Rain moved into Pinehurst overnight. Playing golf looked very doubtful as it continued raining throughout the morning, yet I remained optimistic about my 12:30 tee time. My luck changed at 11:30 AM when it stopped raining. That was enough for me to head to the golf course in spite of a forecast for continued showers.
Pinehurst is historically linked to Payne Stewart. He was a very colorful professional golfer who’s outlandish plus-fours, tam and elegant outfits made him unmistakable on the course. "My father always said the easiest way to set yourself apart in a crowd is the way you dress," said Stewart.
Stewart began playing golf at age four, learning from his father, Bill, a former Missouri State Amateur champion. In 1982, Stewart finally earned his PGA Tour card and won his first of 11 tour events at the Quad Cities Open with his father in the gallery. The victory was a milestone in his career, but grew in importance when it turned out to be the only time his father would see him win. Bill Stewart died of cancer in 1985. (Side note: the Quad Cities Open began in 1972 at Crow Valley Golf Club where I am now a member. The tournament moved across town to the Oakwood Country Club in 1975, the course where Payne won on in 1982. The tournament moved again in 2000 to Deere Run TPC and is now known as the John Deere Classic.)
Payne died in a tragic plane crash 4-months after winning the 1999 U.S. Open on the Pinehurst #2 course. At the time of his death, he was ranked third on the all-time money list and in the top 10 of the World Golf Rankings. In his honor, the flag pin is placed in the same location each Sunday as it was when he sank the winning putt. A statue at the 18th green captures the jubilance he displayed on that memorable afternoon.
The Payne Stewart statue at Pinehurst
The first time I played the course was in 2002 as we drove back to Iowa from Kiawah Island. The course had wide open fairways lined with tall fir trees on either side. The course was relatively easy to play, until I tried to putt the greens. The rolling terrain and speed of the greens caused me to miss a lot of putts. At times the ball would roll past the hole, off the green and back into the fairway.
This was a new Pinehurst. The natural & strategic characteristics of the original Donald Ross design were restored, based upon aerial images of the course from the 1940s.
The project was completed in 2011. It included the removal of 35 acres of turf (30% of the grass covered fairways & roughs). Hardpan, natural bunker edges and native wire grasses were reintroduced in place of the grass.
Green side bunker on hole #6
Fairway bunker on hole #7
Green side bunker on hole #8
Location: Pinehurst, North Carolina
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #2
Date: 22 Apr, tee off at 12:30 PM
Conditions: overcast with occasional spitting rain, 8 MPH wind, 58 degrees
Lost balls: 0
Lost balls: 0
Score: 89 on a par 72
The front nine proved difficult - - - no pars with 4 doubles resulted in a score of 49. The new bunkers were grabbing my ball and not allowing me to come out of them easily. The greens remained difficult as always to putt. My game was being helped by an excellent caddy but that was not evident from the scorecard.
411-yard par 4 hole #2
471-yard par 4 hole #4 (view of approach shot from the fairway)
178-yard par 3 hole #6
148-yard par 3 hole #9
My playing partners were fresh from a multi-day golf school at Pinehurst. Mike lived in New Hampshire and worked for Silicon Valley Bank. Justin and Mark were both from Phoenix, where Justin works as an air conditioning contractor. Mark was currently unemployed after leaving his last assignment as an associate pastor. In that capacity he visited Africa and Haiti performing missionary work focused on orphaned children. Both Justin and Mark had adopted an orphan child into their families. All of them seemed to be struggling with their games; I shot a lower score than any of the group with no schooling.
Caddy Joe, Justin, Mark, Mike & Caddy Colin
It did spit rain on us during the round but not enough to pull out any rain gear. For no apparent reason my game fell into place with three straight pars following a bogey on hole #10. I finished the back nine with two more pars and a score of 40.
358-yard par 4 hole #13 (view of approach shot from the fairway)
478-yard par 5 hole #16
View of approach shot to the green on hole #16
162-yard par 3 hole #17
366-yard par 4 hole #18
View of approach shot to the green on hole #18
Both of the caddies I played with in Kiawah were very knowledgeable of the course. We played with two caddies at Pinehurst. Joe was in the same A+ category, with over 20-years of caddy experience on Pinehurst #2. He was married with two daughters. Colin was our 2nd caddy. He was not in the same league with Joe. Colin’s 83-year old father still worked 30-hours/week as a maintenance welder at the Pinehurst resort. His mother had passed away. She was 13-years older than his father with 9-children from her first marriage. After their marriage, they had 2-children; Colin and one daughter.
Sunday April 22 marked the start of the 17th week of 2012. Playing Pinehurst in North Carolina marked the 17th state I have played in. My goal remains attainable.
The rain kicked in again 30-minutes after I walked off of the course.