Pinehurst News

Paul Rudovsky chooses The Cradle for his remarkable milestone

Paul Rudovsky, left, stands on the 3rd green of The Cradle with Pinehurst Country Club member Jim Rohr on Wednesday, Oct. 18. The Cradle was the 1,000th golf course Rudovsky has played in his lifetime.

On Wednesday, Oct. 18, Paul Rudovsky played his 1,000th different golf course: The Cradle, Pinehurst’s new 789-yard short course. But that’s only one of Rudovsky’s incredible achievements in golf.

By Alex Podlogar

Sixty-two years ago, when he was 10 years old and away from home at summer camp, Paul Rudovsky was presented with a choice.

“As an activity, I could choose between arts and crafts, soccer and golf,” Rudovsky recalls. “I picked what I thought was the least of three evils.”

He chose golf.

“And it changed my life,” he says.

Six decades after playing nine holes at Honesdale Golf Club in eastern Pennsylvania, Rudovsky, a retired executive who has made his home in Pinehurst for about half the year since 2000, accomplished a feat few golfers could ever envision, let alone achieve.

On Wednesday, Oct. 18, Rudovsky played his 1,000th different golf course: The Cradle, Pinehurst’s new 789-yard, 9-hole short course.

It was not a decision Rudovsky took lightly.

“When I finished No. 999 (Bulle Rock Golf Course in Maryland), I said, ‘I’ve got to figure out where to do 1,000,’” Rudovsky says. “I came down to three possibilities – one was The Cradle, one was St. Andrew’s in Yonkers, New York, which is one of five founding clubs of the USGA … and maybe Streamsong Black, the new one.

“The more I thought about The Cradle, I said to myself, you know, that’s a neat idea. I began with nine holes. Let’s play nine for No. 1,000.”

And that’s where Rudovsky was on Wednesday afternoon, reaching his personal milestone while playing alongside Pinehurst Country Club member Jim Rohr. With a graceful swing, Rudovsky carried three wedges and a putter around The Cradle, playing each shot mindfully and with a jovial banter. He finished with a near hole-in-one on the tricky 9th hole, tapped in for birdie and collected his deuce, six 3s and two 4s into a tidy 1-over 28.

The Cradle, Pinehurst’s 789-yard, 9-hole short course designed by Gil Hanse.

Numbers and organization, you see, are important facets of Rudovsky’s life.

When, in the late 1960s, golf publications became reviewing courses and making Top 100 lists of the greatest courses in the world and United States, Rudovsky did what most people who casually glance at the annual and biennial lists tend to do – he began checking courses off.

But Rudovsky has never settled. He began compiling another list, and then another list, and even though he’d put the lists away for a few years at a time, he’d always return to them.

Then, when actually forced to lie low for a period, Rudovsky’s mind really kicked into gear.

“About 10 years ago, I had a mild case of pneumonia here in Pinehurst and was in bed bored,” he says. “I said, ‘What am I going to do to pass the time?’ And I thought, well, I could update the list because I had put them all in a file and I hadn’t updated it in a couple of years anyhow. I figured it could be the world’s greatest Excel schedule.”

It is.

Pages and pages long, color-coded and using myriad abbreviations and denotations, Rudovsky’s meticulous records chart perhaps his most astonishing golf achievement:

In the time since that 10-year-old camper looked for what he thought might be the easy way out, Rudovsky has played every golf course ever listed on a golf publication’s top 100 list.

Paul Rudovsky has played every golf course that’s ever been ranked among the Top 100 by a golf publication, which, of course, includes Pinehurst No. 2.

Well, almost every one.

“In all, there were 323 courses on Top 100s around the world, five of which no longer exist,” Rudovsky says. “So, 318 do exist, and I’ve played 318.”

He finished the quest a year ago.

“It was like Frankenstein,” Rudovsky says. “Dr. Frankenstein builds a monster, which then controls his life. I did the same thing. This spreadsheet became the best bucket list manufacturer for golf the world’s ever seen.”

The quest also taught Rudovsky a firm fundamental truth about golf.

“My test today of a great golf course is: When you walk off of 18 or 9, do you want to go out and play it again? Is that your immediate thought?” posits Rudovsky. “And if it’s not, well, that’s not what the game’s supposed to be about.”

And with that, Rudovsky, who’s played everywhere anyone has ever wanted to possibly play, looped his Sunday bag over his right shoulder and began another loop around The Cradle.

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Legendary Pinehurst caddie Willie McRae announces retirement

WIllie McRae announced this month he has retired from day-to-day caddying at Pinehurst, but he will still take special requests

On May 19, 1943, Willie McRae turned 10, and his father asked him if he was ready to caddie at Pinehurst.

Seventy-four years later, McRae is still willing to caddie.

He’s just finally ready to slow down a little.

McRae, one of the last two remaining men alive to have participated in the 1951 Ryder Cup on Pinehurst No. 2, officially retired from day-to-day caddying at Pinehurst this month. McRae still plans to take special requests, but they will be limited.

“I love Pinehurst. Everybody has always been so good to me here,” McRae says. “This place has been my whole life.”

He began a legendary career that led to enshrinement into three different Halls of Fame on that spring day with his father, earning $1.75 a loop.

“I’d bring that $1.75 home to my mother, but I’d get 50 cents for a tip, and that would be mine,” McRae recalls. “I’d spend 25 cents of that on candy, and I’d have candy for the whole week.”

McRae’s career at Pinehurst parallels much of the great history of the game of golf. He has caddied for five presidents, celebrities from Mickey Mantle to Michael Jordan and many of golf’s greatest players, including Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead. Along with American player Jack Burke Jr., McRae is one of just two living participants of the 1951 Ryder Cup, and he remembers looping for Donald Ross on Ross’s crown jewel, No. 2.

McRae has caddied in several of golf’s greatest championships, ranging from that Ryder Cup to multiple U.S. Opens and U.S Women’s Opens. A great player in his own time – McRae won the annual caddie tournament at Pinehurst three times – in the 1950s the U.S. Army stationed McRae at Fort Dix instead of shipping him overseas, installing him as the captain of the golf team.

“To me, everybody’s a celebrity. Everybody is special in their unique way.” -Willie McRae

It is that sentiment that endures.

“Caddies possess an extraordinary knowledge of the game and its players, and by word of mouth, each caddie develops his own reputation,” writes World Golf Hall-of-Famer and two-time Masters Champion Ben Crenshaw. “In this sense, Willie was always highly sought after by so many fine players who played Pinehurst and returned there. Great players such as Jack Burke Jr., Tommy Bolt, Gene Sarazen and Julius Boros – just to name a few – specifically asked for Willie’s expertise. That these wonderful players sought out Willie is high praise indeed.”

But it’s the everyman whom McRae always enjoyed caddying for the most. “To me,” McRae says, “everybody’s a celebrity. Everybody is special in their unique way.”

“He’s one of the many parts that make up the fabric of Pinehurst,” says former Pinehurst President Don Padgett II of McRae. “He cares dearly for the place, he’s proud to have been a part of it, he loves it and has a great deal of gratitude for being able to spend all these years here. And it has always shown in the way he has treated people.”

It’s a legacy that continues, not only among the caddies at Pinehurst, but in McRae’s family as well. McRae’s son, Paul, has been one of leading instructors of the Pinehurst Golf Academy for more than 20 years, and his grandson, Darick, also caddies on No. 2.

“Here are a couple things people must know about Willie,” says Jimmy Smith, Pinehurst’s longtime caddiemaster. “He treats everyone the same, no matter who they are, how much money they have, whatever. He just loves people.

“If he had never worked so hard to get to where he is, who knows where we would be right now. He laid the pathway for us to come and be who we are.” -Darick McRae, grandson and fellow Pinehurst caddie

“But another thing that not many people see: When a new caddie shows up, it can be a little tough. We all get along and we all like each other, but a new guy coming in still can mean money out of your pocket. But Willie always takes care of the new guys. No one is better at lending a hand, teaching and listening than Willie. And now I see that happen throughout the caddie room. And we’ll see it for years to come, maybe even another 100 years. And that comes from Willie.”

It’s a way of life that Willie passes on to his family, including Paul and Darick. They are the life lessons that both continue to hold dear and reflect upon nearly every day.

“Dad taught me patience,” says Paul McRae. “Also, to learn how to listen to people. You can learn a lot of ways to help someone if you just listen to them. And that goes for more than golf.”

Darick, who’s caddied at Pinehurst since 2001, recognizes that Willie’s career has meant more than just carrying a golf bag and reading greens.

“If he had never worked so hard to get to where he is, who knows where we would be right now,” Darick says. “He laid the pathway for us to come and be who we are.”

Recently, Willie McRae was honored with a reception at Pinehurst:

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Matt Oshrine rocked The Cradle, hitting on 21 – the course record

By Alex Podlogar

Usually when a golfer shows up and asks the starter, “What’s the course record?” it’s meant to be a joke.

Matt Oshrine was serious.

The 2017 Duke graduate has spent the last few months living in Pinehurst as he’s prepared for Stage 1 of the Web.com Tour Qualifying School (see his progress here). In those months, though, he’d been driving by and watching as Pinehurst’s new short course, The Cradle, took shape. Eight days after it opened on Sept. 30, Oshrine got his chance to play it.

And so he asked about the course record.

“Well, I knew The Cradle had just opened, so I figured that’s the best time to set one,” Oshrine said.

Told the bar had been set at 5-under 22 – The Cradle is a 9-hole par-3 course with holes ranging from 56 to 127 yards – Oshrine knew he had little time, or holes, to waste.

BOOK A TEE TIME ON THE CRADLE

Naturally, that’s precisely what he did.

“The first hole is a pretty easy little par-3, but I just didn’t hit a very good shot,” Oshrine said. “I made a par, but it wasn’t a great start.”

A birdie on the 2nd hole made for a better feeling, but even with the punch bowl green on the 3rd, Oshrine could only manage a par there. Sitting at 1 under through three holes, breaking 22 didn’t seem all that logical.

The Cradle’s 4th hole is one of its most dramatic. On the tee, players can see all nine of the course’s greens, making for a fun thought about trying a game of HORSE from there one day. Oshrine, though, was comfortable with the shot in front of him – a 54-degree wedge from about 120 yards.

“That’s a good number for me, and the pin was on the left side,” Oshrine said. “I draw the ball, and it set up well for me. I hit it to about 4 ½ feet.”

The next two holes combine to be about 100 yards total, and Oshrine took care of those, too. “Standard little pitches,” he said. “There were some tricky pins, but I got them up and down.”

Through six holes, Oshrine was now 4 under and knew he had a shot.

One problem.

The 7th was playing tough.

“The pin was on the right side, and that was a tough spot for me,” Oshrine said. “But you have to be careful on that shot. If you miss your spot, the ball can end up in the bunker or roll off to the left. There’s not a lot of margin for error there.”

Oshrine tugged his shot a little, leaving him about 35 feet away for birdie. With no room for a bogey, Oshrine took his 2-putt par and walked to the 8th, where he made another birdie to get him to 5 under.

The 9th may be The Cradle’s toughest hole. At 112 yards, it rides the ridge overlooking the clubhouse and is guarded by two bunkers that are the most perilous on the course. The green slopes dramatically from right to left, and the approach needs to be well-placed just to even hold the green.

Before Oshrine played The Cradle, though, he played the new Thistle Dhu, Pinehurst’s 18-hole putting course that fronts the clubhouse and sits adjacent to The Cradle. While there, Oshrine could watch groups play the 9th.

“I saw one guy hit what I thought was the perfect shot, but the ball just kept rolling and rolling, and he ended up more than 20 feet away,” Oshrine said.

Matt Oshrine, far right, stands at the 9th hole of The Cradle after firing a 21 and setting the new course record.

An hour later, Oshrine himself was on the tee, knowing he needed a birdie for the record. He picked his spot.

“I hit it exactly where I wanted to,” he said. “I just knew I was going to have a kick-in birdie.”

Nope.

The ball finally stopped about 15 feet away.

Didn’t matter. Oshrine drilled the putt, and he had the record – 21.

Well, for now.

“I don’t think it’ll last long,” he said. “Twenty will happen. Actually, I think 19 might be doable.”

Perhaps.

“That’s really the best thing about The Cradle,” Oshrine said. “You could play it five days in a row, and a shot that was easy one day might be your toughest the next day. There are a lot of tricky spots out there. It’s so much fun.”

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I tried cryotherapy, and now I’m ready for more golf. Seriously.

A day after a round on No. 2, I was sore and hurting. Cryotherapy changed everything.

By Alex Podlogar

I AM NOT DUSTIN JOHNSON (you probably aren’t either), and so my golf neither appears nor feels athletic. But while Pinehurst No. 2 is not a difficult walk, combine that with the status of my game, and I really feel it the next day. My neck aches, the twinges in my midsection remind me that my shoulder rotation is limited for a reason, and the 6 miles it takes to traverse No. 2 leave my quads and calves groaning.

Which led me to cryotherapy.

The Spa at Pinehurst will soon offer guests and members whole body cryotherapy sessions, including providing options for monthly passes and regular visits. And while I faced some trepidation about how this might feel, I took the polar plunge, sans water.

And it worked.

Man, it worked.
LEARN MORE ABOUT CRYOTHERAPY AT PINEHURST

I am not your typical Spa guest. Most people go to The Spa for relaxation and rejuvenation, and not only do they get those things, they transition into a Zen-like state just in anticipation of the visit.

I’m the total opposite. I freak out a little. I worry. I feel out of place. I don’t find comfort in a robe.

But I wanted to try this, and I did it.

And I’m glad I did.

Spa Director Branden Fein immediately put me at ease, and while the idea ahead of time that you’ll have to wear gloves and slippers – I also wore shorts – could potentially wear on the psyche, Fein’s calming explanation of what I was about to experience indeed settled the nerves. Whether he knew it or not, Fein was coaching me, and armed with intelligence, the comfort level began to rise.

One problem: You hear “minus-249 degrees” and everything after that begins to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

But the entire process is just 3 minutes, and while I experienced nervous energy akin to the moment before I jump onto a roller-coaster, I stood in the cryotherapy cylinder fully aware. And that helps.

That said, I still worried about just how cold this would feel. I was only doing the opening stage session – there are up to eight different settings that feature differing lengths of cold-air bursts over the 3 minutes – but, really, who likes to be cold?

For the next few hours, I realized I wasn’t sore like I was earlier in the morning. The golf fatigue my body was feeling was gone. I may have still felt a small twinge here and there, but nothing like before.

It dawned on me – not only was I absolutely ready to walk another 18 on No. 2, I would’ve signed up to carry my bag and walk No. 8. I felt good.

Again, Fein coached me through it. Here’s what going to happen…now this will happen…next is just 30 seconds of this…anytime you feel uncomfortable, we’ll stop.

And…it was fine. Totally fine.

I did shiver at the end – minus-249 is certainly something – and my legs were quaking as the final re-warming process ended the session. I did feel the rush of energy coming out that I was told would happen. I wasn’t bouncing off the walls, but, well, I was rejuvenated for sure.

And that was it. My whole process – from check-in to re-dress and out of the locker room – took less than 20 minutes.

Well, I thought that was it.

It wasn’t.

For the next few hours, I realized I wasn’t sore like I was earlier in the morning. The golf fatigue my body was feeling was gone. I may have still felt a small twinge here and there, but nothing like before.

It dawned on me – not only was I absolutely ready to walk another 18 on No. 2, I would’ve signed up to carry my bag and walk No. 8. I felt good.

It got better.

Some of my soreness came back later in the evening. But it didn’t last. The following morning, my soreness was gone. Completely.

It hits me now – golfers should be doing this. You are in and out, the session takes 3 minutes, you re-dress and hit the range. I’m not in great shape – dude, I’m not even threatening good shape – but cryotherapy helped.

I’d do it again tomorrow.

Especially if I could play golf today.

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Gil Hanse previews the Pinehurst No. 4 Redesign

As the initial work begins on the Pinehurst No. 4 redesign by golf architect Gil Hanse, there is a sense of wonder of how the new No. 4 will compare – and how it will contrast – with its neighbor, Pinehurst No. 2. Here, Hanse explains:

 

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