Courses Have Played Host To Many Prestigious Events
Pinehurst has been the site of many significant moments in golf over its century-plus lifeline.
British champion Harry Vardon toured the resort's first course in 1900, lavished praise on it and helped stoke the nation's fledging golf fire. Pinehurst was Donald Ross' platform from which he launched one of the most noted careers in golf architecture. Ben Hogan won his first professional tournament in Pinehurst's North and South Open.
The PGA Championship and Ryder Cup Matches have been contested on the hallowed ground of No. 2. And the 18th green was the site of one of the most famous strokes in U.S. Open history -- Payne Stewart's 15-foot putt to edge Phil Mickelson on the final tick of the 1999 championship.
This week, the amateur golfer takes center stage.
When the U.S. Amateur Championship is contested on Courses No. 2 and No. 4 Monday through Sunday, the resort will come full circle with its roots, with the tenets coveted by Richard Tufts, grandson of Pinehurst founder James W. Tufts.
"Amateur golf can be a most valuable antidote to the high pressure, artificial life we lead today," Tufts noted in 1979. "But only if the game's ancient traditions and standards are maintained and golf is enjoyed for itself in friendly competition amid such natural surroundings as we find on the old links courses of Scotland. Golf should be a medium for relaxation and not commercialization."
This will be the second U.S. Amateur for Course No. 2, the first coming in 1962 after noted amateur Billy Joe Patton organ-ized a petition asking Tufts, at the time a high-ranking USGA official, to shelve his conflict-of-interest worries and allow the USGA to contest its national amateur championship on one of the nation's top courses. The championship was won by Labron Harris Jr., who two-putted from 75 feet on the final green to stave off Downing Gray Jr., 1-up.
Since then, Pinehurst has hosted the 1989 U.S. Amateur, the 1994 U.S. Senior Open and the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Open. The Open returns in 2014.
"Amateur golf is part of our heritage," says Pinehurst CEO Don Padgett II. "I think we should be pursuing the Amateur and working to host the Amateur with equal passion to the Open. I am sure Mr. Tufts would be more excited about the Amateur coming here in 2008 than he would be hosting the Open."
The Ideals Remain
The USGA in 1998 began a de facto policy of taking its National Amateur generally to courses that have hosted the U.S. Open or are scheduled to host an Open. The one exception since then was East Lake in 2001. Otherwise, the Amateur since 1998 has been held at Oak Hill, Pebble Beach, Baltusrol, Oakland Hills, Oakmont, Winged Foot, Merion, Hazeltine and The Olympic Club, leading to Pinehurst in 2008.
Today the numbers of courses in this area are staggering when you look at the whole of the Pinehurst golf scene: Eight courses at the resort, and another two dozen or so scattered across Moore County; some 300,000 rounds of golf played at the club and resort annually and thereabouts of 50,000 Putter Boy emblazoned caps and shirts sold.
But at the essence of it all are the ideals that Richard Tufts set forth in 1968 in his "Creed of the Amateur": companionship, exercise, nature, character and self-control.
Companionship: "In golf there are no strangers, only friends we have not yet met," says Bill Campbell, the West Virginia insurance man who won four North and South Amateurs on his annual spring pilgrimages to Pinehurst.
Exercise: "I think you definitely play better when you walk," says Pinehurst member Wynn Solle, who takes full advantage of the club's walker-friendly policies. "Carts just make everything too rushed. When you walk, you take your time and you focus better. Gene Sarazen said it best, 'You've got to take time to smell the roses.' You can't smell the roses in a cart."
Nature: "When you get the chance to have four hours with nature, you should appreciate it and enjoy it," says Ron Crow, general chairman of the 2008 Amateur. "The nature itself is a wonderful element of golf."
Character: "The etiquette of the game is a pretty good rule book for life," Padgett observes. "How you conduct yourself on the golf course and how respectful you are of others conveys into all areas of life."
Self-Control: "Kids learn how to handle themselves, how to handle the etiquette of the game," says Southern Pines' Kelly Miller, a noted amateur golfer. "It forces them to be more mature. At the end of the round, you take your cap off, shake everyone's hands, relax with a Coke. They pick up on the traditions of the game and how to act around adults."
A Different Field
Pinehurst will be inundated with 150 competitors this week, the esteemed Havemeyer Trophy in their sights. Some will be eager-beaver collegians using amateur golf as a stepping-stone to the fame and fortune of the professional tour. Others will be lawyers and entrepreneurs and bankers who chisel time for golf amidst being a spouse, parent and earner.
It's been 46 years since the leading amateur event was last contested at Pinehurst -- and the field should look decidedly different from those who played here in 1962. Today's top amateurs have world and collegiate rankings to their credit, and most consider the U.S. Amateur title to be their rite of passage into professional golf.
Last year's champion, Colt Knost, is a prime example -- he turned pro directly after the NCAA championship earlier this year, taking away his right to defend the title again in favor of greener fairways. The 1975 Amateur champion was the last player to retain his amateur status.
With past U.S. Amateur champions such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jack Nicklaus, it is clear to see that spectators will get a glimpse of the next generation of power golfers. With such kinetic energy and palpable enthusiasm for the game at its purest stage, spectators will have a fun time choosing which stars they expect to see at Pinehurst in 2014, when the U.S. Open returns for the third time.
But don't forget the career amateurs. They will come from all age groups and walks of life, but one true tie binds them together: They love the game for its timeless challenges. Since players must maintain a 2.4 handicap to even enter qualifying, expect them to bring just as much game as their stardom-seeking counterparts.
There will be no prize money, just their name on the trophy alongside those of Jones and Campbell, Nicklaus and Strange.
"We love golf, and we respect the game," says Raleigh's Dale Fuller, a former tour pro who has regained his amateur status. "We love the sport, the camaraderie of the competitors, the challenge of the course and ourselves, as well as trying to become a champion. And we do it all with money straight out of our pockets."
Lee Pace is a Chapel Hill writer whose latest offering on the history of Pinehurst is "The Creed of the Amateur." This is adapted from a piece he wrote for the U.S. Amateur program.
Janeen Driscoll, communications manager for Pinehurst Resort, contributed to this piece.
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