Kelly Mitchum tees off the 8th hole of Pinehurst No. 2 during his match against Don Padgett II in the 2015 Palumbo Cup Championship. (Photo by Sarah Campbell)
By Alex Podlogar
VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – Put Don Padgett II and Kelly Mitchum in the same pairing, and one could only imagine the conversation.
What could they have talked about?
Gosh, where to begin?
Padgett could’ve mentioned his eight PGA Championship appearances, when he made the cut four times and finished as the low club pro three times.
Mitchum could’ve countered with his own experiences in golf’s last major championship of the year, in which he has competed four times since 2005.
Or perhaps Padgett could’ve mentioned his All-American career at Indiana, his life on the PGA Tour from 1972-74, or the championship-low 66 he shot while paired with Lee Trevino in the 1977 U.S. Open at Southern Hills.
Mitchum, then, might’ve mentioned his own All-American career at N.C. State, his North & South Amateur Championship in 1993, his Walker Cup appearance or his run to the semifinals in the 1992 U.S. Amateur.
As a second-grader Gary Brown knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up – a piano player.
While most kids dream of being an astronaut or President of the United States, Gary’s idol was closer to home. He wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.
Robert Murphy delighted guests in the Carolina Dining Room with his music for three decades before being diagnosed with cancer. He passed away in 2012, but his memory lives on thanks to his family.
You see, Gary isn’t the only member of the Murphy family who plays at Pinehurst. His uncle, Paul Murphy, has been known to take on dinner shifts when he’s not busy at his church.
Gary was just a freshman at Pinecrest High School when he started playing at the Carolina, but piano wasn’t his primary instrument. Instead, he played the drums as part of a trio featuring the Murphy family.
I’ve been playing here for almost 13 years now and it seems like I just started yesterday,” Gary said. “There’s never a dull moment and I love what I do. When I come here, I don’t feel like it’s work at all.”
It didn’t take long for him to graduate to the piano. After all, he’s been playing as long as he’s been walking.
“The piano just drew me near,” he said. “Every time I was around it, I would go and play.”
Gary took piano lessons, but his grandfather helped him hone his skills.
It was Robert Murphy who introduced him to musicians like Beethoven, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. He also instilled in Gary the value of hard work.
“My grandfather always taught me about providing a service and being able to do your best, have integrity and letting your work speak for itself,” he said. “I’ve always tried to carry that on.”
When Gary isn’t playing in the Carolina Dining Room, he’s busy tuning and cleaning pianos, skills he learned from his grandfather. His lessons got underway in 2006 when he was just a junior in high school.
“He was grooming me to take over the family business,” Gary said.
Gary plans to pass his love of music on to his son, Gary Jr., and daughter, Kaelyn.
“My son cries for the keyboard,” Gary said. “I bought him a baby recliner, and when I put the keyboard in front of him, he just plays and plays.”
Kaelyn, who is 5 years old, is more interested in vocal music.
“She’s has an absolutely beautiful voice,” Gary said.
It’s Water Week on theGolf Channel’s Morning Driveand Bob Farren, our director of grounds and golf course maintenance, appeared Tuesday to talk about water conservation at Pinehurst.
“I think it’s certainly a situation for the entire golf industry …,” he told Matt Ginella. “The restoration that we did with (Pinehurst) No. 2 was really about restoring the strategy and the net result of that was a reduced water footprint. Every increase or improvement we had made over the past 50 years involved adding water, that was a common denominator. When we started to restore it, we took away the water.”
Bob shares his thoughts starting at 2:07, but we recommend watching the entire clip as Jim Moore, director of the USGA’s Green Section; Craig Kessler, director of governmental affairs for the Southern California Golf Association; and Dana Lonn, managing director of Toro’s Center of Technology, also weigh in.
No. 2 was honored with the award because it has “implemented water reduction programs in startling and instructive ways.” In 2014, in fact, Pinehurst No. 2 used about 73 percent less water than in 2009 – the last full year prior to the beginning of a major restoration project that eliminated Bermuda rough and reintroduced sand and native wiregrass.
The restoration project sought to return the course to the playing conditions created by Donald Ross in the 1930s, around the time when the course hosted its first major championship and when it began to be regarded as one of the premier layouts in the country. That included restoring a single-line sprinkler system in the fairways and reducing the total number of irrigation heads to 450 from about 1,100.