Pinehurst Heritage Archive

Willie McRae and the Ryder Cup at Pinehurst

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?”

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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)

McRae was talking about, of course, the great Ben Hogan, who had won in Pinehurst three times in the North & South Open, including his first PGA Tour win in 1940, which might’ve saved Hogan’s career.

“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.


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Pinehurst’s Putter Boy included as one of golf’s must-see landmarks


Golf Digest lists Pinehurst’s Putter Boy among golf’s greatest landmarks.

Pinehurst and the Putter Boy go hand-in-hand. Two-time U.S. Open Champion – and two-time North & South Amateur Champion – Curtis Strange sees the connection as well as anyone. “Weren’t we all that Putter Boy once? I was,” he told us recently.

“It’s the coolest symbol in all of golf,” Strange adds.

Golf Digest this week collected what it feels are golf’s most treasured landmarks, and there among Augusta’s Amen Corner and The Old Course’s Swilcan Bridge, Golf Digest lists Pinehurst’s iconic Putter Boy. It’s an honor that humbles us here at Pinehurst greatly, and one we don’t take lightly.

And neither, it seems, do those who visit Pinehurst. Perhaps it’s the second stop after a moment with the Payne Stewart statue, or maybe the first, but the Putter Boy standing between Pinehurst’s two main putting greens offers a glimpse into Pinehurst lore and legend, one that has been woven over a century. Below are just a few of the images you, our guests, shared with us.

Also, here are a few of our favorite Putter Boy Images:

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Simson makes Pinehurst history with eighth North & South Amateur title

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With his victory at the 2016 Senior North & South Amateur, Paul Simson is now the winningest golfer all-time at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club. (Photo by Thomas Toohey Brown)

Simson has won more championships at Pinehurst than any golfer in history


VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – His scorecard signed and attested, Paul Simson sought to find some shade. He settled into his golf cart, his phone in hand. He needed to make a quick call. Then he had a text or two to send.

All of these actions were done with an ever-widening smile on his face. The moment was almost too much.

After all, he had just done something no one has ever done in the 120-year history of Pinehurst.

Paul Simson won his eighth North & South Amateur championship on Thursday – his sixth North & South Senior Amateur – to become the all-time winningest golfer at Pinehurst.

“Who else in the world can say they have their name on the Pinehurst wall of honor more than anyone else?” Simson said, the smile never leaving. “It’s really cool to have done it just once. To have it more than anybody else is pretty special.”

Over 20 years ago, before he won his first North & South Amateur, Simson couldn’t bring himself to even look at the wall of names of past champions in Pinehurst Resort and Country Club’s famed clubhouse.

Sure, Simson knew all the names, and knew them well. But even for the man who seems to have won every amateur title imaginable, it was the thought of having his name emblazoned in bronze at Pinehurst that sent the chill through him.

“I wouldn’t even go by the wall,” Simson said of that time. “I just wanted my name to go up there so much, I couldn’t even bring myself to look at it.”

Now, it’s up there eight times, twice on the North & South Amateur wall – in 1995 and 1996; Simson is the last man to have won back-to-back North & South championships – and now six times in the Senior North & South – 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015 and in the 65th playing of the event, in 2016.

With the 1-shot victory over Pinehurst resident Macon Moye, Simson on Thursday eclipsed 7-time North & South Amateur Champion George Dunlap, 7-time Women’s North & South Amateur Champion Estelle Lawson Page, and Carolyn Cudone, who won six Senior Women’s North & Souths and one Women’s North & South Amateur.

“Doing something special in golf is always something you strive for or hope to achieve,” Simson said. “To win a state amateur or a mid-amateur or a senior amateur, but Pinehurst being the premier golf resort in the country, to have your name up there more than anybody else is incredible.”

That says a lot coming from Simson, 65, a legend in amateur golf. He’s won more than 200 titles, and in 2010, he won the British Amateur, the Canadian Amateur and the U.S. Senior Amateur in a span of 55 days. In 2008, Simson played in the U.S. Senior Open, the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst and the U.S. Senior Amateur.

But the possibility of winning for the eighth time at Pinehurst weighed heavily on Simson’s mind.

“I have to admit, I’m surprised I thought about it as much as I did,” he said.

Simson had to close strongly to win the championship, and did so, making birdie on the 16th and 18th holes of Pinehurst No. 5 to rally and claim the victory over Moye, who had eagled 17.

“I didn’t really think about it last night,” said Simson, a Raleigh resident. “But on the drive down here and today while I was playing, I thought about it. And sometimes it was a curse and sometimes it was a motivator.”

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Canada’s Judith Kyrinis won the Senior Women’s North & South Amateur for the second straight year. (Photo by Thomas Tooohey Brown)

Simson wasn’t the only champion on Thursday to defend his title. Canada’s Judith Kyrinis, who won the 58th Senior Women’s North & South Amateur a year ago, fired a tournament-low 69 on Pinehurst No. 1 to win by 10 shots over Amy Ellertson and Marie-Therese Torti to successfully  – and emphatically – defend her championship.

“I’ve had a lot of people over the last year text me and email me when they saw my name in the hallway when they visited Pinehurst,” Kyrinis said. “It really is an honor to have your name up there forever and your picture up for the year. I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled again.”

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Patty Moore won her sixth Putter Boy trophy after winning the Super Senior Women’s North & South Amateur for the third time. (Photo by Thomas Toohey Brown)

Pinehurst Country Club member Patty Moore won the Super Senior Women’s North & South by a stroke over Beatriz Arenas, winning a coveted Putter Boy trophy for the sixth time. Moore, who won the Senior Women’s North & South three times, has now won three Super Senior titles.

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Don Donatoni won the 2016 Super Senior North & South Amateur at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club. (Photo by Thomas Toohey Brown)

Don Donatoni, of Malvern, Pennsylvania, shot a 3-under 69 on Pinehurst No. 8 to win the Super Senior North & South Amateur by one shot over Logan Jackson.

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“Dead City” on Pinehurst No. 2

There is a place on Pinehurst No. 2 that legendary caddie Willie McRae calls “Dead City.”

He would know.

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Kids and Pinehurst

For more than a century, Pinehurst has welcomed even the youngest of golfers.

With the playing of the U.S. Kids Golf World Championships, we felt it would be a good time to update some of Pinehurst’s most storied vintage photographs. Great thanks to U.S. Kids Golf, photographer John Gessner, and most of all, to the incredible Tufts Archives.

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