Pinehurst Golf News Archive

Playing Pinehurst No. 2 – at 100 years old

M.O. Owens, at 100 years old, lines up a putt on Pinehurst No. 2.

BY ALEX PODLOGAR

When M.O. Owens Jr. picked up the game of golf, he used two clubs – a 7 iron and a putter.

“On that course, a 7-iron was all you needed,” he says now.

It was a short, dusty 9-hole course near Greenville, S.C., opened right around the time Owens picked up that fateful 7 iron. But at the time, that course had something in common with Donald Ross’s famed Pinehurst No. 2.

“Sand greens,” Owens recalls. “Just a little 9-hole sand-green course.”

That was in 1932.

On Thursday, over 80 years later, No. 2 had something else in common with that long-forgotten track.

M.O. Owens Jr., now nearly two months after his 100th birthday, had played both.

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“It was delightful. I can now say I’ve played No. 2. That’s great.” – M.O. Owens

Owens shuffles off the back of the 18th green, moments after sliding his 30-footer from the front of the green just past the right lip of the cup. He makes the 2-foot comebacker to close out the round.

“Amazing,” says Adam Ludlum, Owens’s caddie. “Just amazing.”

His last day at 99, Owens shot his age. Well, he shot an even 100, but at that point, a little rounding up is OK.

“Three-to-four weeks before that, I shot 92,” Owens says, a brief glint in his eye, before he pauses a second, “but that was way back.”

It isn’t Owens’s first trip to Pinehurst – he played No. 8 not long after it opened in late 1990s – and the Gastonia pastor was in the gallery for the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Opens. But this, his first time playing No. 2, is different.

M.O. Owens points out a picture lining the hallowed hall of Pinehurst’s Resort Clubhouse on Oct. 31.

“At the Open, you can really only see one hole at a time. I saw all 18 today.”

Owens, who founded Parkwood Baptist Church 50 years ago, didn’t shoot his age on No. 2. He says he didn’t play well on this day, and he wasn’t pressed to provide a score.

The score didn’t matter anyway.

“It was delightful,” Owens says, his voice rising. “I can now say I’ve played No. 2. That’s great.”

All it took was 81 years.

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In those eight decades of golf, M.O. Owens Jr. has never broken 80.

Never.

Oh, he’s been close. He’s gotten to 80 before. And over the years, golfing regularly with members of his congregation and other friends, he’s hit that magic number and signed a few low-80s cards.

“I’ve been around there a number of times across the years,” Owens says.

That number is out of reach these days. Of course Owens knows that. And he’s going to have days when the course is too much for him. Seven months from hosting back-to-back U.S. Opens in 2014, No. 2 is one of those courses, and it wears Owens down.

“I didn’t play very well,” says Owens, waiting a beat again as a tone soaked with equal parts resignation and truth surfaces, “but when you get to my age, you don’t expect to.”

Yet Owens keeps coming out. Keeps swinging the club. He plays like we all do. Warm up on the range. Roll a few on the practice green. Head to the tee.

And at times, there is frustration. Golf is hard. We all know that. But at 100 and on a U.S. Open-ready course?

That’s tough. Real tough.

But, you play to 100, you learn a few things about the game along the way.

“Sure, you get frustrated sometimes, but I learned a long time ago that it’s not worth getting upset about things,” Owens says. “There’s always another day…”

That pause again. You hang on what’s coming next. You know something is coming, and it’s gonna be good.

Apparently, among the other things you can learn over a century, is perfect timing.

“There’s always another day…

“Hopefully.”

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Phil Mickelson sheds more light on prepping for Pinehurst

 

No doubt, Lefty is narrowing his season all around Pinehurst.

Phil Mickelson has shed more light on how he will alter and shorten his 2014 playing schedule in anticipation for the U.S. Open on Pinehurst No. 2.

Mickelson recently told reporters he plans to play in the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis the week before the Open at Pinehurst as a tuneup.

“I enjoyed and felt like playing Memphis the week before was very helpful for me to be ready,” said Mickelson, who added a sixth runner-up finish at the U.S. Open this past summer a week after taking second at St. Jude. “They are very similar grasses at Memphis as we have at Pinehurst, with the exception of the greens being bent at Pinehurst … so I plan to play Memphis.”

 

Mickelson added he intends to play The Memorial this season. The Memorial is contested May 29-June – a week before St. Jude and two before the Open. Mickelson said he typically likes playing a three-week stretch of tournaments entering majors, but said the Memorial/St. Jude/U.S. Open trifecta will be the only time he plays three weeks in succession this season.

It also sounds like Lefty will be a regular visitor to Pinehurst in the coming months.

“But I plan on having two weeks prior to the U.S. Open lead up, and I’ll have some time in Pinehurst prior to that,” Mickelson said.

Mickelson’s first of his storied runner-up Open finishes came in 1999 at Pinehurst No. 2. He was tied for 33rd at the 2005 Open at Pinehurst.

 

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Going to Bermuda – via Pinehurst

Pinehurst No. 3

Pinehurst No. 3 reopened on Oct. 4 – with Bermuda greens.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

By Lee Pace

The old-timers remember the taut Bermuda grass greens of Pinehurst No. 2 as being as much a part of the experience as the wide fairways, sandy roughs and beveled greens complexes.

“There was nothing like playing those old Bermuda greens,” says Lanny Wadkins, a frequent Pinehurst visitor in the 1960s from his Richmond home and later a mainstay on the PGA Tour.

“They were firm and quick and there was no room for error.”

“The course was built on this pure sand base, and the greens were the identity of the course,” remembers David Eger, who visited from Charlotte often as a junior golfer in the 1960s, later won two North and South Amateurs and now is a regular on the PGA Champions Tour. “The greens were Bermuda at the time and they all sat up and had plateaus where you had to invent shots around the greens. It was very challenging if you missed the greens.”

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We still miss you, Payne

Oct. 25, 1999.

We still miss you, Payne.

… Continue Reading

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Phil Mickelson to scale back schedule to focus on U.S. Open in Pinehurst

 

Phil Mickelson said Wednesday he plans to scale back his tournament schedule to narrow his focus on winning the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

“There is no hiding the fact that winning the U.S. Open would be my career goal, completing the career grand slam,” Mickelson said before the PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic in Malaysia.

 

 

Mickelson has finished as the U.S. Open runner-up six times – famously finishing a shot back of Payne Stewart to place second for the first time in 1999. After winning the Open Championship in July, Mickelson is aiming to become only the sixth player in history to complete the career Grand Slam.

His first chance to etch his name further into history comes at Donald Ross’s famed Pinehurst No. 2 in June 2014. Pinehurst will add to its storied history itself when it hosts the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens in consecutive weeks.

“I want to give myself opportunities to play and compete in the big tournaments, mainly saying the majors, and I’m putting less importance on other events,” Mickelson said.

Mickelson appeared in 20 tournaments last season. For comparison, Tiger Woods, who typically approaches a season focused heavily on performing in major championships, competed in 16 tournaments.

Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen andWoods are the five to win the career slam.

 

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