U.S. Amateur: USGA Official Hyler Lands Pinehurst as Site
There's a lot of anticipation leading into the U.S. Amateur Championship being held at Pinehurst Resort Aug 18-24.
But no one is more excited about the prestigious event than James Hyler of Raleigh.
Hyler is a retired banking executive from Raleigh whose main gig now is as vice president of the United States Golf Association and chairman of the Championship Committee.
Hyler, who came to Pinehurst Wednesday night of last week to speak to Tin Whistles Club members at the resort, is finding his volunteer position with the USGA a demanding one. The USGA conducts 13 championships all over the country, and Hyler and the other USGA executives work hard to ensure that each event is presented in the best possible manner.
"Being on the Executive Committee and chairman of the Championship Committee is absolutely the best volunteer job in golf, bar none," Hyler said. "When we come here in August, I'll be out there at first light selecting hole locations and be out there until dark when the last contestant is off the course. And I'll be loving every second of it."
The Men's Amateur, the most desired amateur championship in the world, is coming to Pinehurst for the third time.
It was hosted by Pinehurst Resort in 1962 when Labron Harris defeated Downing Gray 1-up on the No. 2 Course. And it was held at the Country Club of North Carolina in 1980 when Hal Sutton dusted Bob Lewis 9 and 8.
The Tin Whistles, a golf organization founded at Pinehurst Country Club in 1904, takes pride in the role it plays in helping stage events in the area and also for the charitable work it does year round.
"We're proud to have had nine honorary members to have won a total of 16 U.S. Amateur Championships," said Tin Whistles President Bob Hepner. "They are William Fownes, Bobby Jones, who won five times, George Dunlap, Richard Chapman, Arnold Palmer, our own Harvie Ward in 1955 and 1956, Jack Nicklaus, Bill Campbell, and Jay Sigel. We wonder who'll rise to the occasion here in August."
Hyler isn't making any predictions in that area, but he is certain that this year's champion will be deserving.
Following two rounds of stroke-play qualifying on Nos. 2 and 8, a field of 312 players will be reduced to 64 for match play on the No. 2 Course that hosted U.S. Opens in 1999 and 2005 and has another scheduled for 2014. Sunday's final round will be over 36 holes.
"Pinehurst is my favorite place in the world," Hyler said. "When I drive in on Highway 2 and see the second fairway, I get goose bumps."
Hyler says the Amateur is his favorite of the USGA's 13 championships.
"It's my favorite because there's much less pressure on everyone than in a U.S. Open, he said.
"Everything is on a much smaller scale than in the Open."
Hyler jokingly said that he's warned fellow committee members about attire for this event.
"We played at the Olympic Club in San Francisco last year when Colt Knost won," he said, "and we all wore sweaters and jackets every day. I've assured the committee members that they can leave the sweaters and jackets at home during August in Pinehurst."
Although the U.S. Open is far and away the biggest prize offered by the USGA, Hyler reminds everyone that it hasn't always been that way.
"The Amateur was considered the most important championship in the United States," he said, "much more important than the Open. But after World War II, most of the good amateurs were turning professional. Since 1975, every U.S. Amateur with the exception of Fred Ridley, has turned professional."
Ridley, who won in 1975, served as USGA president in 2004-2005.
Hyler has tremendous respect for Pinehurst and the founding fathers as well as for current owner Robert Dedman, Jr.
"If you talk about amateur golf in Pinehurst, you have to talk about Richard Tufts," he said. "Mr. Tufts was a great believer in amateur golf and wrote the Amateur Creed. This will be the ninth USGA-conducted national championship at Pinehurst, and that's the most of any location in the Southeast.
"There was a down period in the 1970s and early '80s, when the Tufts sold Pinehurst, but that all changed for the better in 1984 when Robert Dedman Sr. and ClubCorp purchased the resort.
"Under the guidance of Mr. Dedman, Pat Corso and Don Padgett Sr., Pinehurst got back to its rightful place in golf. Without them, I don't think it would have happened. Thank you, Bob.
"The presentation of the Opens held here have just been unbelievable, and USGA officials were really impressed. Who can forget that misty, overcast Sunday in 1999 when a guy wearing knickers made a putt on the last hole to win the championship?
"I get goose bumps now thinking about it. That was so special."
Contact Howard Ward at 867-6493 or 690-2211 or by e-mail at
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