Pinehurst News

Pinehurst Golf Academy’s Eric Alpenfels named one of GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers in America

Eric Alpenfels

GOLF Magazine has released its biennial list of America’s Top 100 Teachers in America for 2017-2018, and to no surprise, the Pinehurst Golf Academy’s Eric Alpenfels is on it.

The Director of the acclaimed Pinehurst Golf Academy and a Master Golf Professional, Alpenfels has consistently been named among the game’s best instructors throughout his career in teaching and in research. He has been a Top 100 teacher since 2001.


“It’s an honor and humbling to be included on GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 list,” Alpenfels said. “These are some of the finest and most respected instructors in the game today, and I’m proud to be associated with them.”

Since its inception in 1991, GOLF Magazine’s Top Teachers in America ranking has become the industry standard for teaching excellence due to the diligent selection process that GOLF Magazine employs to assemble the list. Joining Alpenfels on the list are many of golf’s best-known coaches and instructors, including Hank Haney (who taught at Pinehurst), Dave Pelz, Rick Smith, Cameron McCormick, Todd Anderson, Michael Breed, Chris Como, Sean Foley and Claude Harmon III.

“Every two years the Credential and Selection committees dedicate a lot of time and research to recognize the golf industry’s best teachers by naming them to our Top 100 list,” said David DeNunzio, Managing Editor for Instruction for GOLF Magazine. “These individuals have been selected because of their commitment to broaden the appeal of golf by helping their students understand and enjoy the game.”

“It’s an honor and humbling to be included on GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 list. These are some of the finest and most respected instructors in the game today, and I’m proud to be associated with them.” -Eric Alpenfels, Director of Pinehurst Golf Academy

Alpenfels is devoted to continuing education in golf, and in partnership with Dr. Bob Christina, the Pinehurst Golf Academy continues to conduct research to pioneer the development of new practice techniques and innovative drills. Alpenfels has been a regular presenter at the World Scientific Congress of Golf at St. Andrews, and in addition to teaching at Pinehurst, he has served as an Adjunct Faculty member for the PGA of America Education Department.  In 2013, Alpenfels attained Master Professional status in Teaching and Coaching, becoming one of the first two graduates of the program.

Alpenfels’ additional awards include the 2008 GOLF Magazine’sInnovators of the Year” and the 2008 “Outstanding Research Award” (shared with Dr. Christina) from the World Scientific Congress of Golf.  In 2006, GOLF Magazine was awarded the “National Magazine Award” presented by the American Society of Magazine Editors based on Alpenfels’ research with Dr. Christina.

The Pinehurst Golf Academy offers a unique blend of situational practice and on-course instruction. Students enjoy a round of golf each day, so after working on skills on the practice range, players have the opportunity to transfer what they’ve learned to the golf course – with an instructor.

Candidates for GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers in America list are selected from nominees submitted by the PGA, LPGA, United States Golf Teachers Federation, top industry executives and GOLF Magazine readers. More than 250 nominations on average are accepted from the country’s 25,000 instruction professionals.


The applications are screened against 15 baseline criteria recommended by the Top 100 Teachers Credentials Committee and are then examined and ranked by a group comprised of 15 active and former Top 100 Teachers. Final recommendations are then made by a separate Selection Committee, comprised of GOLF Magazine’s instruction editors, established Top 100 Teachers and alumni, and invited World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame members. The recommendations of the Selection Committee are submitted to GOLF Magazine for the final decision.

The Top 100 list is the only national golf instructor roster that combines outside academic and PGA Professional peer review. In addition, candidates are judged on their willingness to give back to the game and to the PGA and LPGA through one of the following: apprentice education, member continued education, research or lesson programs.

New members and the complete list will appear in the March 2017 print issue, and online at

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A round of golf with Michael Jordan

Friday, Feb. 17, marks Michael Jordan’s 54th birthday, and with it, we’re reminded of how much His Airness enjoys not only golf, but golf on Pinehurst No. 2.

But what’s a round of golf with MJ really like? Below, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams explains, and as he says, you better be ready to “stand up to the lip.”

(And don’t miss the sweet, sweet dig Coach gets on MJ’s game.)

If you want more with Coach Williams talking about golf and basketball – and timeouts – go here.

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A friendship is born, thanks to golf

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Olivia Messana (left) and Emily McKee (right) stand together during the U.S. Kids World Golf Championship in Pinehurst last summer. The two quickly became good friends in their time here.

When Emily McKee and Olivia Messana came to Pinehurst to play in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship, they didn’t know each other.

By the end of their first round, they were close to best friends.

And since those summer rounds in Pinehurst, they may have returned to their homes 1,181 miles apart, but they’ve never been closer.

That was clearly evident in the letter Emily recently wrote – yes, wrote – to her friend Olivia, a letter that Emily’s mom Amanda posted on Twitter.

The girls first met when they were paired together in the first round of their Girls’ 9 Championship. The friendship blossomed quickly, and following the round, Emily gave Olivia a Canada pin.

After an early tee time in the second round the next day, the two reconnected again at The Carolina Hotel pool, and with extended time to hang out, the two continued to be inseparable, meeting up again and again through the week. When Olivia won a Pinehurst mug at a trivia contest, she returned Emily’s previous generosity by giving it to Emily. The two finally had to depart, but left Pinehurst confident their games will allow them to see each other again at the 2017 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship in August.

Until then, they continue to stay in touch. Olivia recently wrote Emily, passing along a ball marker, to which Emily replied by sending a Canadian moose plush animal that Olivia now takes to bed with her every night.

In the span of a few hours, and with a few tee shots and putts mixed in, Emily and Olivia went from not knowing each other to meeting in Pinehurst to the dawn of what might be a lifelong friendship.

All thanks to golf.

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Chef & Maker headliner nominated for James Beard Outstanding Chef Award

Great news! Ashley Christensen, one of the North Carolina chefs headlining our upcoming Chef & Maker Series weekends, has been named a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Awards.

She is one of 20 semifinalists for Outstanding Chef, which recognizes a working chef whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals. In 2014, she was named Best Chef Southeast. Read the complete story.

Christensen is the chef and owner of Poole’s Diner, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, Chuck’s, Fox Liquor Bar, Death & Taxes and Bridge Club, all located in downtown Raleigh.

Enjoy Christensen’s reimagined Southern comfort food in Pinehurst July 7-9. The weekend will include a Poole’s Diner-inspired bash, question and answer session with Christensen, book signing, glass blowing demonstration, whiskey tasting and Chef’s Dinner with Christensen.

Learn more at

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Pinehurst legend Willie McRae enshrined in Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame

Legendary Pinehurst caddie Willie McRae was enshrined in the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame over the weekend, celebrating McRae’s rich life and over seven decades of caddying in Pinehurst.

With more than 40 friends and family looking on, McRae spoke at the CGA’s Annual Meeting, regaling the audience and those around him that evening with several of the stories that have made McRae one of Pinehurst’s lasting figures. The CGA also produced the video above, featuring some of Willie’s best stories while noting his historic legacy at Pinehurst.

McRae’s legendary time at Pinehurst traces much of the area’s rise in the annals of American golf. He has caddied for five presidents, for celebrities from Mickey Mantle to Michael Jordan and many of golf’s greatest figures, including Donald Ross, Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead.

“I’ve always been thankful to be able to work at a place like Pinehurst,” McRae said. “Everybody’s always been so nice to me. They’ve always made me think I was the important person.”


Willie McRae is pictured with his CGA Hall of Fame plaque. McRae’s image will be placed with all of the members on the CGA Hall of Fame Wall in The Carolina Hotel. (photo courtesy of the CGA.)

McRae is one of just two living participants of the 1951 Ryder Cup, which was contested at Pinehurst. He has caddied in several of golf’s greatest championships, ranging from the Ryder Cup to multiple U.S. Opens and U.S Women’s Opens. A great player in his own time, 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.

“Willie always says that everybody is somebody, that everyone has a right to be treated well,” said Pinehurst President Tom Pashley. “But what we all know is that Willie has always been one of the most important people at Pinehurst.”

“It’s a very proud moment for the Carolinas Golf Association,” said G. Jackson Hughes Jr., the chairman of the CGA Hall of Fame selection committee. “Willie McRae has meant so much to so many people for so many years here at Pinehurst. It’s a well-deserved award.”


Pinehurst caddie Willie McRae speaks at the induction ceremony of the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame. (Photo courtesy of the CGA).

“It’s nice to know that with his enshrinement into the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame, Willie’s picture will be on the Hall of Fame wall in The Carolina Hotel forever,” Pashley said. “To know that his family will always be able to walk by that photo and see how much Willie has meant to the game of golf is really special.”

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