“It doesn’t feel like 50 years, and I don’t feel like I’m 75 years old either,” says Hatcher, laughing. “Once you get into it, the time just goes by. I think this is the ideal job for me. I love people, and keeping them smiling, that’s our deal.”
“I usually take two weeks off in January and February, but this may be the last winter I work, maybe,” Goins adds, “but spring has sprung if Frolin is back.”
“I like the way people are interested in golf and see how happy they get playing it,” Goins adds. “Well, I tried to play, but it wasn’t for me, but I like seeing others enjoy playing.”
“If you see someone having a bad day, you grab one of their partners and ask to see if there’s something you can do, they will tell you, and you do it, and that works,” Goins explains.
“I have had people come over and be mad, but when they leave here, me and Larry got them laughing,” Hatcher adds. “And they will come back and tell us how much they enjoyed themselves. We just try to make them happy and do the extras when they get off the bus, speak to them, shake their hands, tell them we’re glad they’re here. And when they leave, we tell them to be sure and come back and see us, and they do.”
Jenkins, perhaps sportswriting’s greatest satirist and certainly one of the great golf historians, has the credibility to make that claim stick. He’s referring to the North & South Open, Pinehurst’s first entry into professional golf that came half a century – and more – before any of the U.S. Open championships Pinehurst No. 2 today is so well known for.
It’s a tournament that sometimes gets lost in the annals of pro golf, and honestly, even lost in the lore of Pinehurst itself. Every day in the clubhouse’s hallowed hall, guests and golfers stop and marvel at the North & South Open wall of champions, there next to the more well-known North & South Amateur wall, trying to place the tournament’s legacy in their memories. Often, though, it’s not there.
But as the arrival of April harkens the dawn of another Masters, a studious glance of that North & South Open wall reminds those of us with Pinehurst ties that, many times in golf, before men were masters, they were champions at Pinehurst.
Here is a look at five of the greatest players the game has ever known and what they won at Pinehurst before donning their first green jacket, with a few honorable mentions thrown in.
THE HONORABLE MENTIONS
NOT EVERY PLAYER ON THIS MASTER LIST below has a North & South Open championship to his name – the tournament did end its run in 1951, after all, just 17 years after the birth of The Masters – but it is striking how many giants of the game competed in the event in its 50 years. To wit:
Horton Smith, who won the first Masters in 1934 and again in 1936, won the 1929 North & South Open, the first of two Pinehurst triumphs (he also won the North & South Open in 1937). Smith won 36 times professionally…
Cary Middlecoff won The Masters in 1955, but 10 years earlier – and as an amateur – he won the 1945 North & South Open. Middlecoff won 40 times professionally, including three majors…
Henry Picard won the North & South Open for the first time in 1934 and again just two years later in 1936. Picard won the 1938 Masters and won the PGA Championship in 1939. Picard is credited with working with Ben Hogan in the 1930s, eventually convincing Hogan to weaken his grip. Hogan dedicated his first book, “Ben Hogan’s Power Golf,” to Picard in 1953. We’ll get to Hogan in a moment…
A few final notes on the North & South Open: Walter Hagen won the event three times (1918, 1923, 1924). Alec Ross, Donald Ross’ brother, won the most North & South Opens, with six. Donald Ross won three. Byron Nelson won the North & South Open in 1939, and won two Masters, in 1937 and 1942.
Now, a look at the five best players in history to win at Pinehurst before they won The Masters.
Then came Pinehurst, and after two brilliant opening rounds of 66 and 67, he held on to beat Sam Snead. “I won one just in time,” Hogan said at the trophy ceremony. Nine majors and 68 more professional wins – including two more North & South Opens – followed.
4. ARNOLD PALMER
RANKING THE GAME’S GREATEST PLAYERS is tricky, especially when major championships are factored in. But perhaps no player has had as great an impact on golf than Arnold Palmer. But his win at Pinehurst is a difficult one to find. It’s not the North & South Amateur, which he laments, and where he lost twice in the semifinals. Palmer turned professional in 1954, so he missed the North & South Open, and he was past his prime for the PGA Tour events at Pinehurst in the 1970s and the U.S. Senior Open in 1994.
But there is a win at Pinehurst in the Palmer ledger, and he recalls it fondly. While at Wake Forest, Palmer won the 1948 Southern Conference Championship – a precursor to the Atlantic Coast Conference – over North Carolina and North & South Amateur rival Harvie Ward, who nearly holed out from the fairway of 18 to tie Palmer. “It would’ve dismayed me quite a bit,” Palmer says now of Ward’s shot. “It was a great shot that scared me to death, let’s just say that.”
Palmer won The Masters four times, the first coming 10 years after his lone win at Pinehurst (1958, 1960, 1962, 1964).
3. SAM SNEAD
AGAIN, WE’RE SPLITTING HAIRS trying to rank the greatest of the greats, and it wouldn’t take much to move Palmer up this list.
That said, Snead won 82 times on the PGA Tour, with three of those wins coming in the North & South Open. After finishing as the runner-up in Hogan’s big breakthrough in 1940, Snead returned to Pinehurst and won in 1941. He followed that with North & South wins in 1949 and 1950. Snead won The Masters three times, the first in 1949 (and in 1952 and 1954). He is the only player in history to have won the North & South Open and The Masters in the same year.
2. TIGER WOODS
IT WASN’T THE NORTH & SOUTH AMATEUR. It wasn’t either the 1999 or 2005 U.S. Opens (although he came very close – see above), and Woods did not appear in the 2014 U.S. Open.
But Woods is a Pinehurst champion.
“It’s just at some tournaments. It hasn’t been nationwide. I’m not that big yet.” -Tiger Woods
In what seems like a bit of quaint history, two years before he became the youngest at the time to win the U.S. Amateur, Woods won the “Big I” on Pinehurst No. 7. The tournament’s formal name was the Independent Insurance Agents Youth Golf Classic, and at the time it was one of the elite junior tournaments in the world.
Tiger was 17, his largest gallery was about 75 people and at one point, he was inadvertently knocked to the ground by a woman who grabbed his shirt while seeking an autograph. Woods had an ice pack on his wrist afterward, and speaking to reporters, said, “The price of fame, I guess.”
Woods was asked about his notoriety, even then. “It’s just at some tournaments. It hasn’t been nationwide. I’m not that big yet.”
1. JACK NICKLAUS
JACK NICKLAUS HAS WON AT PINEHURST almost as much as he’s won at Augusta.
Before The Masters’ ceremonial opening tee shots by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne placed Arnold Palmer’s green jacket on a chair on the first tee. It was a beautiful way to begin the 2017 Masters. Watch the moment here:
As Roy Williams guides the North Carolina Tar Heels back to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament, we’re reminded of Williams’ past visits to Pinehurst, and the time we were able to catch up with him and chat about all things golf and basketball – including, if you can believe it, his time out philosophy. (Seriously.)