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This inside look at one of the most popular cities in America when it comes to championship golf shows how golf is more than a game, it is a way of life in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
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This inside look at one of the most popular cities in America when it comes to championship golf shows how golf is more than a game, it is a way of life in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
|Chapter 1||A Timeless Symbol||1|
|Chapter 2||The North and South Championship||19|
|Chapter 3||The U.S. Open||37|
|Chapter 4||Donald Ross||83|
|Chapter 5||Two Diverging Paths||101|
|Chapter 6||Changing Places||113|
|Chapter 7||More Than Just a Course||119|
|Chapter 8||The Old and the Young||133|
|The Outward Nine||141|
|The Inward Nine||148|
|Chapter 10||Pinehurst: The Village||155|
|Chapter 11||The Caddies||171|
|Chapter 12||The LPGA at Pinehurst||175|
|Chapter 13||The U.S. Amateur||179|
|Chapter 14||The PGA Tour||195|
A Timeless Symbol
Symbols, logos, phrases and other marketing icons conjure meaning in the American sports landscape. And in a place like Pinehurst, where time has tested them since the late 1800s, one ageless symbol has endured: The Putter Boy.
In the early days of Pinehurst, Frank Presbrey, a young advertising counselor, sought to create an image that would represent the spirit surrounding the burgeoning resort. Presbrey would grow into a well-known and sought-after advertising specialist, writing a book, The History and Development of Advertising, and developing images and campaigns.
For Pinehurst, Presbrey developed a young golfing character known in the early days as the "Golf Lad" or "Golf Boy." One of the early advertising pieces was a calendar that featured this same "Golf Calendar Lad" touting the resort as a golf destination and winter retreat. His image appeared on calendars, placemats and brochures. He always wore a floppy hat and carried a golf club. For Presbrey and Pinehurst, he represented a simple ideal. Here was a young man, seemingly happy, with a passion and a sense of purpose to play the game of golf. He was the common man who had a spirit that was evident in his expression and posture.
Today professional sports teams change colors and logos to sell more jerseys, hats and apparel. At Pinehurst, the Golfing Lad has never grown old. His symbol represents the early days, and it represents tomorrow. Reg Jones, member of the 2005 U.S. Open executive committee, says the new Open logo will again be the Putter Boy. "He has not gotten any older," said Jones. "For 2005, he has gotten a little more patriotic."
The logo has not gotten older, but it has evolved. In 1912, sculptress Lucy P.C. Richards sat down with bronze clay in her hands to mold a sundial. Her subject was Presbrey's menu advertising picture of the Golf Calendar Lad. Donald Ross heard Richards was hard at work and wanted to assist Richards with the design of the Putter Boy sundial. He showed up at her studio to show her the proper stance and the grip for the statue. There was a major problem with the sculpting. Richards wanted to make the shaft long to allow for proper right angles for accurate sundial readings. After all, this was a sundial, not a tip on how to properly hold the club and address the ball. Another purist problem with the Golfing Lad is the club. If you examine the original statue, it is clear that the Golfing Lad is holding not a putter, but a driver. The name grew from Golfing Lad, to the Sundial Boy until the 1970s, when the name Putter Boy was adopted. The Putter Boy logo has gone beyond the sun or moon when it comes to marketing. And while advertising executives claim that, "You always need a fresh look," the Putter Boy has evolved since the early days as a signature on shirts, hats, and every imaginable printed item in circulation. Tom Stewart, owner of a golf memorabilia shop in the village comments, "It has become a very visible logo, and you can pick up the sundial statue around town for the going price of around $1,000." Since landowners and winners of the North and South were the original holders of the Putter Boy statues, it has increased in value.
The bronze Putter Boys were once given away as real estate offerings. When people bought a piece of land during the 1970s, the Putter Boys were gifts at closing. In 1978, the Sundial made its way from the golf putting greens adjacent to the verandah, to the PGA World Golf Hall of Fame.
The Putter Boy has since been returned to the original home between the resort's two practice greens. When the first player tees up on June 16, 2005, the Putter Boy will be more than 100 years old.
Where to Begin
Many observers think that the first golf design expert at Pinehurst was Donald Ross. Wrong. In 1898, a disgruntled local dairy farmer approached James Tufts to discuss the golf ball-sized hail that was coming from a field. How could his cattle graze properly if wooden balls were bombing them? After researching the white wooden balls and tracing them back to the hickory shafted sticks being swatted by resort guests, Tufts came to a swift conclusion that they needed a place to hit these darn things. His initial frustration was discussed with an acquaintance, Dr. Leroy Culver, a physician in nearby Southern Pines. He asked Culver about what it would take to add the sport of golf to his resort offerings. Culver had two qualities that endeared him to Tufts: he loved the game, and he once played the game on a Scottish links course. He was hired. Culver was the original designer of golf at Pinehurst. He designed nine holes.
Maybe the best way to describe the advent of the game of golf in America is to travel to Scotland and England and observe the British Open. The shrill echo of Scottish bagpipe music is distinct, there is mist in the air, the wind and rain ignites the senses to golf's humble beginnings. Scotland-the place where unrestrained natural terrain gives way to the game's birthplace.
At the turn of the 20th century, the game of golf was just planting its roots in America. And at Pinehurst, Tufts was picking up the golf balls and trying to understand the significance of the game. This was not James Naismith and the peach basket. This was someone who casually observed and absorbed. He was one of many Americans who were simply trying to understand the game and its nuances.
As you continue to enjoy the softness of the bagpipes and the salty North Sea air while you take a refrain, remember that place in America in the 19th century that had little use. James Taylor was not yet singing "Carolina in My Mind." It was a raw desert. A plat of land in the North Carolina sandhills region was functionally obsolete. The soil was too sandy, and the forest too dense with pine to even consider cultivating its limited value. Heck, it was not even very good to generate tar and turpentine. Yet James W. Tufts saw value in the rarefied air. He was not as interested in the soil as he was in the awesome climate. Meteorologist Tufts sought the mid-range temperatures and the afternoon shade from the tall pines. Tufts called it a vacation for the senses. And what better way to accommodate his passion for relaxation in the warm Carolina air, than build a resort?
The Pinehurst resort was born in 1895, a resort that allowed its guests to visit, pass the time and relax. It just so happens that some of the resting vacationers were being disturbed by the clank of wooden balls. It wasn't until a few friendly vacationers opined on what "Tufts really needed," that the grand designer even considered a game born in Scotland. With a nudge, Tufts decided his resort needed a golf course. In 1897, 60 acres were cleared, about a three-minute walk from the village of Pinehurst. The idea was to construct six and nine holes, just enough to catch the passing fancy of some of the guests who wanted to play that European game born in Scotland. Can you still hear the bagpipes?
About the same time Tufts was excavating pine in central North Carolina, a Harvard professor, Robert Wilson, became obsessed with golf. He traveled during his summers to Dornoch to become acquainted with the sport. One of his personal acquaintances was Donald Ross. At Wilson's urging, Ross, in 1899, spent his entire savings venturing to the new world. Wilson rewarded the young man by hiring him as the golf professional of Oakley Golf Club in Watertown, Massachusetts. Less than a year later, Tufts went north looking for golf professionals, and was introduced to Ross. An interview was set up at Tufts's house, down the road in Medford. Tufts found a young man with a passion for the game in Ross, who initially spent winters in Pinehurst and Watertown, and later Essex, during the summers. He saw the greater opportunity in Pinehurst and teamed with Frank Maples, the Pinehurst superintendent of courses. His technique for designing was born from his mentor, old Tom Morris. He learned the trades of club making, greenskeeping and design from Morris. Ross was taken by Pinehurst's rolling terrain, which reminded him of home. He was taken by the soil, and now he had the perfect blank canvas. He saw possibilities for carving more than just nine holes at Pinehurst, courses that could allow a player to cover every club in the bag and test the most challenging mind of the game. Within a year of arriving at Pinehurst, Ross had completed his first nine holes, which later became the No. 2 course. In 1901, when the first nine holes were finished, the course measured 2,275 yards. When the second nine were finished in 1907, the total test was a mere 5,860 yards.
More than 100 years later, as amateurs and professionals analyze Pinehurst, they begin hitting the small greens with long irons. They ramble and stumble about, getting up and down from greenside hazards. Then they discuss the overall test of the mind. Pinehurst has become the Wrigley Field or Lambeau Field of golf. It has a historical bent that few courses hold. It is the home of golf.
But Pinehurst is much more than that. Pinehurst has become frozen in time as a small-town slice of Americana where thousands of vacationers come to relax, just as Tufts had planned in 1895. The village offers a non-commercial district, the landscaping is in bloom full season and the architecture is decidedly southern. It just so happens that Pinehurst is a throwback. As the technology of golf has grown in gigabytes, Pinehurst has stood the test of time through its refusal to compromise its individuality. It is truly an original-original and tough. In the 1999 U.S. Open, Payne Stewart and Phil Mickelson showed up on the 72nd hole, battling to beat even par. Even par was just how Ross would have wanted it. From Azinger to Zoeller, they shake their heads in disbelief and put it in a category that begs the elite. Pebble Beach, Pine Valley, Oakmont, Oakland Hills and...Pinehurst. It is not easy to identify one singular reason for its difficulty. The courses, through several modifications, were unmistakably demanding and yet very simple. Ross's course layout methods were unique. He first positioned the sandy greens and then contoured the hole back to the tee. His imagination was complex-he knew he wanted to provide a stern test to the ultimate manager of the game of golf, yet nothing was done with the terrain to render gimmicks. There was subtle positioning and a premium on preciseness. The smallish convex greens reminded him of his homeland. The bunkers were strategically placed and provided enough penalties to most players without being punishing.
Ross was fair, so in most cases he allows the player who often plays a low shot unimpeded entrance to the green. At Pinehurst, the flow of the golf courses has as much to do with the layout than, say, a sloping green or severe dogleg. His passion for the game is found in the simplistic way Ross delicately carved between the mature landscapes that nature allowed.
Golf's beginnings at Pinehurst were humble but assertive. Tufts and Ross knew they had something special from the start. They knew the basics they were establishing might be better for the time-tested player. The game was just developing a momentum that offered players at the time an alternative to the very early courses in the northeast. When the chill of winter came, the Pinehurst resort boasted a warm climate. But there was more. The game in Pinehurst was evocative of the Scottish-born courses. The difficulty lies in the players' ability to manage the ball off the tee, then to position the approach shot in a way that par or better is possible. Likewise, if St. Andrews is the home of golf, so too is Pinehurst the home of golf.
Ross never stopped tweaking the playing field. And the USGA never stops tweaking the playing field. The USGA credo may as well be "Faster (greens), taller (rough) and longer (playing yards)."
Ross created a masterpiece from scratch. He molded, sculpted, refined and pioneered the most subtle aspects of the playing field. USGA executive director David Fay said, "The United States may not have a St. Andrews, but Pinehurst is the closest thing to St. Andrews we have in terms of the feel for the history of the game, the passion of the game. The whole place just exudes golf."
Some things never change. Hear the bagpipes, smell the pines and hit the ball.
Field of Dreams
Magnolia Lane, the pounding surf on the rocks at Pebble Beach, the walk from the clubhouse to the first tee at Pinehurst. The steps begin from the historic clubhouse. Then, past the large putting greens, the bronze sundial of the Putter Boy and the statues of Donald Ross, Richard Tufts and Payne Stewart. This is all part of the soft-spike walk to the first tee at No. 2. Like the beginning of a classic novel, the experience of playing Pinehurst No. 2 begins to take hold when you are greeted at the starter's desk, where there is a monument with a message from Donald Ross:
"I sincerely believe this course to be the fairest test of championship golf I have ever designed. It is obviously the function of the championship course to present competitors with a variety of problems that will test every type of shot, which a golfer of championship ability should be qualified to play. Thus, it should call for long and accurate tee shots, accurate iron play (and I consider the ability to play the longer iron shots as the supreme test of a great golfer). Precise handling of the short game and precise putting." - J. Donald Ross.
Least Obvious Gem
Cal Brown wrote in 1973 that "of all the famous courses, the least obvious gem is the No. 2 course at Pinehurst. It is not as dramatic as Pine Valley or Pebble Beach, not as elegant as Augusta National or Merion. Pinehurst No. 2 appears quiet, unassuming, almost drab in comparison with those American classics."
Brown points out that Ben Hogan won his first professional tournament at Pinehurst. And he defines the greatness of the course in explaining that the first three holes are a delicate and fair beginning. He adds, "The sequencing of holes of different lengths builds with a harmony and logic only achieved in great art."
I Visited a Course in Georgia Last Week ...
It was a simple mention, really an afterthought. It certainly was not meant as a comparison. John Derr, a young newspaperman, in 1935 was standing in the lobby of the country club at Pinehurst and muttered a profound, "I visited a course in Georgia last week, and it was the prettiest course that I have seen."
Derr, a rookie newspaperman, did not mention that he had covered the second Masters Championship at Augusta National. He didn't have to. He didn't mention that he was a couple of holes away from where Gene Sarazen recorded what is possibly the most historic golf shot in history-his four wood for double-eagle on the 15th hole. Derr did not even mention the name Sarazen, and the double eagle was not part of the story he was weaving. Derr wanted to describe the beautiful golf course-the playing field. Derr was not so interested in the shot. He was speaking to Mr. Wilson, the manager of the Pinehurst clubhouse. Derr wanted him to understand the quality of the course. Wilson's response was a simple, "Uh huh."
It was the response from the gentleman in the vest behind Mr. Wilson that turned the tide of the conversation. Derr, eager to get back to the photographer's convention at the hotel, was redirected by the gentleman in spectacles and a vest who stopped Derr in midsentence to explain that Pinehurst had a fine course, too.
Derr, who later became a television journalist for the Masters and other golfing events, simply stated his perception of a superb golfing venue. The man behind him was Donald Ross. He was tapping his toe, waiting for the right time to interject a statement. And his first comment was, "Come with me, and I'll show you a golf course."
Reluctantly, Derr walked around the clubhouse with his now eager tour guide. They walked around the clubhouse to the first tee where Ross sauntered down the first fairway and said, "I have grass on three greens." Bending down and showing him the first green, Ross never stopped to allow Derr a chance to steer the conversation any other direction. Instead, they went to the second hole and discussed the sand in the bunkers. Ross and Derr made it to the third hole, and Ross showed Derr the mounding and discussed the importance of the second shot into the third hole. The positioning of the tee and the contour of the fairway were parts of the script that allowed the player in harmony to maneuver to the position in which par was a possibility.
Derr endured. Finally, after a couple of hours of visiting the course, he made it back to the hotel. He was greeted by a few of his convention mates with smiles.
"Where ya been?"
"You wouldn't believe. I made a comment about my trip to Augusta to see the Masters and this man insisted on me seeing the course."
"Well, you missed the contest," said the group of photographers.
"The contest?" asked Derr.
"Yeah, we had a nude model."
Derr says, "I have never forgiven Mr. Ross for the day he wanted to show me the course."
A Little Walk in the Park
When asked to describe the Pinehurst No. 2 course, long-time director of golf Don Padgett said, "It's like a walk in the park." Padgett ushered Pinehurst into an important era in golfing history. "I came on board when I think Pinehurst was turning the corner," he once said. He was a teacher-a mentor. Padgett died in May of 2003, leaving a legacy of accomplishment in the world of golf. During the 1970s he was the director of the PGA of America. He is service at the PGA championship was widespread. Long-time colleague Ken Crow said, "We took a trip to Firestone about 10 years ago. There was Don in pictures with the champion. Then we took a trip to Pebble Beach, there was Don, again, in pictures with the champion." A young apprentice in the Golf Advantage School said, "I watched the Golf Channel and was checking out the rough condition of Augusta [it was video of an event in the 1970s] and there was Padge-a rules official. What is most amazing about the impression he made on the sport is that Padgett was an understated gentleman of the game. As an administrator, his hand was on the pulse of both the amateur and professional game.
At Pinehurst he cultivated the spirit, which eventually brought major championship golf back to the sandy soil of central North Carolina. Long-time friend and golf administrator Ken Crow said, "He did not always give you the answer. He taught you three or four ways to handle many situations, which then led you to the answer. He taught in parables." Padgett was most proud of the players who walked up the Pinehurst Country Club steps. "Anyone who is anyone in golf has had their picture taken on the brick steps at Pinehurst."
When it comes to the course around Pinehurst, his words flowed with ease. "You should never hit a ball out of bounds here, and there are no water hazards. You should finish with the same ball you started with." That really never helped golf ball sales in the pro shop. But what separates the game at No. 2 is how many times you strike the ball, especially around the greens. "They are inverted saucers. I watched Tiger Woods during a practice round at the 1999 U.S. Open. He dropped a ball behind the 18th green and started with a six or seven iron. His precision to get the ball to stop on the crest of the green was amazing with each club. That is the way around here," said Padgett. He admitted that there is nothing really intimidating about Pinehurst. "On the surface there is no stadium environment here. The fairways are quite wide and open. You finish your round and you say, 'Why don't I play this course better than I do?' One of the recent publications honoring No. 2 as a true classical test of golf said, 'It's a lot like listening to the recording of a symphony orchestra. Repeated listenings are needed to fully appreciate the depth of the meaning.' Golfers on Pinehurst No. 2 might need a second or third round listening to savor its timeless appeal."
After All, It's Just a Little Walk in the Park
And the players who have played at Pinehurst, well, all the world's a stage and the men and women are merely players. Padgett used to talk about the big three-meaning Nicklaus, Palmer and Trevino. All found the fairways of Pinehurst.
What makes Pinehurst No. 2 so special? Lee Trevino said, "No condominiums around it. When you look across the fairway, you can see other players. You are not looking at a big dog going woof, woof. Or there are no swimming pools in somebody's yard. You are not looking at fences and stuff. That's what makes this golf course so great. You go out there and it is quiet. All you can hear is the birds chirping. You don't see any rubber flamingos in the back yards."
Just a Scrapbook
"He was like a grandfather to me," said Sam Taylor, who worked at the Golf Advantage School in the early 1990s, referring to Don Padgett. "He was more than just a golf historian, professional and confidant to so many that worked in the golf business." At Pinehurst he was a man who steered the ship clear of the fog. Many believed he was an integral part of why, after so many years of absence, the USGA and the PGA Tour took another look at the forgotten resort.
Some thought the Carolina drought of the late 1960s, '70s and '80s was about rain and sandy soil. Others, now looking back, know it was about the neglect the Pinehurst golf courses were receiving. It turned a dogleg at the time Padgett came on board. The return of professional golf was a step in the right direction. The two tour championships in 1991 and 1992 navigated them through the thick and thin in more ways than one. Thick being the stoutly winner of the 1991 event, Craig Stadler. Thin being the subsequent year champion, Paul Azinger. Taylor says, "Until those two tournaments, some thought Pinehurst was just a resort course.
"I was learning the golf business from the inside, much like a blue-collar worker in a factory," said Taylor. Like so many who worked at Pinehurst, Taylor did not expect to get a lot of respect from the leader, the man in charge. He remembers Padgett's spirit beyond the sport. "He had a way of endearing you to the game, and with Mr. Padgett, it wasn't all about golf."
One day Padgett called Taylor into his office. Padgett's office could have been a shrine of golf memorabilia and accomplishments. It was not. It was understated, much like the man. Taylor was certain the meeting was called to reprimand him for a task he had forgotten to accomplish the previous day. As Taylor sat down, Padgett pulled out a large scrapbook of golf-related paperwork and pictures, from Padgett's days at PGA of America and his countless hours at various clubs throughout America. Padgett kept a collection of letters and notes. On this summer day he asked Taylor to look at a letter he had received from Jack Nicklaus in 1977.
In 1977, a red-haired Huck Finn-looking Tom Watson, (10 years his junior) was beginning to make a mark on the PGA Tour. Watson beat Nicklaus in head-to-head duels at Augusta and again at the British Open. At this time, Padgett was the president of the PGA of America. He had run into Nicklaus during a difficult year. Jack approached Padgett and asked, "What do we need to do to change the format of the Ryder Cup? We need all of continental Europe to be a part of this thing," said Nicklaus. Padgett coached Nicklaus. Padgett said, "The way it works is this: one of the leading players in the game sends a letter of recommendation to me. Then, as administrator, I could then act on that letter."
Padgett soon received a letter from Nicklaus. The letter was succinct. He mentioned in the letter than it was time for the Ryder Cup to change the format and include European players. Jack Nicklaus also describes this in his autobiography, My Story, with Ken Bowden.
Padge, as Taylor liked to remember him, kept his scrapbook in his desk. "It had a lot of golf history. More than I had ever seen."
Posted December 25, 2007