Legend Babe Didrikson Zaharias tees off at Pinehurst during the North & South Women’s Amateur.
BY LEE PACE
Golf history is full of memorable win streaks—Bobby Jones and the original “Grand Slam” in 1930, Byron Nelson and his 11 straight PGA Tour wins in 1945, and of course the “Tiger Slam” that Tiger Woods accomplished over the 2000-01 major championship seasons.
Not as well known, however, is the “Slam Bang.”
“She could sense that I was on edge, and she told me to relax. ‘I can beat any two of them without you,’ she said. ‘I’ll let you know if I need you.’” – Peggy Kirk Bell
That streak belongs to Babe Didrikson Zaharias, which she compiled in 1946-47 by winning 17 – 17! – consecutive golf competitions from Texas to Pinehurst, from Miami to the nation’s capital.
In fact, perhaps no source other than The Pinehurst Outlook referred to Zaharias’ unprecedented run of domination in such cutesy fashion. Run a Google search on the phrase in that context and you’ll come up dry.
But there it is in one of the Outlook’s weekly editions in early April 1947 as it chronicles the Babe “winning everything in sight on the winter and spring tour” and being “under unusual strain as she wanted to complete the most remarkable sequence of victories ever accomplished in women’s golf.”
Donald Ross believed in providing golfers with strategic choices, and Pinehurst No. 2 was intended to epitomize that philosophy. In March 2011, No. 2 reopened following a year-long restoration project designed to restore the course’s natural and historic character, and the strategic options that were the centerpiece of Ross’s vision. The $2.5 million project was conducted by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and included work on every hole. Features of the project include:
Increase fairway widths Fairways were widened by as much as 50%, offering more strategic options in playing holes from tee to green.
Removal of rough All rough was eliminated, establishing two heights of grass: greens and everything else.
Reintroduction of natural areas 35 acres of irrigated turf were removed, restoring natural areas of sand, wire grass, pine straw and a variety of native grasses.
Turf maintenance 650 irrigation heads were eliminated, and the centerline irrigation was restored.
Wiregrass More than 200,000 plants were added
Overseeding Eliminated during the winter months, allowing for firm, fast conditions throughout the year
Increased length Thirteen new tees were added to the championship course, increasing the total championship length by more than 300 yards, to 7,565 from 7,214.
Bunker modifications Several bunkers were restored, eliminated or reshaped based on aerial images of the course from the 1940s, and bunkers were edged to create rustic appearance
Greens Only two (15 and 17) were modified slightly to increase hole locations.
Cart paths Relocated and concrete removed.
Following are detailed, hole-by-hole modifications:
Par 4 Yardage: 402 New tee: No
There are more options off the tee, and the removal of turf on the right, left and behind the green brings more natural areas into play. Specific changes include:
Added mound to the right of the fairway, about 300 yards from the tee
Created visual backdrop by adding a sandy wiregrass mound behind the green and left of the second tee
Removed turf behind the green to bring sand, pine needles and wiregrass into play
Ben Crenshaw was a 15-year-old growing up in Texas when his father gave him Charles Price’s 1962 book, The World of Golf, a 308-page treatise to the game’s venues, champions, implements and traditions that covered six centuries in words and pictures.
Crenshaw adored the game and was quite good at it, but so far his universe extended only as far as the out-of-bounds stakes at Austin Country Club and the local municipal course.
“I couldn’t have cut my teeth on a better book.” – Ben Crenshaw
“I couldn’t have cut my teeth on a better book,” Crenshaw says. “It has a little bit about everything. When I first read that book, I began to understand the rich history and colorful stars of the game of golf.”
Soon after, Charlie Crenshaw suggested to Ben that he enter the 1968 U.S. Junior Amateur, scheduled for The Country Club in the Boston suburb of Brookline. Ben lost in the quarterfinals but had a mesmerizing week — “The ground was so perfect, I was scared to take a divot,” he says — and the experience ignited a magical circle that ended in 1999 when Crenshaw captained the U.S. Ryder Cup team to its memorable final-day rally at The Country Club.
“It was perfectly natural. It was so history laden. You had to ask yourself: ‘Why? Who put this together? Who started this? Who nurtured it?’” -Ben Crenshaw
“I couldn’t have been luckier to see Brookline early on, when I was so young,” Crenshaw says. “It was rustic, it was New England, it seemed like the other side of the world from Austin, Texas. It was perfectly natural. It was so history laden. You had to ask yourself: ‘Why? Who put this together? Who started this? Who nurtured it?’ There was so much romance about it, and then I learned about it being one of the founding clubs of the USGA and the place where Francis Ouimet won the Open.
“Together, Charley Price’s book and my trip to Brookline set me off on a path I’ve enjoyed the rest of my life. They opened my eyes to a different world.”