Their trip to Ireland dashed by Covid-19, Andrew and Valerie had 15 days to fill. A photo online here, and a podcast shared there prompted an email to Pinehurst
By Alex Podlogar
ANDREW CARPENTER WOULD SCROLL through his phone. He follows Pinehurst. Follows Bandon. Follows Pebble.
A photo would stop him for a second. A video would capture his attention, too. Destinations. Places to see. Experiences to cherish.
“We were planning a 3-week trip to Ireland,” Valerie Larsen, Andrew’s girlfriend, recalls, “and Covid happened, ruining everything.”
It was February, and their trip to Ireland was fading fast. Decisions were going to have to be made.
“I looked at Val and said, ‘I don’t want to cancel Ireland now, but we should have a backup plan just in case.’”
Andrew follows the boys from No Laying Up. He follows Riggs and the Foreplay podcast guys from Barstool. He’d scroll and see what they were up to now. Both had been to Pinehurst recently, and in a few days, Riggs appeared to be moving in down there. Their videos played on his phone’s screen.
“No Laying Up had the Tourist Sauce video about Pinehurst and Riggs and Foreplay had their shows on, too,” Andrew says, looking back. “Both of them did a really, really good job showcasing the golf courses, and I think Foreplay did a great job at showcasing the people of Pinehurst. They illuminated the welcomeness to anybody who loves golf.”
Andrew sent an email.
AS PINEHURST’S INTERNET COORDINATOR for reservations, Noel Fisher’s inbox can get full in a hurry. And she’s seen everything.
Well, almost everything.
“Most of the time, when we get a request like that, the dates are incorrect,” Fisher says. “There’s a typo. Or maybe it’s a group coming from overseas looking for a house.
“Or, it’s spam.”
“Most of the time, when we get a request like that, the dates are incorrect. There’s a typo. Or maybe it’s a group coming from overseas looking for a house.
“Or, it’s spam.”Noel Fisher, Pinehurst Internet Reservations Coordinator
This one, from El Sobrante, California? This was different.
“We were going to go to Ireland for 3 ½ weeks, so the money was basically already spent,” Andrew says. “We just decided to spend it somewhere else.”
The idea? What would two weeks in Pinehurst look like?
Fisher picked up the phone.
“I was very surprised they were planning on coming for 15 days,” she says. “I didn’t have time to wrap my head around it.
“I just started taking lots of notes.”
THE FIRST CALL WITH ANDREW AND VALERIE lasted an hour. That gave Noel enough of an idea to put together a quote.
The couple was in.
The next call was just between Andrew and Noel, arranging the golf. Valerie, though, was new to the game at the time, but interested in the Spa at Pinehurst. Her call with Noel was to arrange Spa services for the 15 days.
Fisher began to piece the puzzle together, getting all of the moving parts to fit. Mary Berry, Pinehurst’s assistant director of reservation sales, took a look as well, filling in the finishing touches.
“First, I was like, ‘What the heck?’ Fifteen days? 15?!”
“And then I got really excited for them.”
Now Berry picked up the phone.
“I just loved talking to them. It was like we had known each other forever.”
ANDREW IS A CONSTRUCTION WORKER. He’s 28 years old. Valerie is a registered nurse, and is 25. They value hard work, dearly love their family…and respect the nature of this virus. At first, they declined attending the 90th birthday party of Valerie’s grandmother in Las Vegas.
“I was like, ‘I AM NOT going to be the one who gives this to her,’” Valerie says. “But she insisted we come, so we flew down there. After that trip, we knew we could be responsible and safe by taking the proper precautions when traveling.”
In July, the couple arrived at Pinehurst. They were upgraded to a suite in The Carolina Hotel. They were surprised by Sam “Riggs” Bozoian for drinks at Pinehurst Brewing Co. They settled in – golf for Andrew, Spa for Valerie, The Cradle short course for both.
“I mean, I’m really, really new to the game, but the way Andrew has taught me, he made it really fun for me from the get-go,” Valerie says. “He sold me with The Cradle. The Cradle, I knew, would be so attainable for me, so much fun. I didn’t even know yet about the music every day, and the Pinecone bar, and the whole atmosphere. That sold me. I said if I can be on The Cradle every day, then I’m good.
“Then, of course, we threw the Spa in there.”
The Cradle, I knew, would be so attainable for me, so much fun. I didn’t even know yet about the music every day, and the Pinecone bar, and the whole atmosphere. That sold me. I said if I can be on The Cradle every day, then I’m good.Valerie Carpenter
For Andrew, there were four rounds on Pinehurst No. 4, three on No. 2, three on No. 3, two each on No. 1 and No. 8. He added No. 7. Fifteen rounds total.
And how many times on The Cradle?
“A bajillion,” Valerie says.
BUT THIS WAS MORE THAN A GOLF TRIP. More than a Spa getaway. More than a vacation.
“We’ve made friends that will last,” Andrew says. “We’ve made at least five or six connections here that will last a lifetime.”
“Everybody was so great to me. It was ‘Welcome back, Valerie. Welcome home, Valerie.’ They thought of me like family. It was, ‘See you tomorrow, Valerie.’ It was unbelievably fantastic.”
“The bellhops, even,” Andrew adds. “We’d walk up and they’d say, ‘Welcome home, kids. How was No. 3 today?’ I mean, come on. Who does that?”
Pinehurst, it seems.
“It’s a second home now,” Valerie says, her voice catching. “It’s somewhere special, somewhere we can come back to, and always feel at home, honestly.”
“I told them. ‘You’ll be family by the time you leave.’”Mary Berry, Pinehurst Assistant Director of Reservations
“Coming here, I feel like it’s a start of somewhere I’m going to come back for the rest of my life,” Andrew says. “We feel welcome here whenever we want.”
Hearing that, Mary Berry just smiles…knowingly.
“I told them. ‘You’ll be family by the time you leave,’” she says. “They said that was what they were looking for.”
VALERIE IS LOOKING TO PLAY MORE GOLF now. She enjoyed all those rounds on The Cradle. But during their Pinehurst sabbatical, she found herself drawn to rounds on the “bigger” courses with Andrew.
She was particularly fond of Pinehurst No. 3, originally designed by Donald Ross in 1910, and where much of the charm – and those tiny Ross upside-down saucer greens – have been returned to the course.
On one green in regulation, Valerie drew her putter back, and in a sweet motion groomed on The Cradle, swept through the ball.
Andrew watched with delight.
“Her first birdie ever is on a Donald Ross turtleback. How great is that?” he says.
“I know,” Valerie chimes in, cheerfully. “So epic.”
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