Pinehurst Heritage Archive

Pinehurst legend Willie McRae enshrined in Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame

Legendary Pinehurst caddie Willie McRae was enshrined in the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame over the weekend, celebrating McRae’s rich life and over seven decades of caddying in Pinehurst.

With more than 40 friends and family looking on, McRae spoke at the CGA’s Annual Meeting, regaling the audience and those around him that evening with several of the stories that have made McRae one of Pinehurst’s lasting figures. The CGA also produced the video above, featuring some of Willie’s best stories while noting his historic legacy at Pinehurst.

McRae’s legendary time at Pinehurst traces much of the area’s rise in the annals of American golf. He has caddied for five presidents, for celebrities from Mickey Mantle to Michael Jordan and many of golf’s greatest figures, including Donald Ross, Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead.

“I’ve always been thankful to be able to work at a place like Pinehurst,” McRae said. “Everybody’s always been so nice to me. They’ve always made me think I was the important person.”

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Willie McRae is pictured with his CGA Hall of Fame plaque. McRae’s image will be placed with all of the members on the CGA Hall of Fame Wall in The Carolina Hotel. (photo courtesy of the CGA.)

McRae is one of just two living participants of the 1951 Ryder Cup, which was contested at Pinehurst. He has caddied in several of golf’s greatest championships, ranging from the Ryder Cup to multiple U.S. Opens and U.S Women’s Opens. A great player in his own time, in the 1950s the U.S. Army stationed McRae at Fort Dix instead of shipping him overseas, installing him as the captain of the golf team.

“Willie always says that everybody is somebody, that everyone has a right to be treated well,” said Pinehurst President Tom Pashley. “But what we all know is that Willie has always been one of the most important people at Pinehurst.”

“It’s a very proud moment for the Carolinas Golf Association,” said G. Jackson Hughes Jr., the chairman of the CGA Hall of Fame selection committee. “Willie McRae has meant so much to so many people for so many years here at Pinehurst. It’s a well-deserved award.”

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Pinehurst caddie Willie McRae speaks at the induction ceremony of the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame. (Photo courtesy of the CGA).

“It’s nice to know that with his enshrinement into the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame, Willie’s picture will be on the Hall of Fame wall in The Carolina Hotel forever,” Pashley said. “To know that his family will always be able to walk by that photo and see how much Willie has meant to the game of golf is really special.”

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Feeling OK about a Pinehurst “collapse”

Jason Gore may have collapsed in the final round of the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, but it doesn’t erase all of the great memories

After the New England Patriots’ monumental comeback to win Super Bowl LI to beat an Atlanta Falcons team that led 28-3 at one point, much of Monday has been spent recalling the worst “collapses” in sports history.

One that has been mentioned often involves golf – Greg Norman’s final round of the 1996 Masters. Another in golf, though, might come from the 2005 U.S. Open. Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen and overnight sensation Jason Gore were in the championship’s final pairing that fateful Sunday, but each fell off the leaderboard faster than anyone could have possibly anticipated.

Before the 2014 U.S. Opens at Pinehurst, though, Gore returned to No. 2 for the first time since that Sunday round, a round in which he shot 84 to freefall from a chance at winning the U.S. Open to a tie for 49th.

But here’s the thing – Gore still humbly recalls with great feeling the overwhelming support he felt from Pinehurst and the fans here at the Open. And he credits that week – and that day specifically – with helping him forge a fruitful career in professional golf. The video above is long – it’s nearly 6 minutes – but his emotion is ever-present, and his story about making the final putt on 18 to close Saturday’s third round will give any golf fan goosebumps, especially those who were in the grandstand that day.

Jason Gore may have collapsed in shocking fashion the next day. But it was also a moment that helped him in every way in every day thereafter.

Not a bad perspective.

 

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Bones’ greatest regret? His read on the 17th at Pinehurst No. 2 in 1999

Jim “Bones” Mackay, in all the years and tournaments and major championships caddying for Phil Mickelson, has one single regret – and it comes from Pinehurst.

In the latest edition of No Laying Up’s tremendous series of podcasts, when Chris Solomon asks Bones whether he has any regrets, Bones doesn’t hesitate.

“Definitely – ’99 U.S. Open against Payne Stewart.”

Beginning at around 42 minutes, 15 seconds above, Bones reflects on Payne Stewart’s incredible birdie putt to save par on 16, and the remarkable tee shots both Payne and Lefty hit on 17.

But Lefty’s birdie try slid right and missed, and after Stewart’s birdie on 17, the one-stroke lead Payne took to 18 proved fateful. (You can see all of that in the video below).

Bones says he misread Lefty’s birdie attempt.

“I thought it was a straight putt,” Bones says.

“It was such an amazing day at that golf course. Such a great golf course and we started having this really awesome weather. It started misting. It was almost like they were playing in Scotland.” -Jim “Bones” Mackay, Phil Mickelson’s caddie

“There’s no question, by 100 miles, if I could change one thing over the course of my caddie career, in terms of input that I gave Phil, it would be that.”

Still, Bones recalls the day fondly, and the duel between Mickelson and Stewart.

“It was such an amazing day at that golf course. Such a great golf course and we started having this really awesome weather. It started misting. It was almost like they were playing in Scotland.”

If you love golf, the entire podcast is worth a listen. Don’t miss No Laying Up’s extremely candid conversations with Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, either. 

And, of course, @NoLayingUp is one of Twitter’s best follows.

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A Merry Vintage Christmas from Pinehurst

It’s always fun sifting through vintage photos, but it’s even better when they include memories from Christmas past. 

Most of these images were shot at the Carolina Hotel during the 1940s, proving the holiday season was just as special then as it is now.

Enjoy this look back.

Photos copyright Tufts Archives

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My letter from Arnold Palmer

 

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Thanks to The Tufts Archives, Pinehurst was able to send this image to Arnold Palmer in April. (Photo copyright Tufts Archives)

By ALEX PODLOGAR

You would hear the stories. “He writes everyone back. You’ll get a letter.”

But you don’t believe it. Not at all. Why would Arnold Palmer write a return letter to me?

And that was a prevailing thought even in the good times. It’s no secret over the last few years that Palmer was in declining health. And at the time of my letter, Palmer was 86 years old.

But it’s also why I rushed to write the letter.

The letter accompanied a large framed photograph of Arnold Palmer and his father, Deacon. As part of a project at Pinehurst, I found the photo – a beautiful black and white image of a youthful Arnold standing with his father near the 9th tee of Pinehurst No. 2. The timestamp from the Tufts Archives marked the photo from 1954, making Arnold around 25 years old.

It’s a pure golf image. They stand together, father and son in sweaters over collared shirts, with Deacon looking off and to the left and Arnold staring straight at the camera. Both hold golf clubs. Arnold isn’t smiling, but he isn’t necessarily not smiling, either. It appears, if you gaze at the image long enough, that he may simply be mere moments from breaking into the smile that greeted so many a nervous fan or sportswriter.

In fact, there is another image, near the same spot on the same day, where Palmer and his father are both grinning, Arnold in mid-strut.

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When Pinehurst embarked on a year-long project to restore the vintage photos hanging in the historic clubhouse in 2015, I found the father and son photo. It had not been framed and hung in the clubhouse before, but in an instant, I knew it needed to have its home there. It should live in Pinehurst’s clubhouse forever, and it should be next to the famed image of Harvie Ward and Arnold from the 1948 North & South Amateur.

But it was an image I believed Palmer should have as well. Deacon visited Pinehurst regularly in the 1930s and 1940s with a group of golf buddies from their home in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and their hotel of choice was the Manor Inn. Arnold came on occasion and then attended Wake Forest College in the late 1940s when it was located in the town of Wake Forest, just north of Raleigh. His love of Pinehurst never wavered.

Standing in as a representative of Pinehurst, I sent a copy of the image, enlarged and framed beautifully by Tony Hill, to Palmer. In the letter with it, I wrote:

There were one or two photos, though, that we replaced, and that includes the one we present to you today. In my research at the Archives, I came across this photo of you and your father at the ninth hole of Pinehurst No. 2. It immediately became the highlight of our project, and we’ve positioned it in the hallway adjacent to a vintage photo of you and Harvie Ward at the 1948 North & South Amateur.

Our project has been well received, but no photo has drawn more interest from our guests than this one. Nearly every day, we are fortunate to witness the reactions of our guests to this photo. These moments are what make Pinehurst so special.

Thank you, Mr. Palmer, from all of us at Pinehurst, for your lifelong affection for our home. Few people have meant more to Pinehurst in our storied history than yourself, and your father. It is a story we are blessed to tell, and one we will continue to tell for decades to come.

To say I didn’t hope for a response would be unfaithful. But I didn’t expect one. Those are two very different things, and Mr. Palmer had been ill.

But, dated April 28, 2016, and postmarked May 2 – less than two weeks after I had sent my letter and his photo – came the response.

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My letter from Arnold Palmer. (Click to enlarge)

It reads:

What great memories that photograph of my father and me at Pinehurst brings to me.

We had some wonderful times playing golf and just enjoying life on the trips we made to Pinehurst with a number of Pap’s friends from Latrobe.

Of course, I have been back to Pinehurst countless times since those early days and have many treasured memories of those visits.

I’m pleased to know that the framed photograph is hanging in a prominent place in the clubhouse and thank you very much for sending me the framed copy. It will find a prominent place here in Latrobe.

Sincerely,

Arnold Palmer

Whether Palmer himself dictated, typed or even thought about that response is of no concern to me. He signed it, and while the signature he crafted for so many years to be legible for his legions is written with a shaky hand, it only means that much more.

Pinehurst will never be the same without Arnold Palmer.

Thank God for memories – and photography.

 

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