On the Tee

On the Tee

Together Again

Another chapter in a long association

By Tony Rothwell

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right: Tin Whistles 2024 (Photograph by John Patota)

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

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

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

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

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

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