Pinehurst Resort’s Bob Farren, CGCS, has been inducted into the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame in a special ceremony hosted by Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella.
Farren, vice-president of golf course maintenance at the resort in the “home of American golf,” became the 80th member of the Hall of Fame recently. He was inducted along with USGA past-president, Jim Hyler, and the late golf course architect, George Cobb.
Farren closed his acceptance speech on the night with a simple wish.
“It is my hope that we can continue to recognize the contributions of the superintendent in the future,” he said.
It had earlier been noted that George Thompson, CGCS, formerly of the Country Club of North Carolina, was the only other career superintendent in the hall that was established in 1981. Donald Ross, who was among the first inductees started out as a greenkeeper but became best known as the prolific golf course architect and crafter of Pinehurst No. 2.
That Farren chose to close his acceptance speech with a direct, though polite, pitch for more superintendents to be inducted should come as no surprise.
“The quality of the man is incredible,” Don Padgett, retired Pinehurst president and chief operating officer, told the crowd of more than 100 golf industry leaders. “I’ve never met anybody that I respect more, admire more, or of greater integrity. I don’t know of anybody, personally or professionally, that asked Bob for help and he hasn’t given it and with all that he has.”
Padgett paid tribute to Farren’s length of service — he arrived at Pinehurst in 1982 — but said years alone told only a portion of the story. More revealing was the impact of what he’d achieved during that tenure. By Padgett’s count, either through acquisition or restoration during Farren’s time, Pinehurst created 87 new golf holes, not counting the overhaul of No. 2.
That project, taking the course back to the sparse and sandy characteristics Ross first worked with, was not an easy process, Padgett said.
“It didn’t go very well internally and if I didn’t have Bob it would have been a disaster,” he said. “But it couldn’t have turned out any better. Not many people know this, but he’s the true hero of that project.”
The high point of No. 2’s renaissance came when it hosted the U.S. Open Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open Championship in successive weeks.
But perhaps more far-reaching was Farren’s role at the resort during the time of the Great Recession. His predecessor, Brad Kocher, CGCS had retired, elevating Farren to the lead position just as the global economy crashed.
“No one knew where the bottom was,” Padgett said. “Bob comes into my office for our first meeting and I said, ‘Cut as much as you can to keep us going.’… and you know what he did. He got it done and he got us through it.”
That meeting was the catalyst for Pinehurst eventually removing nearly 100 acres of golf turf — out-of-play areas — from heavy maintenance across the resort.
“Bob figured out how many man-hours and how much fuel we could save,” Padgett later explained. “He got to a number that was far better than I thought it could be. He showed a lot of original thinking. He made that number go down significantly.”
Through Farren’s efforts as a speaker and source for news coverage, that initiative became a model for other courses across the country, saving them untold amounts of money and resources at a critical time.
Farren’s first task stepping to the stage for his induction was to make something clear. Addressing Pinehurst’s current leadership, he drew great laughter when he said: “This is not a retirement speech. I’ve always been afraid that one day I’d have to get a real job, and I don’t want to have start looking right now.”
He added: “I’m grateful to be part of a team for many years that has been entrusted as stewards, caretakers, for such an iconic symbol of golf in America. And perhaps more importantly to be part of a community that embraces the spirit and values of what golf can offer society.
“Few people in my profession have the opportunity to work with such a wonderful membership, have access to the resources of a great ownership, and to be part of a great leadership team. I’m especially proud of our work in the area of sustainable management practices that others throughout the industry have embraced.”
Farren thanked a host of people, many of whom traveled a long way to be there that night. Among them were GCSAA’s president Rafael Barajas, CGCS, and chief executive officer Rhett Evans. The USGA’s Mike Davis was also present, as was Gil Hanse, architect of the recent renovation of Pinehurst’s No. 4 course. Farren also cited USGA Green Section agronomists Pat O’Brien and Chris Hartwiger.
He also acknowledged his late father, who himself was a lifelong superintendent in West Virginia, where Farren grew up and developed his love for the game and the industry. “Any success I’ve enjoyed in my career is directly attributable to my faith, my family and my friends,” Farren said.
Later this year, Farren will help host the U.S. Amateur Championship at Pinehurst. That will extend an already impressive list of significant events he has had a hand in during his career, including: 2017 USGA National Four Ball Amateur Championship; 2014 U.S. Open Championship; 2014 U.S. Women’s Open Championship; 2008 U.S. Men’s Amateur; 2005 U.S. Open Championship; 1999 U.S. Open Championship; 1998 PGA Club Professional Championship; 1997 PGA Club Professional Championship; 1994 U.S. Sr. Open Championship; 1992 PGA Tour Championship
1991 PGA Tour Championship; 1989 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship; 1987 PGA Club Professional Championship; 1985 PGA Hall of Fame Classic; and annual North and South Amateur Championships