Pinehurst Golf News Archive

Ernie Proctor’s Second Wind at Pinehurst No. 2

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89-year-old Ernie Proctor stands on the 18th green with legendary Pinehurst caddie Willie McRae.

By ALEX PODLOGAR

ERNIE PROCTOR STOOD ON THE 18TH TEE OF PINEHURST NO. 2, a golf course just 20 years older than he. His 83-year-old caddie, the legendary Willie McRae, asked Proctor which club he wanted.

“Three wood,” said Proctor, ready to swing a golf club for the first time in at least, he says, 20 years.

McRae ambled around the bag and reached for the 3 wood. But as the caddie extended his right arm – an arm that has pulled clubs for presidents, celebrities, superstar athletes and in events such as the 1951 Ryder Cup and 1999 U.S. Open – Proctor changed his mind.

“Ah, let’s hit the driver,” Proctor said.

McRae happily obliged. “Now you’re talkin’.”

McRae set the ball on the tee. After a warmup swing, Proctor addressed the ball. After one last glance up a fairway all of the game’s greatest legends have walked, Proctor took the driver back.

“Yessir!” McRae sang. “That’s a beaut! A beaut!”

Off the tee in the air, the ball came to rest about 100 yards away, right in the middle of the fairway.

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Ernie Proctor tees off the 18th hole of Pinehurst No. 2 as caddie Willie McRae looks on.

IT’S NOT OFTEN McRAE, who’s been caddying at Pinehurst for seven decades, loops for someone older than himself. But that was the case on Wednesday when Elmcroft Senior Living resident Ernie Proctor, at a spry 89 years old, came to Pinehurst to feel young again. As part of Second Wind Dreams, a nonprofit organization helping assisted living people an opportunity to fulfill a dream experience, Proctor was able to play the 18th hole of No. 2 under a brilliant Carolina blue sky.

Joined by his wife Erica, Proctor met McRae in front of Pinehurst’s storied clubhouse, walked through the hallway lined with vintage photographs, and settled into a golf cart alongside McRae, who regaled his golfer with stories of Ben Hogan, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.  McRae was a frequent golfing partner of Earl Woods while the two were stationed together in the Army.

“Forty years ago, they used to call me a tiger,” Proctor told McRae. “Now they call me, ‘Cubby.’”

Joking aside, Proctor needed little assistance as he made his way to Pinehurst’s famed practice range, Maniac Hill. Side-by-side, Proctor and McRae hit wedges together, bantering about long ago days in the Army. Wearing a U.S. Kids Golf cap, Proctor spoke of his favorites, from Woods to Mickelson to Spieth to the U.S. Kids golfers he used to watch outside his window at his home in Pinehurst.

“Oh, I love seeing the kids,” he said.

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PROCTOR DIDN’T NEED TO HIT any more shots up the 18th. He asked McRae to pick his ball up, and the two rode slowly up the fairway toward the 18th green. There, McRae pulled the putter and a couple of golf balls, setting Proctor up to roll a few putts. McRae gave him the line, and Proctor nearly holed the second putt he tried from about 20 feet.

“Ooooohh!” Proctor sighed, his knees buckling like a tour pro’s. “That’s a good one right there,” McRae beamed. “Looks like you’ve done this before.”

After a few more putts, the gentlemen doffed their caps and shook hands. Proctor visited the Payne Stewart statue, then retired to the veranda and a rocking chair, a cold drink in his hand, watching as the golfers came through.

Moments before his tour of the 18th, a large corporate group had finished play on No. 2 for the day. Many of them watched Proctor from the veranda as he putted on 18, and came over to him as he rocked the April afternoon away.

Proctor shook hands, he smiled, and he asked of each and every person who came up to him, “What’d you shoot?”

He’d ponder each score, nod his head, and, more than once, let his company know he once had an ace on the 9th hole of No. 2.

On this day, it was an easy memory to recall.

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118 yards away? Just putt it

First spotted at GolfNewsNet (please visit the site; it’s a really good one), here’s a look at one way to approach the greens  – even from 118 yards away – at fabled Oakmont, site of the 2016 U.S. Open.

It’s a method we can appreciate here at Pinehurst.

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Pinehurst’s Mitchum to honor Townsend, and raise money for his family at Wells Fargo Championship

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Michael Townsend is pictured with his family (l-r), son Spencer, wife Katherine and daughter Ana Kate.

As a lead instructor at the Pinehurst Golf Academy, Kelly Mitchum gives lessons every day trying to help guests and students improve at the game of golf.

Now, though, Mitchum would like to give something more through golf.

When Mitchum recently qualified for the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, he took the spot that was originally earned by fellow PGA Professional Michael Townsend, who tragically died in a car accident last summer just eight days after winning the Carolinas PGA Section Championship.

Playing in Townsend’s place, Mitchum is hoping to raise money for the Michael Townsend Trust Fund, which benefits Townsend’s family – his wife Katherine and the couple’s two children, 3-year-old Spencer and 1-year-old Ana Kate.

Those interested in making donations may do so in one of several ways: by pledging a dollar amount for the number of birdies or pars made by Mitchum at the Wells Fargo, or with a one-time contribution.

The Wells Fargo Championship will be played May 2-8, 2016. Those interested in donating may contact the Pinehurst Resort Tournaments office at tournaments@pinehurst.com for more information.

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Golf and High fives? Not a good match

High fives in golf often go horribly wrong.

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What’s next for Bryson DeChambeau? Might it be knickers?

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If you’ve followed us here in the past, you know of phenom Bryson DeChambeau’s affinity for the late Payne Stewart, who is, of course, near and dear to our hearts at Pinehurst.

And while DeChambeau has mentioned in previous interviews he dons the hat in a tribute to Payne, the next question soon became obvious. And today, DeChambeau was asked that question:

If you can’t read DeChambeau’s answer there, here it is:

Q. Any chance we can see you in knickers a la Payne Stewart?

BRYSON DECHAMBEAU: “I think I have to make my card before I pull that one out. I don’t think I’m ready for that. We’ve definitely thought about it, we almost did it at The Masters and we almost did it last week, but it just wasn’t the right time.

“It would have looked arrogant to the other players out here. I have to be respectful of them because, again, I’m not trying to come out here and say, ‘Hey, look, I’m this new star.’

“That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m just trying to pay my respect to the guys that have made golf what it is today, and I think there’s a right time for it and you will see it. But I just don’t know about it being right now. We’re definitely thinking about it and trying to make it happen, though.”

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