After 73 years spent caddying on Pinehurst No. 2, Willie McRae is rarely wrong about golf.
But at the first tee on a brisk November morning in 1951, an 18-year-old Willie McRae made the wrong read.
“I don’t get it,” McRae recalls saying in his memoir, On the Bag. “Not only is he itty-bitty, but he damn near died in that car accident a couple of years ago. How they think he’s gonna be able to get the job done?”
Willie McRae, at far left, caddied in Ben Hogan’s group during the 1951 Ryder at Pinehurst No. 2. (Photo Courtesy of the Tufts Archives – May not be used without permission)
“He got up on the first hole and said, ‘Have a nice round. When he finished, he said, ‘Have a nice day.’ He shot 32-34. I said, ‘Yeah, he can play.'” -Willie McRae on Ben Hogan
But McRae, who’s trusted his eyes on No. 2 for seven decades, couldn’t see how the diminutive Hogan could possibly still compete with the world’s best players on the terribly difficult No. 2, which was playing to 7,007 yards for the 1951 Ryder Cup.
It didn’t take long for McRae to change his mind.
“He got up on the first hole and said, ‘Have a nice round,'” McRae told ESPN of that first Ryder Cup round. “When he finished, he said, ‘Have a nice day.’ He shot 32-34.
“I said, ‘Yeah, he can play.'”
Looking back 65 years later, McRae believes Hogan’s Ryder Cup 66 may have been the best round he’s ever seen on Pinehurst No. 2.
“I couldn’t stop raving about that itty-bitty fellow at home that night,” McRae writes.
Tiger Woods makes birdie on Sunday at the 2005 U.S. Open as he makes a charge up the leaderboard.
Tiger Woods announced on Wednesday that he hopes to make his comeback to competitive golf with a handful of tournaments beginning on October. While we’re happy to hear Tiger is at least closer to making his way back to golf, it got us to thinking – since his last competitive round at the 2015 Wyndham Championship on Aug. 23, a lot has happened at Pinehurst in that span between starts.
6. Room Renovations at The Carolina Hotel – This year, all 168 guest rooms in the Carolina Hotel’s main tower have received enhancements. The upgrades will enhance the guest experience by providing a modern look without losing the hotel’s timeless feel.
5. Pinehurst No. 5’s New Greens – The greens at Pinehurst No. 5 have been converted to champion ultra-dwarf Bermuda grass, a move that will extend peak conditions throughout the year.
4. History Hall has more…History – This year, we’ve taken a few minor steps in what we hope will be an improved experience with the vintage photos in the hallway of Pinehurst’s main clubhouse. With the help of the wonderful Tufts Archives, we’ve restored many of the photos, which had been damaged over time.
Also, we’ve updated the framing and matting, and in what may be our favorite part, added contextual captions with each photo. Most of these captions go into further detail about every photo – you already know the where; here, we add the who, the what and the why.
3. Paul Simson Makes History, Then Makes it Again – Since Woods teed it up to start the 2015 Wyndham, amateur golf legend Paul Simson has won two more North & South championships – each of the last two Senior Men’s North & South Amateurs. His 2016 victory in August gave him eight total North & South wins, making Simson the most decorated golfer in Pinehurst tournament history.
PRETZEL BITES with tallegio cheese sauce and honey mustard
CURED MEATS AND CHEESE PLATE
Chicken Wings with House-made Blue Cheese Dip
Crab Hushpuppy Beignets with Fiery Lemon Aioli
NORTH & SOUTH
BRUSCHETTA CHICKEN SALAD
1. The Deuce Opens– For decades, golfers and guests have gathered on the veranda overlooking the 18th green of famed Pinehurst No. 2. Now, they are able to do so in The Deuce, Pinehurst Resort and Country Club’s new bar and restaurant. And after just a week, the reviews are rolling in:
VILLAGE OF PINEHURST — For one weekend, the road to Augusta National went through Pinehurst – with a detour to Athens, Georgia.
Hailing from the suburbs of Athens, the winners of the Boys and Girls 7-9 age group at Sunday’s Drive, Chip and Putt Championship regional qualifier are former classmates who live just six miles apart near the northeastern Georgia city. Nine-year-olds Peter Sposato of Bishop and Claire Bradford of Watkinsville bested the field at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club and advanced to the finals at Augusta National on April 2, the Sunday leading up to the 2017 Masters.
All Sposato needed to do to punch his ticket to Augusta was sink a putt from 30 feet out — a tall task even for the PGA’s best.
No sweat. Sposato, whose favorite golfer is Jordan Spieth, buried the putt. It was a proud moment for his father, Chris Sposato, who had two boys competing Sunday — Dino Sposato finished third in the Boys 12-13 division.
“Exciting. Just an exciting moment,” Chris Sposato said. “And to share it as a family made it even more special.”
Putting was the final contest for each age group — each golfer getting three drives, three chips and three putts with scores based on distance (for driving) and accuracy.
Nine total shots. No mulligans. No room for error.
Bradford, wearing her red and black University of Georgia polo and teal glasses, didn’t need to land a long putt to win — she dominated her group’s drive and chip contests. Playing Augusta will be special for her and her family — her grandfather once worked the leaderboard on the famed. 15th at Amen Corner.
“It’s going to be really cool to play there,” Bradford said following her group’s medal ceremony. “I’ve always wanted to see what it’s like.”
The eight winners in Pinehurst on Sunday will make up a 10th of the 80-player field at the Drive, Chip and Putt finals in August (eight groups, 10 players per group). Joining Sposato and Bradford from the Pinehurst qualifier are Catherine Qiu of Ashburn, Va.; Carter Kontur of Lawrenceville, Ga.; Madilyn Newman, Knoxville, Tenn.; Clinton Daly, of Charlotte, N.C.; Karson Adkins, of Savannah, Tenn. and Jaron Leasure, of Virginia Beach, Va.
Madilyn Newman’s win in the Girls 12-13 division might sound improbable to anyone other than her father. According to Bryant Newman, his daughter was 9 when she saw a commercial for Drive, Chip and Putt as he watched the Masters. The commercial inspired Madilyn — three days later, she was in the backyard chipping. She registered the inaugural competition that same week.
Three years later, Newman came within inches of sinking her final 30-foot putt, earning enough points to advance to Augusta.
“Today is overwhelming,” her father said after snapping cellphone photos of the leaderboard with her high score highlighted in pink. “She got here because of hard work and natural ability. She’s had very little coaching. This is just something she really wants.”
Complete results from Pinehurst and other upcoming qualifying tournaments can be found at drivechipandputt.com.