Pinehurst, Sedgefield Share Common Heritage
Pinehurst Country Club has the U.S. Open. Sedgefield Country Club once had the big Open trophy.
Sedgefield’s head pro, Tony Manero, came from nowhere to win the 1936 Open. He never won what’s now the Wyndham Championship that enters its final round today. The tournament began in 1938 at Starmount and Sedgefield country clubs, each hosting 36 holes.
Back then a closer relationship seemed to exist between Greensboro and the Sandhills. When Greensboro golfers wanted a break from local courses, they didn’t head to those in the mountains and coast as they often do now. They drove 75 miles to Pinehurst.
Decades ago, there was a PGA Tour link between the two locales. The pros played a triangle of tournaments, the Greater Greensboro Open, the North & South Open in Pinehurst and an event in Asheville.
The North & South (not to be confused with the on-going amateur tournament of that name) and Asheville tournaments folded long ago. The Greater Greensboro Open, now the Wyndham, lives on 74 years later. It is one of the oldest on the PGA Tour.
Pinehurst also had the Hall of Fame tournament in the late 1970s and early ’80s, but it didn’t last. Charlotte’s Kemper Open of the 1960s and 1970s wound up moving to Washington. Another tournament, the present Wells Fargo tournament at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Country Club, has been a sensational success. But an announcement hasn’t been made whether it will be played after 2014. The course needs to ready itself for the 2017 PGA Championship.
Greensboro’s granddaddy tournament enjoys a steep tradition. It has moved back to where it was first played, Sedgefield, and named the trophy after the player who won the first tournament and seven more after that, Sam Snead. He always had his caddie come from Pinehurst, Jimmy Steed.
Pinehurst may be without a regular tour stop, but it has something that Greensboro and every place would love to embrace: The U.S. Open.
Pinehurst will, for the third time, be the site of a U.S. Open in 2014.
Watching a major golf tournament in person makes a regular event on the PGA Tour seem like a minor league baseball game. Everything at a major becomes magnified. The merchandise tent at Pinehurst will be as large as an aircraft hanger. Indeed, merchandise sales already have begun. People here are wearing hats that say Pinehurst 2014.
The Pinehurst press tent will be equally as large. The event will attract at least 1,000 reporters. The Wyndham uses the Sedgefield pro shop as its merchandise venue and the pickings are lean. The press room can handle maybe 60 members of the press.
The skyboxes and grandstands around Sedgefield are impressive. Players hitting second shots to the long par 4 18th hole feel as if they are aiming at a green in an amphitheater.
But the same structures at the U.S. Open are more numerous and bigger
So are the crowds. U.S. Open attendance at the 2005 Open at Pinehurst was cut off at about 40,000 to 45,000. At the Wyndham, which has enjoyed several sell outs, the capacity is about 25,000. One factor that favors watching golf at the Wyndham over Pinehurst: You can see golfers strike the ball. At Pinehurst, a periscope— available in the merchandise tent — is almost a requirement..
Another major difference between a major tournament, such as the Open, and a regular tour stop, such as Greensboro, is the field of players. Pinehurst in 2014 will have them all and from all over the world: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Phil Michelson, Ernie Els, Ricky Fowler and many others.
Greensboro and many other tour tournaments must recruit golfers. Greensboro was fortunate that Webb Simpson, the reigning U.S. Open champion, is here. He is the Wyndham’s defending champion. The Wake Forest grad and Charlotte resident has local ties that probably will keep him coming for years. He also gets to Pinehurst occasionally to play the No. 2 course.
Pinehurst and Greensboro are so close yet so far apart, in appearance. Pinehurst is flat, sandy and piney. It has the look and feel of a coastal course. Sedgefield is green and rolling, with hard woods and homes bordering the course.
A TV technician paid the Wyndham a compliment the other day by saying Sedgefield bares a resemblance to Quail Hollow, the wealthy enclave of the Wells Fargo tournament. Both feature million dollar-plus homes along the fairways. A 13.54-acre castle, called Adamsleigh, which takes up a good chunk of one side of Sedgefield’s 15th hole, is on the market for $4 million. And that’s a steal. The estate has been on the market for years, and at one time was priced at $5.8 million.
Sedgefield and Pinehurst have one strong common link: golf course architect Donald Ross. He designed Sedgefield in 1926 and Pinehurst No. 2 years before. Both clubs worship him. Pinehurst has a statue of the Scotsman near the clubhouse; Sedgefield has a bust.
For sure, Greensboro harbors no jealousy toward Pinehurst. The Wyndham will use the Open to promote its own tournament.
“We will be down there,” Wyndham director Mark Brazil says, explaining that the tournament will take sponsors and others who help the tournament. “We will be part of it, but mainly as spectators.”
Bobby Long, chair of the foundation that stages the Wyndham, serves on the United States Golf Association’s presidential council. Long and about 19 other council members raise money for the Open by recruiting corporate sponsors. He says the Open’s presence in North Carolina lifts all golf shots in the state.
“It is all good,” says Long, who has a Pinehurst tag attached to his golf bag. “It is North Carolina that is known as such a great golf state and the fact that we have the tradition here and (we have) the tournament in Charlotte. It’s all helpful.”
And Pinehurst helps the Wyndham. The Pinehurst courses have sent greens staff member Rodney Robbins to help Sedgefield’s overworked staff this week.
“He’s here for a full week,” Sedgefield greens superintendent Keith Wood says. “He mowed fairways last night. He mowed greens this morning. We are putting him to work.”
Come 2014, Sedgefield will be ready to return the favor. All it will take is a call to Sedgefield and help will be headed to the Sandhills.
More like this story