Pinehurst: 'The Cradle of American Golf'

Jun. 08, 2014 @ 05:02 AM

The very origination of Pinehurst, from the idea to the village to the resort, was a combination of north and south.

Pinehurst's status as a mecca for golfers on "this side of the pond" for more than a century now — as Pinehurst Resort bills itself as "the Cradle of American Golf" — comes from one of the truest links between the sport's Scottish homeland and the New World.

In a Sept. 10, 1962, Sports Illustrated article previewing the upcoming U.S. Amateur Championship to be played on Pinehurst No. 2, which will make history be being the first course to host the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open on back to back weeks beginning tomorrow, journalist Gwilym S. Brown wrote, "This (championship) is as appropriate a gesture to history as it would be to play the World Series at baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown."

Wealthy Bostonian James Walker Tufts, who made his fortune through inventing, manufacturing and selling soda fountains, bought 500 acres of land initially in 1895 which became 6,000 acres at somewhere between $1 and $1.25 per acre. He intended to turn the middle of the Sandhills and the Carolina pines into a health retreat, primarily meant for his fellow New Englanders.

Frederick Law Olmsted's urban architecture firm, already renowned for designing New York City's Central Park, planned the village's layout.

Guests stayed a night at the Holly Inn in the Village of Pinehurst for the first time on Dec. 31, 1895, for $3 a night.

Tennis, croquet, riding and shooting were initial pastimes at the resort; and golf predated Donald Ross's work at Pinehurst.

Nine holes became Pinehurst No. 1 in 1898 followed by a second nine added from 1899-1900. Pinehurst Resort and Country Club acquired Course No. 9 on Monday, acquiring nearby Jack Nicklaus-designed National Golf Club.

Ross, a Scottish immigrant, was hired as Pinehurst's golf pro in 1900. His home was, and is, beside the third green of Pinehurst No. 2 — which he completed in 1907.

Ross redesigned Pinehurst No. 1 and designed No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4. He constantly worked on and made changes to No. 2 until his passing in 1948.

With the U.S. Women's Open Championship, Pinehurst No. 2 will become the only course to have hosted the five championships the U.S. Golf Association considers its majors — the U.S. Open, the U.S. Senior Open, the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Women's Amateur as the other four.

Pinehurst has welcomed the PGA Championship, the PGA Tour Championship and the 1951 Ryder Cup.

The United States defeated Great Britain 9.5-2.5 in the matches. Each of the 12 matches — four alternate-shot matches and eight singles matches — was a 36-hole match.

Player-captain Sam Snead led the American team of Ben Hogan, Skip Alexander, Jack Burke Jr., Jimmy Demaret, E.J. Harrison, Clayton Heafner, Lloyd Mangrum, Ed Oliver and Henry Ransom.

Brown's 1962 Sports Illustrated article recounted a reported anecdote from the 1951 Ryder Cup.

According to an English visitor, many visitors to the country club that weekend in November were out playing the other Pinehurst courses while "only several hundred" were watching the Ryder Cup on No. 2.

"The greatest players in the world are here and no one is watching them," said the traveler. "What's the matter with these people?"

"A Pinehurst oldtimer," said Brown, answered, "My good fellow, people come to Pinehurst to play golf, not to watch it."

Whether or not a major championship is part of a Pinehurst summer, the four North and South amateur championships are tradition.

The 114th Men's North and South Amateur Championship will be contested June 30-July 5 on Pinehurst No. 8. It is the longest consecutively running amateur golf championship in the country.

Andrew Dorn, last year's champion, is in this week's championship field. Dorn, from West Chester, Ohio, earned an alternate spot in last week's sectional qualifier in Springfield, Ohio, and gained a tournament berth due to an injury to Thomas Bjorn.

The 112th North and South Women's Amateur Championship will take place at Pinehurst No. 8 July 14-19. Similarly, it's the longest running women's amateur championship in the U.S.

Last summer's champion, Ally McDonald, now a rising senior at Mississippi State University, went through Sanford to earn her place in the U.S. Women's Open Championship. McDonald needed one playoff hole to claim the last of four berths handed out in sectional qualifying at Carolina Trace Country Club on May 29.

There are junior and senior North and South championships each summer.

The founding mission of the North and Souths, said Richard Tufts, is "to provide an annual gathering of those who love the game, rather than a spectacle."

Historic intentions

The late Payne Stewart won the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. Michael Campbell defeated runner-up Tiger Woods by two strokes to win the 2005 Open.

Comparisons from within the last 15 years are much easier to envision and make, but Pinehurst's hosting of the 1936 PGA Championship will be the closer relative to these upcoming national championships. For trivia's sake, Cleveland native Denny Shute won the 1936 PGA, defeating Jimmy Thompson 3 and 2 in the 36-hole match play final.

The tie from Pinehurst of three generations ago and today has been made through the research, renovation, architecture and groundskeeping work of Bob Farren, Pinehurst's director of grounds and golf course maintenance, and the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

Even after two successful, memorable U.S. Opens, then hosting the 2008 U.S. Amateur, the physical renovation, or restoration being the more popular term, began in March 2010 with the 2014 Opens already on the calendar.

"The idea has been to restore the course to what we feel Donald Ross's intentions were," Farren said.

Following the U.S. Amateur in '08, talks about the major undertaking became more than talks said Robert Dedman Jr., president of Pinehurst Resort, because, "we felt we had become too much like everyone else."

At the same time, the No. 2 of Stewart's title-winning putt and remembered fist pump was beloved in the golfing world as it was.

"Pinehurst was not a business model that was broken," said Coore, who grew up in Davidson County, attended Wake Forest and played at Pinehurst while growing up.

"We're so grateful. This golf course means so much to us," he said during a question and answer session held on No. 2's first tee in April.

During summer breaks as a youngster, Coore was part of day trips down to Pinehurst. The heat and humidity didn't bother them.

"We could play here for $5, for a day pass, $5 and you'd play all day. We'd play three rounds in a day," he said.

The restoration team researched Pinehurst archives, correspondence to and from Ross — although there wasn't as much content there as with other Ross courses around the country since Ross lived beside the third hole — and photos, especially aerial photos from 1943 from which Farren said they counted 117 bunkers, although counting Ross's bunkers was a "moving target," he said.

Plush, long rough returned to the natural Sandhills terrain. Wider fairways and about 300 yards added to the championship tees since the 2005 Open are changes, too.

Wiregrass, odd, uneven terrain which is sometimes soft sand, sometimes hard and packed, footprints, some being human, and divots, the pinestraw and tufts of native flowers are all summed up by another favorite phrase around Pinehurst. Ross called it "broken ground."

"The uncertainty of the shots played from the native roughs is something we think is going to be the most interesting story," Coore said.

Players, even the best in the world, may draw a lie for a clean swing and perfect contact, or a lie where they could have to ponder taking an unplayable penalty.

There will be no thick 4-5-inch rough which has made "U.S. Open rough" common lingo to golfers. While the pines make for scenic borders along many of the holes, even a duffer — from personal experience — has to miss well left or right for a tree to come into play.

Just after saying Pinehurst has "always been a wonderful, iconic course and a true championship test," Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA, said playing major championships with the "unique aspects of the Sandhills of North Carolina" will be remarkable to see.

"From a shot value standpoint, I think it will give the best players in the world shots they haven't had to make before," Davis said.

We still haven't reached the green. Farren and Coore said the greens and areas around the greens are trademark defenses of every Ross course — let alone his masterpiece.

Many of No. 2's greens are large in square footage, but small in the space a player can hit and remain in good shape for a par. False fronts, deep and large grass bunkers and a lot more "broken ground" make for more shot choices, most players would rather not think about.

The U.S. Open doubleheader is the brightest stage possible to expo the restored Pinehurst No. 2 to the world, but even the next two weeks won't mark the end of the project, Farren said.

"It's always evolving" and "there is no completion date," Farren said.

It makes sense since the restoration is a little more than four years old and Ross never fully completed his work on No. 2 either.