BY LEE PACE
Two snapshots from 27 years of Padgetts at Pinehurst:
The first one is from the spring of 1987. Don Padgett Sr., the new director of golf at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, is having lunch in the resort clubhouse and talking about bringing his four-plus decades of experience as a club professional and national officer of the PGA of America to his job at Pinehurst, now just three years into the ownership regime of Robert Dedman Sr. and his ClubCorp empire. Padgett is wearing a white dress shirt, necktie and cardigan sweater.
“This is a multi-million-dollar operation, and I’m administering that business,” he says. “I need to look the part.”
“I can feel my dad’s spirit in here. It’s kind of like coming full circle.” -Don Padgett II
After lunch, he walks to the driving range, dubbed “Maniac Hill” many years earlier for the fervor with which golfers of all rank and file search for the Holy Grail of the golf swing. Padgett surveys the array of golfers striking balls in early spring sunshine and says, “Anyone important in golf has hit balls right here. If you’re a golfer and can’t get excited at this, you need to take up tennis.”
The second is from his son, Don II, in the spring of 2010, seven years after his father’s death and six into taking the reins as the president and COO of Pinehurst. The club is two months into a daring and admittedly risky restoration of Pinehurst No. 2, the idea hatched by Padgett and the project headlined by removing some 40 acres of grass and re-exposing the natural hardpan sand and unkempt look the course’s designer, Donald Ross, so embraced in the early 1900s. Recently Padgett’s office has been peppered in the height of the spring golf season with complaints that the resort isn’t taking proper care of this national treasure, when it fact it was simply in the early stages of retrofitting and rediscovering what Ross left upon his death in 1948.
“I can take the heat,” Padgett says. “I can sleep because when I lay my head on the pillow, I know we’re doing the right thing.”