Bag Man

Looking good off the rack

By Lee Pace

Yes, I have a wandering eye.
I have moved from one pretty thing to another. I check out the curves, the details, the accessories. I enjoy going into a busy place with a pretty one on my arm. I reflect on my exes and wince that I could have been so stupid to have been with that. If mine is hanging out with others, I’ll generally snicker at the ugliness of all that surrounds my jewel.

I admit it —  I’m a bit of a tart for golf bags.

Just in the last decade I have been with Titleist, Sun Mountain, MacKenzie, Stitch and Nike (for the blink of an eye). I have had bags with a stand and without, made with leather, canvas and waterproof synthetics, and even with velour linings. Various models have had compartments or attachments for umbrellas, water bottles, iPhones and range finders, though the latter is a moot point. I’m too cheap to buy a high-tech measuring device, and I’m not vain enough to think it matters a whit to know I’m 133 yards from the flag for certain versus the 130 I can estimate for myself.

As I am ever the traditionalist who’d rather walk than ride, my bags have tended to the lighter weights and fewer geegaws, though I’m constantly in a balancing act between simplicity and lusting for modern creature comforts.

I was gifted one of the original MacKenzie Walkers in the early 1990s but didn’t have the good sense to appreciate the materials, workmanship and utter simplicity of the tan leather bag, benching it after a wet day when the leather seemed to hold the water like lead pellets. Over the years, moving it from assorted garages to attics, the bag developed a rash of mold and mildew, which the company tried gallantly six years ago to remove — with modest results.

I carried an apple green, double-strapped bag for a while but got a sore left shoulder with the pretzel motion of putting my left arm through the second strap. Once in a captain’s choice tournament, I won a hideous Nike Performance bag that had 12 slots for clubs and was white and black with teal accents; I quickly sold it on Craigslist to some poor fool who likely plays golf in sandals and black socks.

For several years I’ve carried a MacKenzie ballistic bag, a two-pocket, single-strap bag made of navy fabric in the same design as the company’s more famous leather offering. The bag served me well and I appreciated its simplicity. But over time I grew to want at least a nudge toward convenience — a more accessible spot for my wallet and phone without them mixed in with balls and tees, for example, or a place for a water bottle or umbrella. I considered yielding to the appeal of a stand bag to ease the wear on my back, but the spindly metal legs add such an artificial element I’ve resisted the urge.

I wrote in these pages in the spring of 2015 of an innovative company in Cary called Stitch Golf that makes stylish leather head covers and accessories under the “Dress Your Game” hashtag. Stitch flirted briefly in fabricating and peddling a utilitarian and soft-spoken carry bag in British khaki and green camouflage designs, but I found the five-slot opening a bit narrow and the clubs prone to getting stuck when you tried to pull one. In due time owner Charlie Burgwyn discovered a vintage golf bag company on the West Coast trying to reinvent itself and ditched his own model and began carrying the wares of the Jones Golf Bag Co.

Anyone who played high school or college golf in the 1970s and ’80s likely remembers the Jones bag, which came in basic primary colors with a wide white strap and a plastic base that could stand up to countless whacks after a fat 6-iron shot.

George Jones was a cab driver and golf enthusiast in Portland, Oregon, in the early 1970s who, in his spare time, cobbled together utilitarian golf bags and sold them from the trunk of his cab. The bags were popular enough that he founded the Jones Golf Bag Co., the enterprise finding a niche as a manufacturer of inexpensive carry bags that most schools could afford to buy in bulk and outfit their entire squad. Jones sold the company in 1990, and over two decades the line lost its appeal as golf exploded and consumer demand migrated to shinier bells and louder whistles.

“After 20 years, there was nothing left but the name and a lot of memories,” says Matt Lemman, who grew up playing a Jones bag. “The bag was missed. There was nothing that substituted for it.”

Lemman’s father bought what was left of Jones’ entrepreneurial efforts in 2011 and turned the operation over to sons Matt and Tim and a third partner, Chris Carnahan. They began manufacturing the original Jones bag with updated materials and since have added to the line with stand bags, cart bags, luggage and accessories. Lemman says the company broke even in 2015 and was comfortably in the black in 2016.

“It’s been fun to bring the bag back to life,” says Matt, 30 years old. “It’s no picnic to start a business, but we’re lucky to have a brand that resonates with a lot of people.”

“People like to be reminded of a time when life was simpler,” adds Tim, 28.

Indeed, the Jones Original and Players Series models I carried in 2016 are the archetypes of minimalism and function. Over six months I tried both the Original model in kelly green and more recently a navy version in the Players Series. Both feature the ubiquitous Jones braided handle and plastic base and come in at around three pounds each. Both have three compartments — two long, narrow ones on the strap side of the bag, and a larger one on the opposite side. The bags are reasonably priced, with the Original model at $140 and the Players at $160.

I’ve settled on the Players Series for several reasons. The spine makes it easier to sling on a motor cart if I find myself in the position of having to ride. There’s a slot for a water bottle — essential for the hot Southern summers. And I thought the wide white strap on the Original model a bit unsightly to my eye; the strap on the Players is narrower, and the neat touch of having some tacky material on the underside helps keep the bag from slipping on my shoulder. And like all Jones bags, you can find the name only on the bottom and on an understated metal plate positioned on the spine; carrying a bag with the manufacturer’s name taking up 50 percent of the face just seems, well, crass.

“It’s everything you need, and nothing you don’t,” Lemman says. “There’s a niche for people who want a simpler way of doing things.”

And over time, I’ve gotten a better grasp on what I don’t need. I’ve cut my set down to 12 clubs, taking a couple pounds off the carry weight. I’d rather master the 56-degree wedge than try to dial in several lofts, and if I’m playing a course under 6,400 yards as I should, my 18-degree fairway wood is all I need for second shots on par-5s and perhaps an approach on a long par-4. Anthony Cordes, the sharp young club-fitting expert at Pinehurst, suggested in fitting me for a new set of Titleist irons last spring that I create a hybrid set by using my preferred blades, the forged and more classic-looking AP2s, for my wedge through 6-iron and then go to the more forgiving AP1 for the 5- and 4-iron. I’ve never hit so many good 4-irons as I have the last year.

The bag, clubs, several extra balls and spray bottles of sunscreen and insect repellant measure 17 pounds — a comfortable weight to lug around the course, particularly by alternating shoulders. The set-up is functional and the bag, accented with one leather and one knit head cover from Stitch, distinguishes itself amid the rubble of the bag drop.

The decade of the ’70s was not renowned for its design acumen — industrial, clothing or otherwise. Thankfully, though, there is the Jones Golf Bag to take a much-welcomed second lap.  PS

Chapel Hill-based writer Lee Pace promises to live by the Jones Golf mantra in 2017 — “Enjoy the walk.”

Coincidentally

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” — Albert Einstein

By Lee Pace

Another year dawns and the largesse of the Sandhills golf community continues to evoke awe and grace. Forty golf courses in a 15-mile radius, one USGA event coming in 2017, another on tap for 2019, an interesting and ambitious project to redesign Pinehurst No. 4 and create a new short course at Pinehurst set to commence this year. The populace revels in a golf-centric environment where at any point you’re liable to see a license plate like 4RT or WHIFF or GOLF’N or a pedestrian walking down a sidewalk, pronating his left wrist as if to make a solid move through the ball.

It has always fascinated and amused me to ponder the series of dominoes that fell over five years from 1895 to 1900 that allowed this “Accidental Resort” to sprout into reality. There was no big city next door to give birth to Pinehurst. There was no ocean or mountain range to make it an aesthetic or seasonable destination, no river to provide convenient access.

No, we have this “St. Andrews of American Golf” thanks to at least five unrelated but important dollops of happenstance.

— A chance encounter on a train in 1895.

James Tufts made his fortune in patenting, manufacturing and sales of apparatuses and syrups found in apothecary shops across the land and, as he neared the age of 60, turned his business operations over to subordinates. He was active in philanthropic work and sought on behalf of the Invalid Aid Society of Boston to locate a wintertime health resort for those suffering from consumption.

Col. Walker Taylor was a sharp businessman himself and had opened an insurance agency in Wilmington in 1866 following the Civil War. He traveled extensively throughout the Eastern Seaboard, and having a gregarious personality, was wont to introduce himself to perfect strangers. One day in 1895, pure happenstance landed Taylor and Tufts on the same train. They struck up a conversation, and Tufts explained his vision to Taylor.

Taylor, family legend has it, suggested that the train station in Southern Pines might be a good starting point for Tufts’ search for a site for his new resort. It was right on two of the nation’s major north-south transportation arteries — the railroad and U.S. Hwy. 1. There was cheap land available, and it was halfway between Boston and Florida. And thus Tufts did in fact search for land — and found 6,000 acres about five miles to the west of the train station in Southern Pines.

— An astute decision by Tufts to eschew the advice of a trusted aide that “golf is just a fad.”

At first golf was not part of the Pinehurst dossier, and visitors enjoyed activities such as horseback riding, dancing, recitals, carriage rides, cards and a croquet-like game called roque. But in the fall of 1897, Tufts learned that guests were hitting small rubber balls with wooden sticks around the dairy fields and, in the process, aggravating the cows. So he built a nine-hole golf course as a lark in 1898, enlisting the help of Dr. D. LeRoy Culver, a Southern Pines physician who was an avid golfer, had played in England and Scotland, and understood the gist of what a course should look like. 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, who later would be elected as a Massachusetts congressional representative. “Golf is a fad and will never last.”

Tufts’ instincts and better advice from others in his circle convinced him otherwise, and soon he embarked on the expansion of the golf course to a full 18 holes.

— A fateful coin flip in the village of Dornoch, Scotland, in 1899.

Donald Ross was a 27-year-old employee at Royal Dornoch Golf Club and was in charge of maintaining the golf course, managing the caddies, organizing competitions, and building and repairing clubs. His boss was John Sutherland, the club “secretary,” i.e., general manager. One day a golfer visiting from Boston suggested to Ross that America was ripe for growing the sport of golf, and an ambitious expert in the game might do well to immigrate and carve his niche in the game’s expansion. Ross and Sutherland both took a fancy to the idea and decided to flip a coin — one goes to America, the other stays at home and runs the club at Dornoch.

Ross won the flip.

And so he set off to America.

“My mother and Mr. Sutherland’s daughter were great pals,” says Donald Grant, a lifelong Dornoch resident and club member. “They lived side-by-side growing up. I heard the story often. I have no reason to doubt its truth.”

— That it was Boston, not New York or Philadelphia or a dozen other cities, where Ross arrived in 1899.

Ross’ contact in America was Robert Willson, an astronomy professor at Harvard and a member at Oakley Country Club in the Boston suburb of Watertown. Upon arrival in Boston, Ross phoned Willson, visited his home, and soon Willson helped Ross find work at Oakley Country Club, which was located eight miles from Tufts’ home in Medford.

Now that Tufts had a full 18-hole course at Pinehurst and a vision for building more golf, he needed a golf professional to work during the October to spring season. He learned that Oakley had in its employ a sharp young Scotsman whose responsibilities were geared around the summer golf season — an ideal fit to go South in the winter. They met at Tufts’ home in Medford. Tufts hired Ross on the spot and Ross began his new assignment at Pinehurst in December 1900. He was busy at first making clubs, managing the caddies, giving lessons and organizing competitions. He also tried his hand at designing and building new golf holes.

— And that this ground in Moore County should be predominantly sand, prompting a serendipitous connection for Ross between Scotland and his new wintertime home situated 120 miles inland from the coast.

Millions of years ago, the Atlantic Ocean covered what is now dry land along the East Coast. During the Miocene Epoch (circa 20 million years ago), the ocean receded and left a strip of what is now ancient coastline and beach deposits. The Sandhills are part of that band some 30 miles across and 80 miles long. Tufts liked the land as he first found it because its sandy composition drained quickly and was thought to have health-giving benefits.

Pinehurst was perhaps not oceanside itself. But its location was a kissing cousin to the seashore. The word “links” can be traced to the Old English word for lean, hlinc, meaning “lean terrain formed by receding seas.” The ground was perfect for golf and Ross’s tastes. It provided, in essence, an “inland links” terrain; the earth was gently rolling and sandy. Rainwater flowed through the sandy soil at Dornoch; it did so as well in Pinehurst, allowing for a golf designer’s dream environment.

“He was particularly attracted to the soil conditions here, as they reminded him of the old links land at home,” Richard Tufts, James’ grandson, said years later. “Even our native wire grass seemed to remind him of the whins he knew in Scotland.”

What if Tufts had gotten off the train in Raleigh and chosen the heavy clay environment there? It might have had no attraction had Ross landed just an hour north.

And so the dominoes fell — Tufts debarks in Southern Pines, tweaks his vision to include golf, Ross and not Sutherland comes to Boston, and Ross turns Pinehurst’s sandy ground into an American golf nirvana that draws visitors from the population centers of the East, Midwest and Deep South. By 1919, Pinehurst had 72 holes of golf and was by far the nation’s foremost golf destination.

It all makes perfect sense and hearkens the immortal words of former baseball great Yogi Berra, himself a frequent visitor to Pinehurst from his home in New Jersey: “That’s too coincidental to be a coincidence.”  PS

Lee Pace has authored five books on the evolution of golf in the Sandhills, most recently The Golden Age of Pinehurst—The Story of the Rebirth of No. 2.

The Fazio Tradition

North Carolina’s dean of golf course architects reflects on his very productive life

By Lee Pace

To an 18-year-old in the summer of 1975, Hendersonville was Hicksburg USA and a town lacking any distinction beyond having an excellent high school basketball team (the Bearcats bounced Pinecrest High, yes, that Pinecrest High, in the 1972 state 3-A title game in Durham) and a convenience store on Sixth
Avenue quite liberal in dispensing beer to minors. We’d stock up on Budweiser and Slim Jims and cruise up and down Main Street between a city recreation park on the north and the Hardees on the south. I was off to Chapel Hill in the blink of an eye.

“I couldn’t get out of this town fast enough,” I told one of its newer residents some years later.

“And I couldn’t get here fast enough,” the fellow replied.

It was the early 1990s and golf architect Tom Fazio was showing me around the office he’d opened in Hendersonville in 1985 when, after discovering the appeal of the western North Carolina mountains in designing Wade Hampton in Cashiers in the mid-1980s, he and his wife, Sue, decided the environment was better suited to raise their six children than their previous home in the Palm Beach area of South Florida. Fazio looked out his office window to the west toward the crest of Laurel Park Mountain, golden-tinged on this particular autumn afternoon.

“Main Street with a view,” he mused. “What more could you want?”

As I mellowed and matured over the years and returned to visit my mother and marvel over the evolution of downtown Hendersonville — with its serpentine traffic pattern, ceramic bear statues, meticulous landscaping and neat confluence of restaurants and antique shops — I had to admit that Fazio had a point.

Often I’d work in a trip back home with a visit to Fazio’s golf architecture firm. Things were so flush as the 1990s golf boom evolved and Fazio had become arguably the world’s foremost modern architect that in 1998 he bought an entire four-story, 1923 neo-classical building at the corner of Main Street and Fourth Avenue and moved his firm’s headquarters to the top floor.

I witnessed Fazio Golf Course Designers’ operation in thick and thin. One afternoon in the mid-1990s, Fazio and his staff worked furiously to get some design drawings and documents printed and packaged in time to ship overnight.

“Everything builds to a climax waiting for the FedEx guy to come,” Fazio said.

And a dozen years later I sat with him in a quieter environment, the golf design business slowing to a crawl during the 2008-09 recession and his staff being lopped off in the aftermath.

“What’s different?” he asked rhetorically, cocking his head as if to listen. “The phones aren’t ringing.”

On my most recent trip to Hendersonville, on the last Friday of October, I found Fazio in his office signing copies of his 2000 book, Golf Course Design, and minding one of his granddaughters and one of the family dogs. He spoke of the annual winter sojourn to Florida planned for the following week now that all six children are grown and he’s semi-retired — but not until after Halloween night.

“Two of my daughters and four grandkids are here,” says Fazio, who lives nearby in Lake Toxaway at least half the year. “We’ll be on Main Street on Halloween night. They block off the streets and have games, trick-or-treating, music, lots of stuff for the kids. The kids have a blast.”

Exactly four decades ago, Fazio and his uncle and golf-design mentor, former PGA Tour player George Fazio, were trying to jump-start a struggling architecture business that had been relegated to remodeling jobs for U.S. Open courses during the early 1970s recession. They were asked to design Pinehurst No. 6 — the resort’s first course away from the village proper — and that course opened in 1979. Soon after Tom took on an ambitious project on the South Carolina coast near Charleston. Wild Dunes was a major success and, presto, his solo career (with George now in retirement) was off and running.

On this afternoon, Fazio is ruminating about one simple question: Where have all the years gone?

“You blink and all of sudden, your life’s flown by,” he says.

He nods toward Nina, his granddaughter. “Just yesterday I was rushing home to see a dance recital. Now that little girl has grown up and has children of her own.”

It pains him to look around his universe of friends and clients and see some of his favorites having passed, among them William McKee, the founder of Wade Hampton, dying in 2014 at the age of 62, and Billy Armfield, the founder of Eagle Point in Wilmington, passing this July at the age of 81.

“One of my fun jobs over so many years was helping people fulfill their dreams,” Fazio says. “A golf course is a dream for them. We literally build their dreams. It’s really tough for me when we lose guys like this. Every day I go to Wade Hampton, and I can’t believe William McKee is not there. He was younger than me. There’s a vacuum with him not there.”

Fazio’s oldest son, 39-year-old Logan, is now leading the design efforts on much of the firm’s work, and long-time associate Tom Marzolf is in charge of a new course at Adare Manor in Ireland, a job where the client essentially has instructed Fazio and Marzolf to build “the Augusta National of Ireland.” Fazio continues as a consulting architect at Augusta National and Pine Valley, and the firm has just completed a course at Davant Plantation near Ridgeland, S.C., and one called Silo Ridge Field Club two hours north of Manhattan. Construction is continuing on The Summit, a high-end residential community outside Las Vegas, and two courses that will occupy the firm in 2017 are set for Long Island and the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas.

Logan recently supervised a major renovation to Kasumigaseki Country Club’s East course, the host layout for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The course opened for play in 1929 and was designed by one of the Golden Age’s leading architects, Charles Hugh Alison.

Now at the age of 71, Fazio talks with wide-eyed amazement at the next chapter in travel, technology and the business of designing golf courses. Years ago he refused to travel beyond the boundaries of getting back home for dinner; now he views drone clips from Logan of ongoing construction work from far-flung locales.

“I show my phone to Sue and say, ‘Can you imagine this? This is live, this is Logan sending us this. We’re looking at a golf hole,’” Fazio says. “He’s showing me how he’s shaping a bunker or moving a tree. Look at this big tree going across the stream, that’s live. It’s unbelievable the technology available. You don’t have to travel as much and go as often.”

Fazio has long cast a huge design shadow in the Carolinas and certainly in the Sandhills. There are 18 courses across North Carolina and 22 in South Carolina with the Fazio shingle. In Moore County he’s designed Nos. 4, 6 and 8 at Pinehurst, and 36 holes at Forest Creek Golf Club.

“You could take the courses we’ve done in North Carolina or those in South Carolina, and either list would be a nice career for someone,” he says.

Next year is going to be an interesting one for Fazio’s North Carolina portfolio as Eagle Point, his 2000 design in Wilmington, will be the site of the Wells Fargo Championship in May, and Quail Hollow in Charlotte, where he has done significant remodeling over the last two decades, will be the venue for the PGA Championship. Then the U.S. Amateur comes to Pinehurst in 2019, with stroke play qualifying being split on Nos. 2 and 8. The latter opened 20 years ago this fall and was dubbed “The Centennial Course” to celebrate Pinehurst’s 100th anniversary.

“I was at the Masters one year and I called the office for messages,” Fazio says. “I had a note to call (Pinehurst owner) Bob Dedman. I called him and he asked if I’d be interested in designing No. 8. I was sitting there in one of the great places in golf, Augusta National, and got a call to do a course in another great place in golf, Pinehurst. It was like I had won the Masters. It was a great feeling.”

Grandkids, playing golf, some design consultations — it’s a busy life even today for Tom Fazio. We say so long and on my way out of town, I drive past the sprawling Boys & Girls Club complex on Ashe Street, just east of downtown. Over two decades, Fazio has funneled untold dollars into the facility and recently wrote a check toward a new gymnasium. Fazio’s interest piqued in the mid-1990s when he noticed bored teenagers loitering on street corners after school. The clubs touch thousands of youngsters annually with tutoring, arts classes, recreation, athletics and mentorship.

“It’s an unbelievable place,” Fazio says. “Of all the things I’ve ever done, nothing comes close to that. Some people have boats and hobbies. I have golf, which is my business. Then I have my kids and the kids of the Boys & Girls Clubs. That’s been plenty for me.”  PS

Hendersonville native, Chapel Hill resident and longtime golf writer Lee Pace has contributed to PineStraw since 2008.

Money Well Spence

A new day for CCNC’s Dogwood Course

By Lee Pace

First impressions stick.

Robert “Ziggy” Zalzneck was a young accounting intern in Raleigh a long way from his Pennsylvania home during the holidays and was given access to the Country Club of North Carolina’s golf course on Christmas Day 1967. He had the place to himself. “I played 36 holes and it was 70 degrees,” Zalzneck says. “It was the prettiest place I’d ever been my whole life. I’ve loved the place ever since.”

Kris Spence was a young green superintendent at Greensboro Country Club in the mid-1980s when club staff and officers held a planning retreat at CCNC, the private, gated community nestled in the center of a triangle formed by Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen.

“I’ll never forget coming onto the property the first time,” Spence remembers. “It was so impressive and set a standard you noticed quickly. It was a standard above even the best private clubs in the state.”

And Alex Bowness, a young homebuilder in Southern Pines, was invited to play the Ellis Maples-designed course in 1977 and knew immediately that he wanted to become a member.

“I’ll never forget playing the 15th hole the first time,” he says of the par-4 that kisses against the shore of Watson’s Lake — one of seven holes on the back nine accented by water. “It was April, the dogwoods were in bloom, and some dog ran across the fairway. It was a spellbinding vision. It took my breath away. I can see it today as if it were yesterday.”

Thirty-nine years later, Bowness is sitting in an Adirondack chair nestled in the pine forest between the fourth hole of the Dogwood golf course and his Williamsburg-style home. His cavalier king spaniel, O. Max, cavorts through the pine straw. It’s been home for Bowness and wife Susan since 2000.

“When we drive through the gate, our shoulders fall down,” he says. “It’s very relaxing. We live 2.4 miles from the gate, and it’s a nice, soft ride. From here we see golfers go by, we see little boats go by with fishermen. There’s even a bald eagle who lives near here; sometimes late in the day you’ll see him swoop through the trees. It’s almost like coming into a park.”

This “park” is now 53 years old, but it has a fresh coat of paint (and grass and sand and tree-scape) following a nine-month shutdown for Spence, now a golf course architect, to make significant changes to the course on agronomic, strategic and maintenance fronts. In nearly two decades of golf design, Spence has specialized in restoring and remodeling vintage courses by Golden Age architects like Donald Ross and then, from the next generation, Ellis Maples, the son of Ross’ green superintendent and construction foreman at Pinehurst, Frank Maples.

“Anyone who comes here has an expectation,” says Spence, who supervised the remodeling of the Dogwood course from November 2015 through Labor Day weekend of 2016. “It’s a lofty one. We can’t hit a triple here, we have to hit a grand slam. The expectation level is very high. The expectation was of excellence. When I came here to walk the course before the interview, it was anything but that. Time had just taken a toll on this golf course.”

While the Sandhills golf community had been built since the turn of the 20th century on resort golf and semi-private courses, a group of North Carolina businessmen believed in the early 1960s the state needed a private club centrally located that could draw members from Raleigh to Charlotte and beyond. Raleigh accountant Dick Urquhart, Greensboro investment banker Hargrove “Skipper” Bowles, Greensboro developer and builder Griswold Smith, and Raleigh attorney James Poyner were the four founding members and soon enticed three dozen “charter members” to join the club. They represented a Who’s Who of North Carolina business and philanthropy, among them C.C. Cameron of Raleigh, George Watts Carr of Durham, Frank Kenan of Durham, James Harris of Charlotte ,and Karl Hudson of Raleigh.

“What could be better than a good club centrally located for nearly all of us, ideally suited for golf, horses, hunting or just plain socializing?” Urquhart asked in a 1962 letter to charter members.

Willard Byrd studied landscape architecture at N.C. State in the late 1940s with an emphasis on land planning and had opened a shop in the land-planning business in Atlanta in 1956. He was hired to draw the master plan for CCNC, which would include approximately 300 residential lots averaging two acres apiece. The golf course was routed at the outset, with the lots to be arranged around the best land for golf. Much discussion ensued at the beginning over the issue of wrapping nine holes of golf around Watson’s Lake, thus eliminating some premier lakefront building lots.

At the time, Byrd was not officially a golf architect, so Maples was retained to collaborate on the creation of the golf course, to be named after the preponderance of dogwood trees on the property. The original plans have both the names of Byrd and Maples on the blueprint for each hole. Byrd created the routing and Maples designed the features — the green shapes and undulations, bunkers and placement of hazards.

“The course should be second to none from the very start,” said Urquhart, whose views that the golf course should get the premier lakefront exposure won out in that discussion.

The course opened in 1963 and was one of the original members of Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses and was site of the 1971 and 1972 Liggett & Myers Match Play Championship on the PGA Tour (won by Dewitt Weaver and Jack Nicklaus) and the 1980 U.S. Amateur (won by Hal Sutton). It has hosted six Southern Amateurs (with Ben Crenshaw and Webb Simpson among the winners), and the 110-year-old championship will return in 2017. It has been the venue for the 2010 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship as well as multiple Carolinas Golf Association championships, including three Carolinas Amateurs and seven North Carolina Amateurs. The course remained in Digest’s rankings until 1999, when it was muscled out by the many outstanding new courses from the 1990s golf boom.

The original course was so popular the club built a second one and named it the Cardinal in keeping with the state of North Carolina theme. The course opened as 18 holes in 1981, a combination of nine holes each from Maples and Robert Trent Jones. The club converted those greens from bentgrass to Champion Bermuda in 2012 and liked the results, so a similar conversion was planned for the Dogwood, among other significant changes.

“We knew for five or six years we had a significant project ahead of us,” says Director of Golf Jeff Dotson. “The irrigation system was antiquated. The bunkers had reached the end of their useful life. It was a struggle every summer to keep the bent greens healthy, and the Bermuda greens on Cardinal were thriving.

“Dogwood had been one of the top courses in Southeast for half a century. We needed to set it up for the next 50 years.”

Much of the work was structural: convert the greens to Bermuda; install a new irrigation system; rebuild all the bunkers with the easier-to-maintain “Better Billy Bunker” system; replant the fairways with zoysia grass; open the vistas with the removal of several hundred trees that encroached over 50 years.

And much was strategic: bunkers repositioned to challenge more aggressive lines on dogleg holes; green approaches re-sculpted to allow run-up shots; a new green on the par-4 fourth built to reflect Maples’ original design that had never actually been built; a new green on the 15th hole positioned some 25 yards back from the original; a cross-bunker added in the landing area of the second shot on the par-5 18th, giving players more food for thought in planning their approach to the green.

“The structural issues have certainly been fixed,” Spence says. “Aesthetically and strategically, I think it reflects and respects Mr. Maples’ work. I wanted to respect his work but still adjust things to better suit the modern game. If you look through old photos of this course and others he designed, this still has that look and character of what I think he would approve of.”

Spence and Zalzneck were in the first foursome to play the remodeled course when it reopened on Sept. 2, Spence because he shepherded the work and Zalzneck because he’s now the club president.

“Kris was like a proud papa playing the course,” Zalzneck says. “And it was very rewarding for those of us who have worked on this project over three to four years. The changes reposition CCNC for a long time to come.”

And they preserve those first impressions that remain vivid in many minds despite the passage of time — not to mention creating new ones for residents like Alex and Susan Bowness from their Adirondack chairs along the fourth fairway.  PS

Lee Pace has written about golf in the Sandhills since the late-1980s; his most recent book is The Golden Age of Pinehurst—The Story of the Rebirth of No. 2.

The Cruds

The sacred golf buddy trip reaches 100

By Lee Pace

There’s nothing quite like the golf buddy trip: escape, golf, drinking, golf, gambling, golf, cigars, merciless razzing and needling, hangovers, golf and a special brand of childishness among grown men that few other venues can generate. Some guys are skilled players with deep pockets who play the British Open courses from the tips with a trip concierge. Others are 18-handicappers in cargo shorts who make a beeline from the 18th green to a Myrtle Beach honky-tonk.

In February 1967 a group of eight members at Hope Valley Country Club in Durham discovered that particular elixir of adventure and camaraderie that is the golf buddy trip. They ventured to Myrtle Beach when it was a sleepy town with three golf courses, enjoyed the occasion and decided to take another in the fall. Two more, spring and fall, followed in 1968. Ditto 1969, ad infinitum, and since the sixth trip, each has been a 54-hole weekend.

And so this October, this same group of men, certainly with some additions and subtractions over half a century, will travel to The Dunes Club for another 54-hole event — its 100th trip.

“This piece of paper goes back to the very beginning,” Russell Barringer Jr. is saying in his office at his Durham building supply company as he looks at a faded ledger pad. Across it are pencil notations with names, dates, hotels and golf courses dating back to that first trip when LBJ was president and the Super Bowl had just one Roman numeral.

“If you do the math, we’ve played 307 rounds of golf, with three of them on a special trip we made to Scotland in 1974. That’s 304 days of golf in Myrtle Beach, and we’ve missed eight days to weather. That’s remarkable — only eight of 304 rained out.”

He continues.

“Two hundred and twenty-five rounds have been at The Dunes Club.

“Forty-four men have been in our group. Eleven are dead. Three have resigned. Nine are inactive. That leaves 21 active Cruds left.”

Cruds? What’s a Crud?

Barringer relishes telling the story. The original eight golfers — all of them with handicaps of seven or less — enjoyed the trip so much they decided to expand the group and were talking the trip up to other Hope Valley members. The wife of one prospective member overheard a conversation and interjected: “Who’s going on this trip?”

The names were rattled off — all of them up-and-coming businessmen, doctors, lawyers and stockbrokers in their early 30s — and the woman sniffed, “My husband’s not going out of town with those cruds.”

“The name stuck. We’ve been the Cruds ever since,” Barringer says.

Barringer missed the first trip because he and his wife had a previously scheduled trip to Jamaica planned, but he was on the second trip and has not missed one since. The trip to the beach Oct. 13-16 will be his 99th consecutive, longest by a large margin over Bob Baker’s 80-some straight trips.

“Mr. Barringer’s been talking about number 100 for several years now,” says Dennis Nichol, director of golf at The Dunes Club. “That seemed to be his finish line. He’d say, ‘I’m hanging on for a hundred.’

“This is quite a remarkable group. I’ve known of groups coming to the beach for 20, 25 years, but nothing as long as this group. He runs a tight ship. Some groups are a cluster. They’re hung over, no one’s in charge, and sometimes they’re not even at the right golf course. Mr. Barringer is a stickler for the details, and his guys have such a good time and enjoy each other’s company.”

The Cruds did their share of barhopping in the early days, but no one ever got into serious trouble. One Crud was convinced he was beaten up in the bathroom on the back nine at The Dunes, when in truth he was so hungover his cleats tripped him entering the building and he took a nasty fall. And there was an over-served Crud who one year threw some furniture off the second floor balcony of the motel and resorted to putting the damage charge of $365 on his company credit card. That prompted one member to pen a poem by the next trip that opened:

Twas the second of October at Myrtle Beach shore;

The Cruds were assembled for a weekend galore.

Graciously received by the St. John’s Inn;

If only they’d known of the forthcoming din.

“There’s been a lot of teasing and razzing going back and forth,” Barringer says. “Guys will jump your ass over the smallest thing, but it’s never hateful or serious.”

Barringer assumed the role of secretary/treasurer from that fall trip in 1967 and since then has juggled raising three children, running his business and myriad other commitments with operating a taut Cruds ship. He spent 12 years in active Reserve, and eight others of the early Cruds had some military or service background, so it’s no surprise letters to the members might begin, “You will report to the Thunderbird Motel, 73rd Avenue North, no later than 2300 hours,” and “Officers” were appointed for such responsibilities as handicaps, Bloody Marys and even “regrets & remorses.”

The Cruds stayed mostly at the St. John’s Inn in the early days, sometimes at the Thunderbird, and the charge per man in 1968 was $14 per person per day, including room, breakfast and golf. Barringer joined The Dunes Club in 1974 and later bought a condominium and then a single-family home in the neighborhood, so now eight golfers each year can stay in his homes, and several other members have second homes at the beach as well. Most of their golf has been played at The Dunes, but in the early days they ventured out to courses like The Surf Club. Barringer says none of the Cruds have been heavy gamblers, so they put up $25 per man per day for various competitions.

The Saturday night dinner this October promises to be an emotional one. They’ll take a group photo on the 13th hole at The Dunes, each Crud wearing a navy blazer, off-white slacks and the matching shirts that Barringer has custom-ordered every five trips. The usual table will be set in the dining room for the 11 deceased members, with a photo of each golfer at his place setting, and after the invocation and Pledge of Allegiance, each fallen Crud will be recognized and toasted. It will pain Barringer to see two Cruds with medical attendants nearby, one having suffered a stroke and another needing dialysis four days a week.

“I’m going to make a prediction,” Barringer says. “This 100th trip will be the last by the Cruds as we know them. Four or five years ago, I proposed the idea that we think of turning the group over to our sons. I think the group will go in that direction after 100.

“We’ve really been bonded by golf. The Cruds have been such a part of my life, I don’t want to just let it go. That’s one of the reasons I want to perpetuate the group. I want my kids, now grown adults, to enjoy what I’ve had for so many years.”

Enjoy, indeed: the elegance of The Dunes Club and Robert Trent Jones’ 1948 masterpiece. The scent of the salty air off the Atlantic. A Bloody Mary at the turn. A crisp 7-iron and a good pal ready to giggle if you catch it the slightest bit fat.  PS

Lee Pace’s first book on Pinehurst, Pinehurst Stories, was released just weeks before the 1991 Tour Championship.

The First Domino

Big time tournaments return to Pinehurst No. 2

By Lee Pace

The phone rang in the office of Pinehurst Director of Golf Don Padgett Sr. one day in the summer of 1990. On the line was Deane Beman, the commissioner of the PGA Tour and a longtime brother with Padgett in the fraternity of golf administrative insiders.

“Padge, we’d like to bring our Tour Championship to Pinehurst next year,” Beman said of the season-ending “Super Bowl” of golf that in its first three years of existence had been played at Oak Hill, Pebble Beach and Harbour Town. “It will only cost you half a million dollars.”

“Thanks,” Padgett said. “As much as we’d love to have you, we’re not in a position to spend that kind of money.”

Padgett was three years into his tenure running the golf operations at Pinehurst, and owner Robert Dedman Sr. was six years into his initiative to rebuild what he called “a fallen angel,” a bastion of American golf history that had stumbled on hard times in the early 1980s and even been run by the bank for two years. Padgett’s charge from resort President and CEO Pat Corso was to “bring championship golf back to Pinehurst,” and the club in the previous three years had hosted a successful PGA Club Pro Championship and a U.S. Women’s Amateur.

But a half-million dollars to get the PGA Tour to town? That was beyond the pale.

A week later, Beman called back.

“OK, we’ll forgo the fee,” Beman said. “But we want to come the first week in October.”

Padgett and Corso conferred. Padgett told Corso he didn’t think the resort could afford to give up a prime fall weekend. Corso agreed, and Padgett told Beman he was sorry, but the dates were bad.

Beman called a third time.

“OK, when the hell can we come?” Beman asked.

“How about the last weekend in October?” Padgett answered. “Our peak season will be over, and the golf course and the greens will still be in good shape.”

“Deal,” Beman said.

And thus fell the first domino in what is now de rigueur around Pinehurst and the state of North Carolina — major championships on the No. 2 course. Since that Tour Championship (won by Craig Stadler on Nov. 3, 1991), Pinehurst No. 2 has been the venue for the U.S. Senior Open, three U.S. Opens, one U.S. Amateur and one U.S. Women’s Open. On the schedule are three more USGA events, including the 2024 Open.

“We could hardly have written a better script,” Corso says. “The weather was great. The golfers loved No. 2. The crowds were huge. It was everything we could have hoped for.”

“That Tour Championship was very important,” former USGA Executive Director David Fay says. “David Eger, as a former North & South Junior champion, and an unabashed fan of No. 2, did a masterful job in setting up the golf course. As it had been a few years since the ‘regular tour’ players had competed at No. 2, the Tour Championship confirmed — resoundingly — that No. 2 remained a great championship test.”

And it’s been 25 years.

“Wow — 25 years,” Corso muses today. “Where does the time go?”

I remember a snippet from the twilight hour on Monday, three days before the tournament commenced. The shadows of the towering pine trees were creeping across the fairway and green of the eighth hole as reigning British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch made his way around the course with Corey Pavin. They putted out on the eighth green and walked to the ninth tee. Baker-Finch nodded toward a couple of acquaintances standing nearby.

“This golf course is great,” he said. “I’m only halfway around and it’s one of the five best I’ve seen in this country. Maybe the world.”

Baker-Finch played that evening until it was pitch dark. “I haven’t been this excited since the British Open,” he said.

Stadler shot a 5-under-par score of 279, and only four players broke par for four rounds that week. Eger, a Charlotte native and former PGA Tour player then on the tour’s administrative staff, looked at the leader board on Sunday afternoon and noted that only Stadler and Russ Cochran were in red figures. “Two players under par,” Eger mused. “That looks like a U.S. Open.”

“I admit I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect,” Padgett said years later. “I had some concern that modern equipment and length would render some of the shorter holes defenseless. My son, Don II, told me, ‘Dad, don’t worry. That golf course will hold up fine.’ Don had played several years on the tour in the early 1970s and kept his finger on the pulse of the tour. He also played here frequently on his visits with the family. So I trusted his view and, sure enough, he was right.”

Everything worked well that week in late October and early November of 1991. The galleries were substantial. There was plenty of parking outside the village and a good shuttle system to get people to the golf course. The golf course stood up to the game’s top players, who relished the old-style challenge of Donald Ross’ design. That week led to Pinehurst getting the Tour Championship for the following year, won by Paul Azinger (only six players besting par for the championship). The USGA was watching closely as well, and since the week was an overwhelming success, it soon awarded Pinehurst the U.S. Senior Open for 1994.

“I have talked to every player, and there is nobody disappointed in having Pinehurst No. 2 back in the world of golf in the way it has been through its history,” Beman said. “This is a very special place. It is not going to disappoint anyone. It is an absolute delight to be here.”

The golf media waxed poetically on regional and national levels about the singular atmosphere of Pinehurst, the direction the club seemed to be headed under Dedman’s leadership, and the appeal of championship golf on a classic Ross-designed course. Corso still gets chills 25 years later remembering Jack Whitaker waxing poetically on ABC-TV and saying the golf tour was richer for having been to Pinehurst.

Ron Green Sr. in The Charlotte Observer hooked onto the Friday evening unveiling ceremony of a statue of Donald Ross as a watershed kernel.

“For an old hanger-around who happens to think this village is a little patch of heaven, there was a sense that it was more than an unveiling of the great architect’s likeness, that it was also an unveiling of Pinehurst today,” Green wrote.

Golf Digest’s Jaime Diaz, a New York Times correspondent then but a Moore County resident now, put Pinehurst in perspective in tying up a year in golf that saw the four majors contested on Augusta National, Hazeltine, Royal Birkdale and Crooked Stick, and the Ryder Cup on the Ocean Course at Kiawah.

“If the Tour Championship proved anything definitive, it is that Pinehurst No. 2 was the most evocative tournament arena of the year and should continue to have a major presence in American golf,” Diaz offered.

Throughout the two weeks of the 1991 and ’92 Tour Championships, the themes of introduction and renewal emerged.

Old fans of Pinehurst returned:

“I don’t know how they played this course in the early 1900s with hickory shafts,” said Chip Beck, a Fayetteville native and winner of the Donald Ross Memorial as a teenager. “Donald Ross must have been the toughest, hard-nosed architect in the world, because this course has stood the test of time.

“A course like this puts golf in perspective. It has maintained its history and tradition for so long. It’s like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. It’s a standard to judge by.”

And new fans were born:

“This is the type golf course I could play every day of my life,” Greg Norman said.

“There is so much emphasis today on hitting balls 250 yards over water,” Baker-Finch said. “But this was how golf was meant to be played, the old style.”

“The whole experience is awesome — the village, the hotel, the golf course,” said Lee Janzen. “This is a golf town, all the way. It’s a great place to come, and I wish we’d play here every year.”

One of the most attentive spectators in 1991 was the USGA’s Fay. In the two years since the USGA had brought its Women’s Amateur to Pinehurst, USGA and Pinehurst officials had begun serious conversations about Pinehurst hosting a U.S. Open at some point in the late 1990s. Pinehurst, in fact, would make an official presentation in June 1992 to the USGA’s Championship Committee. The group voted in that meeting at Pebble Beach that an Open would, in fact, be set for Pinehurst, provided the club would rebuild what were considered substandard greens for elite competition in the summer, and the 1999 Open was announced the following June.

“I was very interested to see how the course would play for the Tour Championship,” Fay said. “I was interested to see if people would get romantic about a course. I was curious to see if time had passed it by. It hadn’t.”

The dominoes have been falling for quarter of a century.  PS

Lee Pace’s first book on Pinehurst, Pinehurst Stories, was released just weeks before the 1991 Tour Championship.

Kidding Around

How U.S. Kids Golf conquered the world

By Lee Pace

Dan Van Horn was coaching his sons’ youth league baseball teams in the mid-1990s when he noticed the quality and variety of baseball bats being manufactured to address the youth market. Versions in aluminum and carbon fiber polymers with narrow barrels, lighter weights and nuanced weight distribution helped kids take a healthy cut and develop their form without being burdened with weights their small limbs and core couldn’t handle.

It occurred to Van Horn, a lifelong golfer, former mini-tour player and a father with an interest in his children learning the game, that the golf industry did a poor job addressing adolescent golfers in a similar fashion.

“You could find junior sets with a 3-wood, 5-, 7- and 9-irons that were essentially adult clubs, sawed off and a ‘junior’ label slapped on,” the Atlanta businessman says of his 1995 “ah-ha” moment. “The clubs were too heavy, the kids didn’t hit many good shots, and they didn’t have any fun. I sensed there was an opportunity there.”

The first domino fell one year later when he incorporated U.S. Kids Golf with the idea of manufacturing “ultra-light” clubs for kids based on their body heights with shaft flexes and swing weights geared to each length. The next domino fell in 1997 when the first club rolled off the assembly line.

“It was all about having fun,” Van Horn says. “If you play well, you’ll have fun. If you’re having fun, you might buy in for a lifetime.”

The dominoes kept falling through the years — establishing competitions for kids on local, regional, national and worldwide stages; setting junior-oriented tee markers so a 9-year-old could hit a driver and 6-iron on a par-4 like his dad does; coming to Pinehurst in 2006 for world championships that have become staples in the local golf scene; and creating coaching programs to help PGA of America members learn how to better teach and connect with kids and sell their memberships on the value of drawing children into golf.

In 2015 one of the most interesting dominoes yet fell: the purchase of a struggling club in the Sandhills, and the establishment of a working “golf laboratory” with a mission of teaching and growing the game among juniors and families. U.S. Kids Golf Foundation, established in 2000 as a supplement to the U.S. Kids equipment business, bought Longleaf Golf & Country Club in April 2015 and renamed it Longleaf Golf & Family Club.

“We’d been coming here for ten years and kept seeing Longleaf slide a little bit,” Van Horn says. “We wanted to have a presence in the community. We felt very welcome here, very supported by the community. The synergies around the Pinehurst/Southern Pines area as a golf capital, a golf mecca, have been important to us. It seemed like a great place to layer in more of the idea of kids golf, family golf.”

Van Horn and his Atlanta-based company knew what it was like to be a vendor to the golf industry. They understood managing and running tournaments. But there was one key perspective they lacked in the daunting task of expanding a game that is difficult to learn, time-consuming to play, requires considerable financial investment and is fraught with timeless traditions and oftentime stodgy attitudes.

“We wanted to experience the ‘other side of the track,’” Van Horn says. “We wanted to see the challenges in the golf shop on a real-time basis, understand the hindrances in running kids’ golf. We wanted a working laboratory where we could practice our vision of growing the game among kids and families while not disrupting traditional men’s play and club play.”

Van Horn smiles and acknowledges there is a certain dog-catches-the-car-now-what element to the foundation’s fourteen months running Longleaf, a Dan Maples-designed course that opened in the late-1980s golf boom but has struggled amid the early 2000s recession and 2008 financial collapse. Eighty of the course’s sprinklers quit working last summer, and the new owners invested in a new computerized switching and monitoring system to better manage the flow of water around the course. But the sprinklers still didn’t work properly.

“We eventually figured out the original lines ran under Midland Road, and over time the road sank and collapsed the pipes,” Van Horn says. “We wanted to learn the golf operations business. And we’re getting a full education.”

The club facility at Longleaf is teeming this July morning with kids, parents, volunteers and U.S. Kids staff descending here and at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club three miles away for the Red White & Blue Invitational, one of a series of regional competitions leading to the U.S. Kids World Championships spread across ten Sandhills area clubs in early August. This year’s competition is expected to bring nearly 1,600 golfers from more than fifty nations.

The Sandhills wasn’t quite sure what to expect in 2005 when the first U.S. Kids event was held and thousands of visitors from three dozen counties staged a parade through the middle of Pinehurst. All of a sudden, 8-year-olds were playing hide-and-seek in the halls of the venerable Carolina Hotel. Kids hit shots from sand traps by day, sneaked back in to build sand castles by twilight. Kitchen staffs learned to make pigs-in-a-blanket and were ready for French toast orders en masse in the breakfast buffet lines. The 2012 championship was the subject of a 100-minute documentary, The Short Game, that still runs on Netflix and profiles eight youngsters from around the world and their quest to win a world championship.

“I have never seen anything like these kids,” says lifelong Pinehurst resident Marty McKenzie. “These are the highest quality youth on the planet participating in the greatest sport on the planet, and it all takes place in our beloved Pinehurst.”

One initiative from Van Horn and his company that affects not only kids but women, seniors and men whose egos will allow them to stray from the traditional blue-white-red tee system is the implementation of a seven-tee configuration that puts golfers at the correct length of course based on their average driving distance. The practice ground at Longleaf is arrayed with a series of brightly colored stakes numbered one through seven, the closest stake colored blue and located 100 yards away, the middle stake orange at 175 yards and the farthest colored red and set 250 yards off.

A golfer’s average carry dictates which of the seven sets of tees he uses when he gets to the first tee of the course, with the tees at Longleaf ranging from 3,200 to 6,600 yards. The system is clearly explained in colorful signage on the practice tee and first tee. U.S. Kids is working with the American Golf Course Architects Society to educate the industry on setting up courses in this fashion, and the Longleaf staff has entertained emissaries from clubs such as Medinah in Chicago who are interested in making their clubs more welcoming to juniors and newcomers.

“You hear jokes in the industry about three million golfers a year in, three million out,” Van Horn says. “No one has done anything to help people get over what it’s like to be a newcomer in golf. That’s what Longleaf is all about.

“Now we have women playing a course 3,200 yards. It’s faster and more fun. They’re making pars and some birdies. Now they can actually reach a par-4 in regulation. Before they didn’t stand a chance.”

When Pinehurst hosted the 2014 U.S. Open and Women’s Open, Van Horn and his staff counted 26 competitors in the two fields combined who were U.S. Kids alumni, among them Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Lexi Thompson, Beau Hossler, Smylie Kaufman and Mariah Stackhouse.

Van Horn is asked if he could ever have envisioned the empire he’s created over two decades when he wanted better junior clubs for his kids.

“I have a lot of dreams, but I try to be faithful to the vision,” he says. “I take dreams one day at a time and try to be the best every day with it. You always can hope and have grandiose plans. I’m honestly frustrated that it’s not bigger than it is. I didn’t get into this for financial gain. I am doing it because I felt called spiritually and I feel like it’s my life’s mission. Maybe my entire life, I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. Now I do and here I am.”  PS

Chapel Hill-based writer Lee Pace is the author of a dozen books on golf history, including The Golden Age of Pinehurst—The Story of the Rebirth of No. 2.