It began as a means to afford golfers a competitive arena and to generate publicity for a five-year old resort. Its name was created to foster good relations between geographic regions that only a generation earlier had battled one another in the Civil War. The mission over the years has been simple, according to Richard Tufts of Pinehurst’s founding family:
“To provide an annual gathering of those who love the game, rather than a spectacle.”
The inaugural North & South Amateur began on April 1, 1901, on Pinehurst No. 1. Then, Pinehurst No. 1 played to a length of 5,176 yards. The North & South Women’s Amateur began in 1903. It was first played on Pinehurst No. 1 as well but also included Pinehurst No. 3. For the year 2012, the North & South Amateur will celebrate its’ 112th consecutive playing, while the North & South Women’s will celebrate its’ 110th consecutive playing. The North & South is now contested on the famed Pinehurst No. 2 course, which plays 7,000-plus yards for the Men and 6,000-plus yards for the Women. The North & South Amateurs are two of the longest consecutive running championships in the country. The U.S. Amateur started in 1895 but was interrupted for two years because of World War I and four years because of World War II.
What draws many guests to Pinehurst are the challenges of playing Pinehurst No. 2. As former champion Davis Love III recalls, “I think the North & South Amateur really was my crowning achievement of my amateur career. I was not considered a great amateur player or an all-star college player; I was just a very good player. Winning the North & South, I think, capped off my amateur career. And when I look back, that’s my U.S. Amateur; that was my big tournament that I won. I’m still thrilled to have won any golf tournament on Pinehurst No. 2.”
The addiction is the same: The thrill of competition. Add the experience you get out of playing with the best amateurs from all across the globe, and a historic setting such as Pinehurst No. 2, and you have the essence of competition in championship form.
What each contestant gets out of the championship will differ from person to person, but the essence of the North & South remains the same. As stated by Richard Tufts in his 1962 book, The Scottish Invasion: “Golf came to America as a great amateur sport, rich with tradition and enjoying the highest possible standard of ethics and good sportsmanship in its play. The idea has been to accept the game at Pinehurst in this form and to maintain and preserve these standards in order that amateur golfers might find at Pinehurst those things which James Tufts sought to provide.”
Golfers come from around the Carolinas, the East Coast, and the world to enter the North & South each year. Most of the mid-amateurs at one point dreamed of playing on the professional tour (some of them even tried it), while the younger ones still harbor those dreams. Some will make it as PGA and LPGA Tour stars, like Jack Nicklaus, Curtis Strange, Davis Love III, Corey Pavin, Babe Didrikson, Louise Suggs, Donna Andrews, and Morgan Pressel.
Many collegiate players have begun their careers participating in the North & South Amateur: Harvie Ward, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Arnold Palmer, from Wake Forest University, William Campbell, from Princeton University, Peggy Kirk Bell, from Rollins College, Page Marsh, from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Beth Bauer, from Duke University just to name a few. As past champion and PGA Tour veteran Curtis Strange says, “It is a tournament that you will always remember, if you turn professional, if you go into business. You will always want to return and play in the North & South if you’re an amateur. It’s just something you’ll cherish forever-I know we [PGA Tour professionals] do. If you happen to play well, it’s an added bonus. If you win, you pretty much are going to solidify yourself on a Walker Cup Team, a World Cup Amateur Team, or something like that. It’s a wonderful tournament-a prestigious tournament. And when you win a tournament like that, it’s something special.”
The common thread is a total devotion to Pinehurst No. 2. As former North & South champion Keith Clearwater believes, “This is probably the fairest, finest, most traditional golf course anywhere. These guys are so lucky! They’re walking on hallowed ground. I just hope these guys really get caught up and understand the privilege of playing here-not just, ‘Hey, this is the next step’. When you come here, this is different. And you’ve gotta love it. And you’ve got to respect it and realize the privilege and enjoy it for that sake. And you’re doing something that is just sensational when you come play here; especially if you’re good enough to play in a North & South national championship and compete on such a great golf course.”
The North & South Amateur Championship will put you through a complete test of skill. By the end of the championship, you will know that you have had to hit every shot. It’s just you, the golf course, and the guys you’re playing with. It is golf at its purest form.