Pinehurst Heritage Archive

Presidents have long been coming to – and commenting on – Pinehurst


Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and President Gerald Ford played golf during the World Golf Hall of Fame Tournament on Sept. 11, 1974. (Photo from National Archives)

Golf has long been the pastime of presidents.

Sixteen of the last 19 U.S. Presidents have played golf. Some more than others.

Barack Obama played more than 200 rounds of golf since he took office in 2009. While that may sound like a lot, Obama will never catch up to Woodrow Wilson, who reportedly played 1,200 rounds during his presidency.

Maybe that record is in jeopardy now (just a little joke, y’all). In any event, if it is, it’s not likely to be broken here:

That’s OK. We can agree to disagree. And, more room for our guests, then.

It’s been a little while since a President has been in Pinehurst to play. Obama visited Pinehurst while on the campaign trail in 2008, but didn’t hit the links.

And while he’s mostly retired, legendary Pinehurst caddie Willie McRae still takes special requests, and McRae has the experience. He’s carried bags for four presidents: Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

HEM14906.15 &.16 Richard Nixon, 12-13-1964

Richard Nixon played golf in Pinehurst in 1964 before taking office. (Photo from Tufts Archives)

McRae told the Associated Press that Nixon is the best player of the group, but he enjoyed them all.

“I mean, you’re caddying for somebody who is the head of the United States,” McRae told the AP. “There ain’t but one man ahead of him, and that’s God.”

Here’s a look back at some of Pinehurst’s presidential visits.

President Theodore Roosevelt visited Pinehurst twice: after leaving office in 1909 and before running again in 1912, according to Audrey Moriarty’s book “Pinehurst: Golf, History and the Good Life.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt has visited Pinehurst twice. (Photo from Tufts Archives)

… Continue Reading

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Payne Stewart’s other big putt and “fist-pump” on Pinehurst No. 2’s 18th

ABOUT 24 HOURS BEFORE HE MADE THE PUTT THAT EVERYONE IN GOLF WILL FOREVER REMEMBER, PAYNE STEWART had an equally important putt – one for birdie – on the 18th hole of Pinehurst No. 2 at the 1999 U.S. Open.

He made that one, too. And it gave him the lead heading into Sunday’s final round.

And while there’s not a full-throated celebration – it was only Saturday, after all – Payne did lightly shake his fist in triumph, giving us all a glimpse of what was to come.

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That Pinehurst Video You All Love

The title is pretty self-explanatory: So often we hear from our guests how much they enjoy the in-room documentary about Pinehurst’s early history. So, here, for today, enjoy it online:

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A Look Back: Christmas at Pinehurst

It’s always fun sifting through vintage photos, but it’s even better when they include memories from Christmas past. 

Most of these images were shot at the Carolina Hotel during the 1940s, proving the holiday season was just as special then as it is now.

Enjoy this look back in time.

Photos copyright Tufts Archives

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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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