Jesse Jones was not a caddie with flair, nor did he seek the limelight. He just wanted his players to have the best round they possibly could on a given day.
By Jeff Crabbe
Pinehurst Resort lost a legend, members and guests lost a great caddie and lots of us lost a friend last week.
Jesse Jones is in the very top level of caddies in Pinehurst history. I bet we walked Pinehurst No. 2 20-30 times over my years at Pinehurst, and he made every single step enjoyable.
Jesse was on my very short list of caddies I would recommend to VIP Resort guests as well as guests of mine who would stay at the hotel. He was not into telling stories or giving swing tips or any of that stuff. Instead, he knew No. 2 like the back of his hand and he wanted to give his player that same knowledge. I used to laugh with him when I would see him with the rangefinder that caddies are required to use. Jesse never needed it. He was a walking range finder. Jesse could read No. 2’s greens from the fairway, and as a player, if you wanted your best score possible that day, you better not question his read. Jesse was right. Always.
He was a walking range finder. Jesse could read No. 2’s greens from the fairway, and as a player, if you wanted your best score possible that day, you better not question his read. Jesse was right. Always.
When I would be setting up in the staging area for tournaments on No. 2, he would always greet me with, “What’s happening, Pro?” I can still hear him saying it. I always made it a point to talk to his players in the staging area to let them know what a special day they were going to have with him. I always tell people asking advice on No. 2 to listen to their caddie, but it was even more significant when Jesse was on the bag.
Jesse was a soft-spoken guy. He did a job and he went home. He wasn’t interested in interviews or pictures or things like that; he wanted to caddie and help his players. He enjoyed Jack Daniels, no ice and no mixer – “room temperature,” he told me one time – chased with a Heineken.
When I asked golf pros to caddie for their caddies during the annual Pinehurst caddie tournament, it was for people like Jesse, to give back to him. When I would go to the CaddieMaster Christmas party it was for guys like Jesse to show my appreciation and respect, but most importantly, my friendship.
I will certainly miss him. It makes me sick I didn’t go see him when I was at Pinehurst a few weeks ago.
But Pinehurst No. 2, I think, will miss him even more.
Jeff Crabbe is a former head golf professional at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club.
A sponsor of Jason Day – RBC – has released a mini-documentary about Day’s life, and if you’ve marveled at Day’s play over the last two months and still haven’t heard his backstory, this is 10 minutes definitely worth your time.
It also reminds us of a 2012 interview we did with Jason when he visited Pinehurst as part of an outing with Lexus. It came minutes after Day’s first look at Pinehurst No. 2 (and a few weeks before the Ryder Cup, of which Jason made a prediction).
Looking back, it almost feels like we talked to Jason Day before he became JASON DAY.
Day treated the people at Pinehurst beautifully that morning and afternoon and was sincerely kind at every turn. We’ve been fans of him ever since. And after you watch the above documentary, you may become a fan for life as well.
Buck Entwhistle mows the green after Assistant Superintendent Kirk Adkins completed the verticutting.
The grounds crew starts their day bright and early on Pinehurst No. 2.
Lash Hairston rolls the greens.
Jorge Lagunas Nambo maneuvers the fly mower around a bunker on Pinehurst No. 2.
Trevor Wood uses the weed eater to clean up the edges of a bunker.
Arlindo Lagunas Nambo blasts unwanted debris from a bunker.
Kevin Lee, left, and Victor Little rake a bunker.
Dalton Bullard puts the finishing touches on a bunker.
Eli Alvarez edges the greens. The process keeps the greens’ Champion Ultradwarf and the fairways’ Tifway Bermuda grasses from competing with each other.
Paul Lindsay cleans up after the greens have been edged.
Jeffrey Davis uses a meter to measure volumetric water content.
Jeffrey Davis hand waters a portion of the course.
Sam Tucker lines up the tee placement for the day while Brandi Merrick fills in divots.
Brandi Merrick fills in a divot.
Assistant Superintendent Logan Murphy gets the flags ready for the day.
Daniel Whisenant cuts the hole for the cup placement.
By Sarah Campbell
The world is quiet when the Pinehurst No. 2’s grounds crew begins their day.
The birds aren’t even chirping as the equipment is flipped to the on position, producing a familiar hum that jolts the team into motion.
The Pinehurst No. 2 grounds crew gets to work well before the first group tees off for the day.
The day starts around 5:30 a.m. inside the maintenance facility off Morganton Road. One by one, the crew trickles in carrying coffee mugs, Red Bull and various other highly-caffeinated beverages.
“They do whatever it takes,” Assistant Superintendent Logan Murphy said with a laugh.
“We had to ban energy drinks before the (U.S.) Opens last year because some of the guys were coming in way too hopped up,” said Superintendent John Jeffreys.
By 6 a.m., the caffeine has kicked in and the team is ready to go.
Each morning begins with an assistant superintendent passing out the day’s assignments. Today, it’s Murphy’s turn. He reads from a piece of paper filled with scribbles as duties are changing up to a minute before the meeting.
“We don’t want to burn anybody out, everybody enjoys doing different things,” said Jeffreys, who makes the final tweaks to the day’s lineup.
When creating the list of assignments, Murphy does his best to remember who did what the day before.
“We try to rotate people in and out of jobs that are so much fun, like fly mowing,” he said. “We try to be fair while playing to each person’s strengths.”
Jeffreys, Murphy and assistant superintendent Kirk Adkins don’t just dole out work, they are typically out alongside their crew.
“We try to do something productive to help out,” Murphy said. “It’s a whole team mentality, we all do what’s best for the team. We know everything’s got to be perfect when that first group arrives at the first tee.”
A morning on Pinehurst No. 2
The sun is tucked behind the trees, casting a soft glow on the stately course as about two dozen crew members descend on Pinehurst No. 2.
“There’s a quick rise in action,” Jeffreys said. “We have a long list of things that need to get accomplished each day.”
By the time the crew makes their way out to No. 2 on this particular June day, Adkins has already put in nearly 2 hours of work verticutting the greens. Arriving just after 4 a.m., he used the headlines on his mower to navigate the golf course.
Kirk Adkins arrived early to get the verticutting done.
“Verticutting helps remove thatch from the playing surface, which helps to create firm and fast playing conditions,” Adkins said. “(It) also trains the grass to grow more upright. This reduces the impact of grain and provides a truer putting surface.”
Buck Entwhistle follows behind Adkins on a mower to clean up any residual debris left over from the verticutting.
Next, Lash Hairston rolls the greens to ensure they are in top playing condition.
Arlindo Lagunas Nambo maneuvers the fly mower from bunker to bunker with Trevor Wood not far behind him using a weed eater to clean up the edges. The fly mower looks like a conventional push mower without the wheels, allowing it to hover over tough undulations and steep slopes. Jorge Lagunas Nambo uses a leaf blower to blast any debris from the sandy area.
Dalton Bullard, Victor Little and Kevin Lee, an intern from North Carolina State University, handle the raking, putting the finishing touches on the bunkers. The men have to move fast as there are 117 bunkers on Pinehurst No. 2.
Nearby, Eli Alvarez, an intern from Brunswick Community College, edges the greens. The process keeps the greens’ Champion Ultradwarf and the fairways’ Tifway Bermuda grasses from competing with each other.
Since the restoration of No. 2, which eliminated Bermuda rough and reintroduced sand and native wiregrass, the maintenance team has used about 73 percent less water. Reducing the total number of irrigation heads to 450 from about 1,100 means the team does more hand watering.
“We use a moisture meter to make sure we use the right amount of water,” Jeffreys said. “We don’t want to overwater the greens.”
Jeffrey Davis uses a meter to measure moisture.
The meter, which looks like a pogo stick, measures volumetric water content.
“We’ve established that the greens need to be at 25 percent not to have any stress during the day,” Jeffreys said.
That makes Jeffrey Davis’ job very important. Davis takes about 20 readings throughout the green to pinpoint which areas need water before unwinding a hose attached to a portable system to give the grass the hydration it needs.
The decision to convert the greens to Champion Ultradwarf has been a good one.
“Bent grass, which is what we had before, is a cool season grass. It doesn’t like the heat,” Jeffreys said. “The Ultradwarf gives us a better surface for more days of the year.”
Brandi Merrick and Sam Tucker are responsible for setting up the tees on this June day. The first impression is made here.
“They are packing the divots and making sure the golfers have a good clean tee when they’re hitting,” Jeffreys said.
Daniel Whisenant cuts a cup.
The final step in the morning activity is cutting the cups. Murphy and Daniel Whisenant handle this, resurrecting the familiar Pinehurst No. 2 flag to signal to official start of the day.
It’s 7:10 a.m and the first group tees off at 7:30 a.m, but the work is hardly done. Later, the team will double cut the greens, a process that takes about one hour per green. The golf maintenance crews from all courses also work together to keep the practice areas and grass around the hotels in tip-top shape.
Sarah Campbell is the resort’s content and social media specialist.