot of people told me, ‘He was the Tiger Woods of his day,’” son Larry Picard said in 2007. “I pooh-poohed that away. But he really was. He didn’t play full-time until ’35, and won that many tour events during that time. That’s a stretch like Woods had.” 

Picard won the North and South Open at Pinehurst in 1934 and ‘36 and during one sizzling stretch from 1934-35, broke or matched par in 51 of 54 tournaments. He beat Bryon Nelson in the final of the 1939 PGA Championship, played then at match play, and qualified for four Ryder Cups and was the leading money winner in 1939.

“At that time, he was probably the best of them all,” Sam Snead said.

“Henry has the best swing in golf,” golf writer Herb Wind offered. 

Picard, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2006, had a major influence on three young golfers who would also go on to Hall of Fame careers.

Sam Snead was his first mentoring project.

Snead was in his early 20s when he asked Picard if he should give pro golf a try. Picard said that Snead was in fact good enough and arranged for Dunlop to sign Snead to its playing staff, giving him a set of clubs, a dozen balls a month and $500 a year. In early 1937, Snead was haunted by a whippy-shafted driver, and on the practice range at the Los Angeles Open, Picard gave him a stiff-shafted Dunlop driver.

“God, this thing is good,” Snead said.

“Keep it, it’s yours,” Picard responded.

One week later, Snead won his first tournament, the Oakland Open. He used the club for 20 years.

“See, one trouble I was having was with my driving,” Snead told author Al Barkow in Getting to the Dance Floor. “I had a whippy-shafted driver I couldn’t control. The driver I got from Picard had a stiff shaft, and my driving improved 40 percent right there.”

Another protégé was Ben Hogan — first with a financial endorsement and second with a grip change.

Picard was traveling to the West Coast in early 1938 when he ran into Hogan and his wife, Valerie, having lunch in a Fort Worth hotel. The Hogans were lamenting their financial strife — this before Hogan’s powder keg of talent had exploded — and Hogan was not sure he was going to make the West Coast swing. Picard told Hogan he was good enough to win and that if he got stranded in California with no money, he’d help Hogan out. The Hogans made the trip and, buoyed by the safety net of Picard’s offer, Ben played well enough to collect good checks at Oakland and Sacramento and continued grinding his way from town to town.

Two years later, Hogan approached Picard on the practice tee at the Miami-Biltmore and lamented the hook that appeared at the worst times. Picard said he could fix that “in five minutes” and adjusted Hogan’s grip to a slightly weaker position, helping take the left woods and water out of play. Later that spring, Hogan won his first pro tournament, the North and South at Pinehurst, then went to Greensboro and Asheville and won those two tournaments.

He was off and running and, years later, dedicated his instruction book to Picard.

“Henry is a very fine man, and I was fortunate to have enjoyed his company and friendship,” Hogan said. “That offer from Pic meant more to me than all the money in the world, because he told me I could play golf and win, and I needed encouragement at that point.”

Picard retired from Canterbury in 1973 and returned to Charleston, where he played golf at the Country Club of Charleston and gave occasional lessons there and at a public facility nearby. One golfer of interest was a teenager named Beth Daniel, who had taken formal lessons from Charleston pros Al Esposito and then from Derek Hardy, whom Daniel credits for turning her swing from a flattish plane to a more upright move suitable for the 5-foot-11 inch frame she sprouted into early in high school.

But when Picard arrived on the scene, Daniel was 17 years old and her mechanics were pretty well set. Picard helped her with the nuances. Once he surreptitiously replaced her rock-hard and long-running Top-Flite balls in her bag with softer Titleists and told her, “If you’re going to be a good player, you’ve got to play a good ball.” Picard might see Daniel one afternoon on the course and ask a question about shaping a shot or visualizing a greenside recovery, then ask for the answer 24 hours later.

“If I was wrong, he’d give me the correct answer,” she says. “If I was right, he’d nod and say ‘Thank you’ and keep walking. I didn’t realize it at the time, but what he was doing was helping me become a shotmaker.”

Daniel won two U.S. Women’s Amateurs, 33 LPGA Tour events and was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame in 2000. Henry Picard was among those she acknowledged for a helping hand back in her formative days.

“I don’t feel like he ever gets enough credit, but he was the kind of guy that didn’t promote himself,” she says. “He gave it up for his family. But I remember him well. He was quite the figure at the Country Club of Charleston, tall and handsome, always wearing his cotton dress shirt and tie, even in the 100-degree heat.”

The PGA Championship returns to North Carolina this summer, Quail Hollow in Charlotte the venue. What a shame that most of the players competing for a first prize  in the neighborhood of $2 million would look at Henry Picard in his white shirt and tie and say, “Waiter, bring me another drink.”  PS

Chapel Hill writer Lee Pace is working on a book about the Country Club of Charleston and its well-known progeny like Picard and Daniel. The book will be published in early 2019.

Of Sepia and Color

Pinehurst, the gift that keeps on giving

By Lee Pace

The first floor halls of the venerable Carolina Hotel and the 200 feet of what’s deemed
“Heritage Hall” half a mile away at the main golf clubhouse are replete with images extolling the resort’s gilded past and its always evolving present. There are sepia-toned photos of Ben Hogan and Donald Ross, recent shots of Martin Kaymer and Michelle Wie. There is Harvie Ward from yesterday, Tiger Woods from today. On display are replicas of trophies from the U.S. Open, Women’s Open, U.S. Amateur, Women’s Amateur, PGA Championship and Ryder Cup, events that have been contested outside on the No. 2 course. While there are courses that have hosted more championships, no other club or facility in America can equal its breadth.

“We love our black-and-whites,” says Pinehurst President Tom Pashley. “They’re what distinguishes us. They make us unique. Some places try to manufacture a feeling of history. Pinehurst’s is authentic.

“At the same time, we cannot exist in a time capsule. Those color pictures are important as well. We have to remain relevant today. We’ve got to be in the conversation about the top golf destinations in the country — not because of what we were, but what we are and what we’re going to be.”

Therein lies the crux of Pashley’s mission nearly three years into his tenure running this far-flung and complex business that has nine golf courses operating out of five clubhouses, three hotels and roughly a dozen restaurants offering everything from a quick hot dog at the turn to Australian lamb or Scottish salmon in the 1895 Grille.

Preserve the past and innovate for the future.

An ambitious drawing board in golf operations alone at the moment includes various restoration/tweaking projects for courses No. 1, 3, 4 and 5, a greens conversion on No. 7, a relocation of the popular Thistle Dhu putting course on the south side of the clubhouse, and the design and construction of a nine-hole short course.

Each is a domino tumbling from the restoration of the No. 2 course from 2010-11 engineered by architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. That eye-opening project came at the behest of then-President Don Padgett, who felt No. 2 had lost its way trying to look too much like Augusta National and no longer sported the singular appeal that connected it to designer Donald Ross’ homeland in Scotland. The restoration was hailed by competitors and design buffs during the back-to-back U.S. Opens in June of 2014. When Pashley took over for Padgett three months later, he wasn’t sure what to capitalize and boldface on his to-do list.

“The restoration of No. 2 was such a watershed moment in the history of Pinehurst, and no club had ever hosted back-to-back Opens like we did,” Pashley says. “When I took over for Don, I remember thinking,  ‘Wow, all the work is done. What am I going to be able to do that’s going to have an impact anywhere near that?’”

Pashley allows a modest smile.

“I don’t have that fear anymore,” he says. “There are a lot of opportunities presenting themselves right now.”

Certainly the most noteworthy on the docket is the work that begins in the fall to redesign the No. 4 course, a 1999 Tom Fazio creation that was, in turn, a brand new course on land occupied by a hodgepodge No. 4 with influences from various eras from Ross, Richard Tufts, Robert Trent Jones and his son, Rees. A confluence of reasons — ranging from wanting to covert the greens to Bermuda, to solve drainage problems, to have less of the clean and stark-white sandy expanses of No. 4 and more of the unkempt and burnished look of No. 2 next door — led Pashley to call architect Gil Hanse in the fall of 2016 to float the idea of major surgery.

“It was one of those moments when I put the phone down for a second and thought, ‘Is this
really happening?’” Hanse says of the idea of joining Ross (Nos. 1-3), Fazio (Nos. 6 and 8), Jack Nicklaus (No. 9), Rees Jones (No. 7) and Ellis Maples (No 5) in Pinehurst’s pantheon of architects.

Much of the routing will remain the same, though Hanse will take liberties with the positioning and elevation profiles of several par-3s. The preponderance of pot bunkers will change in lieu of more rustic edged traps with the wire grass and “volunteer” vegetation that has become part-and-parcel of the No. 2 look. The greens will be converted to Champion Bermuda and have fewer of the sharp roll-offs.

“I hope what Gil can do on No. 4 is change that dialogue a little bit,” Pashley says. “Introduce some debate. Maybe when it re-opens you’ll hear some talk in the bar afterward — that though you can’t rival the history of No. 2, maybe the fun and challenge and visuals will be close.

“The things people love about No. 4 won’t change. It’s secluded, there aren’t many houses in sight. It’s peaceful, it’s scenic, it’s a neighbor to some of the corridors on No. 2. There’s that big, beautiful lake. Those things won’t change.”

The short course, which will have nine holes ranging in distance from 65 to 117 yards, will occupy land where the first holes of courses 3 and 5 have been located — the same area, incidentally, where the practice range for the 2005 and 2014 U.S. Opens was positioned. Hanse and his team will design it over the summer and it will open
in the fall.

“Thistle Dhu has been such an overwhelming success,” Pashley says of the opening of the 2.5-acre putting course in the spring of 2013. “It’s quick, it’s fun, it’s for every age and every level of golfer. The idea for the short course comes from the same place. It can complement the experience of the hard-core golfer and introduce the game to another group of guests.”

The domino of needing the land occupied by those holes from 3 and 5 has been felt on the west side of N.C. 5, where the two courses are routed. The first hole of course 5 is now what was the second hole of course 3, only it runs in the opposite direction; then it connects with the second hole and the routing remains the same.

The problem on No. 3 was solved by Bob Farren, the resort’s director of grounds and golf course maintenance, with input from Hanse and architect/builder Kyle Franz, by taking two par-4s and redesigning them into pairs of a shorter par-4 and a new par-3. The revised No. 3, which opened in April, plays to a par of 68 at 5,155 yards. Franz, with some help from architect Kye Goalby and builder Blake Conant, have reintroduced more of the native Sandhills look a la No. 2 with wire grass, irregular bunkers dimensions and less of the monochromatic sheen of green grass.

The die is cast arriving at the new starter’s hut on the west side of N.C. 5. To the south is the new first hole of No. 5 with a meandering new fairway contour defined by natural areas of hardpan and wire grass. Ninety degrees away and headed to the west is the new first hole of No. 3 (the previous third hole) with a new bunker in the corner of the dogleg marked by an uneven perimeter and tufts of wire grass within the sand. Then from the tee of the second hole, the golfer plays across an expanse of sand cut into the hillside with more haphazard edges and assorted vegetation. 

“Two holes into it, you know there’s something different going on,” Farren says. “It’s obvious there’s a new look and new feel to No. 3. Our members and guests both have embraced the ‘old look’ that Bill and Ben reintroduced on No. 2. It fits the land and the native vegetation. It fits our heritage.”

Franz will implement a few more modifications on No. 3 over the summer. No. 4 shuts down in the fall for one year.  After that, No. 1 is earmarked for more retrofitting. And when the greens on No. 7 are converted to Bermuda this summer, all courses at Pinehurst except No. 9 will have hybrid Bermuda greens.

Pashley and Pinehurst owner Bob Dedman Jr. look at the landscape of the hot and evolving golf destinations like Bandon Dunes, Cabot Cliffs and Streamsong and know that history alone is not enough. Pashley says that one of Dedman’s visions is for  “people to walk into the clubhouse and feel like they’re in golf heaven.”

“In the very near future, we’ll do a better job of saying to people, ‘You can do a whole trip to Pinehurst and never leave the clubhouse,’” Pashley says. “We can create something no one else can create. We have a ‘sense of place’ like few others.”

A sense of place that demands 64 crayons — from black and gray to every one in the rainbow.  PS

Lee Pace has been writing about the Pinehurst golf scene for three decades and in 2012 authored the book, The Golden Age of Pinehurst — The Rebirth of No. 2.

Donald Ross Revealed

Local author Chris Buie’s engaging new biography of Pinehurst’s Patron Saint of Design

By Lee Pace

Chris Buie moved to Southern Pines as a 10-year-old in the mid-1970s, was a regular golfer and swimmer at what was then known as the Southern Pines Elk Lodge, and later played on O’Neal School teams that won three state golf titles in the early 1980s. All of those PGA Tour stops at Pinehurst No. 2 in the 1970s — with winners from Johnny Miller to Hale Irwin, from Jack Nicklaus to Raymond Floyd — made an indelible mark on an adolescent Buie.

It was amazing to see your heroes 10 feet away on the tee in a tight match,” he says. “It was absolutely fantastic growing up with that. It was mesmerizing.”

Years later, Buie found himself being similarly affected with the enormity of the 2014 U.S. Open at No. 2. Some 340,000 people flocked to the resort over a fortnight to take in the third Open to be played on No. 2 and the resort’s inaugural Women’s Open that would come the next week. Those events are on top of the two U.S. Amateurs, one Ryder Cup Match and one PGA Championship to have been played on the course that the Scottish architect Donald Ross cobbled from the sand over some three decades from 1907 to 1935.

“I was standing behind the 12th tee on Saturday and took in that panoramic view,” Buie says. “The entire place was packed. I couldn’t believe it. I was just really struck. I guess you could say I had an epiphany. The unusually clear thought is that not one of these people would be there if it was not for this guy Donald Ross.”

At that point Buie, whose career had ranged from social work to marketing and who had authored one book, The Early Days of Pinehurst, decided to delve into the Ross story on his own and produce a book with his findings. The result, The Life & Times of Donald Ross, was released this spring. The 296-page oversized book was published by The Classics of Golf, retails for $75 and is deep with previously unearthed details on Ross’ life and interesting visuals — from shots of a tweed-attired Ross driving a golf ball from the Library of Congress to a map of the 36 holes he built at Oak Hill in Rochester designed with eight “layers,” or starting and stopping points beyond the usual first and 10th tees.

Buie interviewed five people who knew Ross and took advantage of research advances today that allow an author to canvass innumerable newspapers more than a century old from the comfort of his own office and internet connection.

“Being able to tap into that is something that really hasn’t been available before,” Buie says. “Previously, you would have had to travel to a lot of libraries. Anyway, there were a lot of great interviews and information in those old articles.”

Having visited Ross’ hometown of Dornoch, Scotland, twice for chapters in my own books about Pinehurst golf and its evolution, having visited the Dornoch museum and interviewed descendants of Ross’ contemporaries, and certainly having played dozens of Ross courses and written about many of them, I thought my reservoir of Ross knowledge quite extensive. But I found in Buie’s book morsel upon morsel of anecdotes I’d never read or heard before. To wit:

On the look and feel of Dornoch in 1890, this passage from an English author:

“Although really a seaside place, it is surrounded by woods, moors and mountains, thereby combining such pursuits of the Highlands — as grouse or partridge shooting, deer driving (but not stalking) or fly fishing. Ladies who do not care to follow the gun or play the fly, can find charming spots to sketch, and Dornoch is surrounded by lovely walks and drives, and there are several charming excursions at greater distances.”

On Sunday golf in Dornoch being considered sacrilegious, that some church-goers were taking odd-looking “walking canes” to worship but actually using them as golf sticks on the way home, sneaking into the dunes for a couple of holes:

“Despite their discretion, most of the villagers knew exactly what the ‘Sabbath breakers’ were up to. As with any small town, little happened without being known by everyone in short order.”

On Ross’ upbringing in the conservative, strict schools of northern Scotland in the 1870s and an anecdote from his great-grandson, Alex Shapiro:

“He decided to dip the pigtails of a girl that was sitting in front of him in an inkwell on his desk. The teacher came over and hit him so hard that it broke his nose. Donald was so scared about telling his father for fear of what would happen to him that he kept it to himself. So it was never tended to and for the rest of his life he could only breath out of half of his nose.”

On Ross apparently being at the vanguard of the idea to have front and back nines, an idea at odds to the links concept of the British Isles where most courses ran “out” in one direction along the coast, then turned “in” for the final nine:

“One of the desirable shapes for a piece of golf property is that of a fan,” Ross said. “It gives you the opportunity to place your clubhouse in the center or handle of the fan and lay out two loops of nine holes on either side of the handle … This layout affords another rather pleasant feature, as members can stop after nine holes and have refreshments.”

On his meeting the titans of American business and being particularly fond of Henry Ford, who asked him to design and build a course for his workers in Dearborn, Michigan:

“(Ford) is a different type of any from almost any other I have met,” Ross said in a 1923 letter to Pinehurst owner Leonard Tufts. “He opened up pretty freely to me, and I have a cordial invitation to stay at his house, and I will accept some time. I would like to know him better. He surely likes peculiar angles, and I already know he has a mind of his own. He would be lost as a President — and it’s entirely outside of his line of endeavor. He is too frank to be a politician. He is a plain democratic man and wealth has not turned his head.”

On the pressure he felt in the depths of the 1930s Depression to find new projects so that he could keep his workers employed:

“I want to get the contract to build it so that I can find work for a few of my good men here who must be discharged unless I can find other employment,” he said in a 1937 letter to his daughter. “That, you see, is the responsibility that goes with being a father to so many workers. I feel that they depend on me for a livelihood.”

By that time Ross had just completed his final routing of No. 2, adding the current fourth and fifth holes and discarding two that ran into ground now occupied by course No. 4, and had built seven courses in the Sandhills — four at Pinehurst Country Club, one at Pine Needles, one at Mid Pines and 27 holes at Southern Pines. Those were among the some 400 courses he would design across mostly the eastern half of the United States.

Buie says one of the most notable takeaways from his research was how Ross’ fingerprints are on so many elements of golf’s evolution in America — from design to clubmaking to helping elevate the status of the once lowly club pro. The second was how he “instilled the game with the proper spirit,” Buie says. “He was adamant about that. He wanted everything done ‘the right way.’ But he was especially strident about that when it came to golf. He was outspoken about that and vigilant, as well.”

Buie vouched that idea with an interview
he found from a 1939 interview in the Elmira Star Gazette:

“In my long association with golf, covering practically the entire life of the game in the United States, there has never been a scandal in connection with professional golf,” Ross said. “This is a glorious reputation for golf and must be maintained if the game is to continue to hold the respect of the public, and continue in the unusually fine atmosphere it has created.”

One wonders what Ross would have thought of the Tiger Woods story from 2009, but you get the point.  PS

Lee Pace has written Golftown Journal since 2008 and has authored four books about golf at Pinehurst, his most recent “The Golden Age of Pinehurst” in 2014.

The Eagle Is Landing

The PGA Tour goes to the beach

By Lee Pace

It was a cold February day in 1997, give or take a year as memories fade, and five men were sloshing through the woods and sandy waste of a parcel of land about 8 miles north of Wilmington. Four were men of considerable wealth and high golf IQs, the fifth considered golf’s top architect of the modern era. Together Billy Armfield, Bobby Long, John Ellison, John Mack and Tom Fazio were trying to determine if this tract just across the road from Porter’s Neck Country Club and across the Intracoastal Waterway from Figure Eight Island had potential for a new golf course.

Long smiles and shakes his head remembering the day.

“I thought that Tom Fazio, if he did not have such a great reputation, needed some serious psychiatric care,” Long says. “Trees are down everywhere, it’s raining, it’s 45 degrees, it’s miserable, it is a mess. But Tom is pointing here and there and saying here’s where the first tee’s going to be, where the 18th green’s going to be, where the clubhouse will be. He’s saying, ‘Man, this is great.’ I’m thinking, ‘You’re certifiably nuts.’ Tom saw something none of us did.”

Fazio merely shrugs.

“It’s just what I do,” he says. “Bobby Long can look at a balance sheet and it makes sense, and it’s Greek to me. I look at a piece of land and it makes sense.”

In time that vision would prove prophetic and crystal clear as the 230 acres became Eagle Point Golf Club, which has become one of North Carolina’s top golf environs and in May will be the site of the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA Tour. The Wells (originally the Wachovia Championship when conceived in 2003) has been held annually at Quail Hollow Golf Club in Charlotte, but Quail’s 2017 position as host of the PGA Championship necessitated a one-year transplant.

Given that Quail Hollow President Johnny Harris is a member at Eagle Point and that Long, now the Eagle Point president, has been the guiding force in the resurrection of Greensboro’s spot on the PGA Tour the last decade in the form of the Wyndham Championship, there were plenty of synergies to do a one-off at Eagle Point.

“We thought it was a good opportunity to showcase the golf course, and we want to be a good citizen with Wilmington,” says Ellison, one of the four founding members of the club. “We thought this was a way to be a good citizen and help the economy. We like being a great private golf club, but also like being a good citizen. The two don’t have to be exclusive. We like the idea the restaurants and hotels and Wilmington will be seen in a way they haven’t since the Azalea Open left all those years ago.”

“Wilmington has some nice tradition with the Azalea at Cape Fear Country Club, and we thought it would be fun to kind of link back to that,” says club General Manager and Director of Golf Billy Anderson. “They looked at some other sites around the country for one year, but Johnny Harris and Bobby Long were afraid if it left the state, it would never come back.”

The Azalea Open was held at Cape Fear from 1949-72 as part of the annual Azalea Festival, and now the Wells Fargo at Eagle Point will be one peg in a considerable schedule of big-time golf in North Carolina this year. In addition to the Wells Fargo in Wilmington May 4-7, the PGA in Charlotte August 10-13 and the Wyndham in Greensboro August 17-20, Pinehurst gets in on the action with the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball on the No. 2 course May 27-31.

“Who would have thought a major would be coming to North Carolina and be somewhere other than Pinehurst?” Fazio muses, referencing the Quail Hollow layout on which he’s done considerable redesign work over two decades. “It’s more proof of the quality of golf in this state. You could take the 18 courses we’ve done in North Carolina, and that’s a pretty good career.”

Fazio was approached in the mid-1900s by Armfield, a Greensboro businessman who owned a beach house on Figure Eight Island and thought the Wilmington area was ripe for a unique public-private golf facility — a private course here, a public layout next door, common maintenance staff, equipment and infrastructure, and perhaps homes mixed in as well. They looked at a variety of sites and never found anything that worked. Eventually Fazio told Armfield he knew of a site near Porter’s Neck, which he designed in the early 1990s, that might be for sale. But it was big enough for one golf course only — no real estate.

“On that piece of property, you could only have golf,” Fazio says. “What they wanted was a purist golf environment, no compromises.”

The course opened in May 2000 and has grown to having nearly 500 members. It was run for its first decade by Armfield in the “benevolent dictator” manner of clubs like Pine Valley and Seminole, where he was also a member. When Armfield moved from Greensboro to Richmond, he passed the baton to Long. Sadly, Armfield won’t be able to see the PGA Tour come to Wilmington, as he died in July 2016 after a short bout with cancer.

But his vision is still intact — a golf-centric club, a full caddie staff, walkable layout and a few bedrooms for members from out-of-town. Some 11,000 to 13,000 rounds are played a year, and only on a few summer holidays does the course get jammed. Fazio built a nine-hole practice course as well, and that venue is the site of a regular Sunday night mixed scramble — you play with someone other than your own wife or girlfriend, and then repair to the clubhouse for dinner afterward.

“We wanted to play fast and play with caddies,” Long says. “Looking back, we might have had more money than sense. We did not have a clue what we were doing, and all of a sudden you’re into it pretty heavily and can’t let it fail.”

Fazio built a half-dozen lakes and a couple of streams that run through the course, and the property is dotted with a few massive, draping oak trees so prevalent on the coast. He then planted hundreds of pine trees that started at 6 to 10 feet and are now 35 feet. Fazio and his team moved 2 million cubic yards of dirt, and the highest point in New Hanover County at 52 feet elevation is the 18th tee.

“We took the highs and made them higher and the lows made them lower; that’s why it feels like it’s fairly rolling,” Fazio says. “Construction capabilities what they are today, you cannot tell where we moved earth and did not move it.”

Like most Fazio courses, Eagle Point is gorgeous to the eye and not too difficult from the forward tees. The farther back you go, the more inaccessible pins become and the tougher the angles. The three par-4s in the finishing stretch measure at least 430 yards — and two play uphill into the greens — the par-3 15th is 222 yards, and the home hole is a par 5 at nearly 600 yards with a lake to the right.

“The first three holes are a nice way to start a round of golf. Then as you get further into it, the volume keeps going up,” says John Townsend, who joined in 2000. “No. 4 is a difficult par-5, and six a difficult par-5, seven a gorgeous hole but a little bit of a breather. You step on the eighth tee, you’d better strap on your seat belt. If you don’t get it the first seven holes, it’s tough to shoot a good score. The closing stretch from 14 home is about the best five finishing holes in golf.”

Adds Long, “Three times I’ve been 2-under going to 14 and not broken 80.”

Long, Anderson and the Wells Fargo staff have worked with Marsh Benson, the recently retired senior director of golf course and grounds at Augusta National, on a number of aesthetic tweaks to the course over the last year. Benson made one key suggestion of moving the originally planned entrance to the tournament from the north side of the property to the eastern edge, where spectators will access the course through the par 3-course.

“The sight views are stunning. Marsh is truly an artist,” Long says. “He’s enhanced what we had here. I think the golfers and the spectators who’ve heard of Eagle Point and never actually been will be glad they came.”

And that is a vision that only Tom Fazio could see on a blustery winter day two decades ago.  PS

Chapel Hill-based golf writer Lee Pace, who appears monthly in PineStraw, wrote about the Azalea Open for Salt in the spring of 2014.