Pinehurst President Tom Pashley speaks to members of the media Tuesday during the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Preview Day at Pinehurst Resort.
The newest era in Pinehurst’s history with the USGA was marked with another step Tuesday when USGA and Pinehurst officials gathered with members of the media near Pinehurst No. 2 for the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Preview Day.
The third playing of the Four-Ball, which will be contested on No. 2 and No. 8 from May 27-31, will be the ninth USGA championship at Pinehurst. While it’s been less than three years since the unprecedented back-to-back U.S. Opens were played in June 2014, the Four-Ball begins a new slate of USGA championships here. With the 2019 U.S. Amateur and the 2024 U.S. Open returning to Pinehurst, the Four-Ball kicks off a run of three national championships in a brief span of seven years.
“After the 2014 U.S. Opens, we were asked often, ‘What’s next? Now, we have three future USGA championships on our calendar. It’s an exciting time at Pinehurst.” -Pinehurst President Tom Pashley
“After the 2014 U.S. Opens, we were asked often, ‘What’s next?'” said Pinehurst President Tom Pashley. “Now, we have three future USGA championships on our calendar. It’s an exciting time at Pinehurst.”
The Four-Ball will open with a field of 128 sides (256 players), which were determined from qualifying sites throughout much of 2016. Two stroke play rounds will determine the low 32 sides before the event shifts to match play. The semifinal and championship matches are May 31 and will be broadcast by Fox Sports.
In four-ball, each player plays his own ball and the low individual score of a side determines the team’s score in medal play or winner of a hole in match play. The format is a common game played among many recreational players, making it a natural fit at Pinehurst.
Assembled media listen to Pinehurst President Tom Pashley during the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Preview Day on Tuesday at Pinehurst Resort.
“The Four-Ball showcases the kind of golf played at Pinehurst every day,” Pashley said.
2015 Four-Ball champion Todd White was featured at the event, fondly recalling his long and storied amateur career that has taken him to many of the top golf courses and amateur events around the country. But for the 49-year-old history teacher from Spartanburg, S.C., Pinehurst resonates even more.
“The opportunity to compete for any national championship is special,” White said. “Then, to be able to compete in a place like Pinehurst, amid all this tradition — who wouldn’t want to play? To be part of that history, especially as a history teacher, is special.″
2016 Four-Ball champions Andrew Buchanan and Ben Baxter joined the news conference via Skype. The Southern Methodist teammates remembered visiting Pinehurst a couple of years ago for a college tournament.
“You walk through the clubhouse there and get goose bumps when you see all the history,″ Buchanan said.
Pinehurst has been a bastion for amateur golf almost since its founding in 1895. Both the North & South Amateur (since 1901) and Women’s North & South Amateur (since 1903) are the longest consecutively-running amateur championships in the United States. Pinehurst has also served as the site of the U.S. Amateur twice (1962, 2008) and the U.S. Women’s Amateur (1989.) North & South junior and senior events also take place each summer, and the U.S. Kids World Championships are held in Pinehurst every year.
IN 1907, DONALD ROSS WALKED DOWN FROM THE CLUBHOUSE and across the road into untamed lands. Although in close proximity to his early version of No. 2 Course, the terrain was strikingly different. These lands bumped and rolled in a way that would allow the resort to provide an unusually wide variety of playing scenarios. Ultimately, this blend became one of the central elements of the club’s appeal.
Although the soil was ideal for design, it was the distances between the knolls and ridges which stirred the young professional. At the time, he could have gotten away with any number of configurations. But, it was increasingly clear this man would not be satisfied until he had taken any task to an optimal level.
This was also the time when Ross was in the process of establishing his reputation. You can be entirely sure he knew his efforts on No. 3 would be a critical point on that path.
What is now the 2nd hole on Pinehurst No. 3 includes the return of an original bunker and sandscape feature that Donald Ross had originally designed for the hole. Here, the area is seen in its three iterations – past, recent present before the returned features on No. 3, and today.
You can also be sure his determination on this point was characterized by the sort of intensity that is the province of genius. Such were the factors which gave rise to one of the more important points along the Ross timeline:
Pinehurst No. 3 was Donald Ross’s first ingenious design.
And that genius is again evident in many of the flourishes Pinehurst has returned to No. 3:
Much of the restoration work is designed to return elements of Ross’s original design characteristics, including sandy native areas and wire grass. Where before players could see mounds or depressions that reflected past design features, now those elements are brought again to the forefront with the sandscape and bunkering.
Note the above photo of what is now the second hole of Course 3. The vintage photo is from the 1930s, and one can see how the native area defines the hole. In the middle photo, that area was grassed over, though the original slope of the land remains. Today, though, as the course reopens, the work Kyle Franz did to recover that area returns the hole to its vintage glory. And what you don’t see – the bunker comes into play off the tee from the first hole as well. It’s pure Ross.
Two new holes were built – both par-3s – and the course will play to a par 68. In doing so, the two new par-3s are devilish short holes that feature sandscape and water. In addition, where the par-3s were placed allowed designers to rework two other holes, making them more interesting in the process.
Tour the course and it quickly becomes readily apparent – Ross-style strategy is evident throughout. Short par-4s could be drivable, but the small turtleback greens and native areas could make a short hole yield a big score in a hurry. Perhaps the player should lay up off the tee instead to a number he or she is more comfortable with into those small greens. Much like No. 2, the player may now need to consider the hole location even from the teebox.
The rough bunkering around these small greens are vintage Ross.
Ross’ genius was in the ability to envision a seamless run through the uncommon collection of hills and hollows. Long shots, short approaches, uphill, downhill, side hill, the course balanced all these elements with an exceptional sense of adventure.
It was on these lands that his talent crossed over from the dormant to the fully awakened.
AS WITH ALL COURSES OF THE DAY there have been a number of changes. The housing adjacent to most fairways can lead attentions away from appreciating the brilliance of Ross’s use of the land. In addition, some of the original holes were incorporated into No. 5 Course (where they are still in play). For many years, the course has been greeted with less enthusiasm than the design warrants.
Well, the exceptional nature of the course did not escape everyone’s attention.
“I don’t think people understand how good these holes are”. – Ben Crenshaw
Mr. Crenshaw’s words (which far preceded his association with the club) tell you all you really need to know about No. 3. Even most weekend golfers know there is no greater authority on such matters.
An example of how Ross brought so much personality to this course can be found in the contrasts between two back-to-back holes on the inward nine.
The uphill 14th is not your standard par-3. In the days of hickory clubs, it played 208 yards to a green placed at the top of a fairly sharp hill. No one but the ace player was expected to reach the green with their drive. But Ross never forgot the shorter player. There is ample room for a tee shot left of the green leaving a short pitch. Like many of golf’s finest holes (such as the 13th of Augusta), it is essentially a “half-par hole”.
After this strong challenge, Ross balances the ledger by having the 15th offer a real opportunity for birdie. The unusually wide variety of holes is continued here with terrain that is the opposite of the 14th. The 15th tee shot plays sharply downhill to a wide fairway. The fairway ‘cants’ left to right, adding yet more playing interest. Those attempting to reach the shortish par-5 in two will have to contend with one of the most intriguing bunkers Ross ever did. In modern times the angular gully that crosses the entire fairway has been grassed in. Now it’s back to the sandy, rustic look of earlier days. This will enhance the strategic as well as aesthetic aspects.
AFTER EARLY YEARS OF GLORY, with lofty words in the journals and battles among the world’s best (Sarazen, Hagen, etc.), the course drifted into a kind of obscurity. In some quarters, you’d hear a word or two about its relative merits.
But the rest of the 20th Century found it literally and metaphorically on the other side of the tracks. The current era of golf architecture is rooted in an appreciation of the early masterpieces. Considerations of those works have led a number of clubs to return to those earlier versions. In virtually every case, the reestablishment of classical stylings has been greeted with applause.
This was certainly the case with No. 2. In fact, the praise for that restorative work was so lavish that the next chapter in this long running saga became entirely clear.
The day has arrived when the rest of the Pinehurst courses begin their prodigal return to Ross’s era.
JAMES TUFTS, THE FOUNDER OF PINEHURST had a simple formula for turning his vision into a first tier production: hire the best possible people. That infallible approach is being carried on today. The artisans at work are among the very best in the world. The knowledge and artistry of today’s team are nothing short of brilliant.
The resort lived for many years on past glories. But, Payne’s “moment in time” did more than signal a return to greatness. It was the opening page of a new chapter that will be every bit as storied as those days when the giants of history stalked one another on these fairways.
“It doesn’t feel like 50 years, and I don’t feel like I’m 75 years old either,” says Hatcher, laughing. “Once you get into it, the time just goes by. I think this is the ideal job for me. I love people, and keeping them smiling, that’s our deal.”
“I usually take two weeks off in January and February, but this may be the last winter I work, maybe,” Goins adds, “but spring has sprung if Frolin is back.”
“I like the way people are interested in golf and see how happy they get playing it,” Goins adds. “Well, I tried to play, but it wasn’t for me, but I like seeing others enjoy playing.”
“If you see someone having a bad day, you grab one of their partners and ask to see if there’s something you can do, they will tell you, and you do it, and that works,” Goins explains.
“I have had people come over and be mad, but when they leave here, me and Larry got them laughing,” Hatcher adds. “And they will come back and tell us how much they enjoyed themselves. We just try to make them happy and do the extras when they get off the bus, speak to them, shake their hands, tell them we’re glad they’re here. And when they leave, we tell them to be sure and come back and see us, and they do.”
Jenkins, perhaps sportswriting’s greatest satirist and certainly one of the great golf historians, has the credibility to make that claim stick. He’s referring to the North & South Open, Pinehurst’s first entry into professional golf that came half a century – and more – before any of the U.S. Open championships Pinehurst No. 2 today is so well known for.
It’s a tournament that sometimes gets lost in the annals of pro golf, and honestly, even lost in the lore of Pinehurst itself. Every day in the clubhouse’s hallowed hall, guests and golfers stop and marvel at the North & South Open wall of champions, there next to the more well-known North & South Amateur wall, trying to place the tournament’s legacy in their memories. Often, though, it’s not there.
But as the arrival of April harkens the dawn of another Masters, a studious glance of that North & South Open wall reminds those of us with Pinehurst ties that, many times in golf, before men were masters, they were champions at Pinehurst.
Here is a look at five of the greatest players the game has ever known and what they won at Pinehurst before donning their first green jacket, with a few honorable mentions thrown in.
THE HONORABLE MENTIONS
NOT EVERY PLAYER ON THIS MASTER LIST below has a North & South Open championship to his name – the tournament did end its run in 1951, after all, just 17 years after the birth of The Masters – but it is striking how many giants of the game competed in the event in its 50 years. To wit:
Horton Smith, who won the first Masters in 1934 and again in 1936, won the 1929 North & South Open, the first of two Pinehurst triumphs (he also won the North & South Open in 1937). Smith won 36 times professionally…
Cary Middlecoff won The Masters in 1955, but 10 years earlier – and as an amateur – he won the 1945 North & South Open. Middlecoff won 40 times professionally, including three majors…
Henry Picard won the North & South Open for the first time in 1934 and again just two years later in 1936. Picard won the 1938 Masters and won the PGA Championship in 1939. Picard is credited with working with Ben Hogan in the 1930s, eventually convincing Hogan to weaken his grip. Hogan dedicated his first book, “Ben Hogan’s Power Golf,” to Picard in 1953. We’ll get to Hogan in a moment…
A few final notes on the North & South Open: Walter Hagen won the event three times (1918, 1923, 1924). Alec Ross, Donald Ross’ brother, won the most North & South Opens, with six. Donald Ross won three. Byron Nelson won the North & South Open in 1939, and won two Masters, in 1937 and 1942.
Now, a look at the five best players in history to win at Pinehurst before they won The Masters.
Then came Pinehurst, and after two brilliant opening rounds of 66 and 67, he held on to beat Sam Snead. “I won one just in time,” Hogan said at the trophy ceremony. Nine majors and 68 more professional wins – including two more North & South Opens – followed.
4. ARNOLD PALMER
RANKING THE GAME’S GREATEST PLAYERS is tricky, especially when major championships are factored in. But perhaps no player has had as great an impact on golf than Arnold Palmer. But his win at Pinehurst is a difficult one to find. It’s not the North & South Amateur, which he laments, and where he lost twice in the semifinals. Palmer turned professional in 1954, so he missed the North & South Open, and he was past his prime for the PGA Tour events at Pinehurst in the 1970s and the U.S. Senior Open in 1994.
But there is a win at Pinehurst in the Palmer ledger, and he recalls it fondly. While at Wake Forest, Palmer won the 1948 Southern Conference Championship – a precursor to the Atlantic Coast Conference – over North Carolina and North & South Amateur rival Harvie Ward, who nearly holed out from the fairway of 18 to tie Palmer. “It would’ve dismayed me quite a bit,” Palmer says now of Ward’s shot. “It was a great shot that scared me to death, let’s just say that.”
Palmer won The Masters four times, the first coming 10 years after his lone win at Pinehurst (1958, 1960, 1962, 1964).
3. SAM SNEAD
AGAIN, WE’RE SPLITTING HAIRS trying to rank the greatest of the greats, and it wouldn’t take much to move Palmer up this list.
That said, Snead won 82 times on the PGA Tour, with three of those wins coming in the North & South Open. After finishing as the runner-up in Hogan’s big breakthrough in 1940, Snead returned to Pinehurst and won in 1941. He followed that with North & South wins in 1949 and 1950. Snead won The Masters three times, the first in 1949 (and in 1952 and 1954). He is the only player in history to have won the North & South Open and The Masters in the same year.
2. TIGER WOODS
IT WASN’T THE NORTH & SOUTH AMATEUR. It wasn’t either the 1999 or 2005 U.S. Opens (although he came very close – see above), and Woods did not appear in the 2014 U.S. Open.
But Woods is a Pinehurst champion.
“It’s just at some tournaments. It hasn’t been nationwide. I’m not that big yet.” -Tiger Woods
In what seems like a bit of quaint history, two years before he became the youngest at the time to win the U.S. Amateur, Woods won the “Big I” on Pinehurst No. 7. The tournament’s formal name was the Independent Insurance Agents Youth Golf Classic, and at the time it was one of the elite junior tournaments in the world.
Tiger was 17, his largest gallery was about 75 people and at one point, he was inadvertently knocked to the ground by a woman who grabbed his shirt while seeking an autograph. Woods had an ice pack on his wrist afterward, and speaking to reporters, said, “The price of fame, I guess.”
Woods was asked about his notoriety, even then. “It’s just at some tournaments. It hasn’t been nationwide. I’m not that big yet.”
1. JACK NICKLAUS
JACK NICKLAUS HAS WON AT PINEHURST almost as much as he’s won at Augusta.