Once a year I get to write about golf and this is the time. Last week I caddied for my daughter Allie in the annual North South Amateur Golf Tournament in Pinehurst, N.C. The event is in its 109th year. It’s a little different than most golf tournaments in that only 64 players are invited. They compete in head-to-head matches until only two are left – the same as a tennis tournament or the NCAA basketball tournament.
With the heat index hitting a record 114 degrees, the caddy was looking mostly for a dry towel following the final round.
It was started to give a little publicity to the new golf resort in Carolina’s sand hill region. There a photos in the historic club house showing women in long white dresses and big hats milling around with golf clubs in their hands at that first event.
It seems the resort now needs little publicity. It has nine 18-hole golf courses and is considered the nation’s golf Mecca. The cost to play these courses ranges anywhere from $110 to $370 a round during the summer. Add about $50 during the busier fall and spring. Why less during the vacation season? The daily high temperature while we were there averaged about 105 degrees F. The heat index one day hit 114 degrees, which the evening newsman informed me was a record for the state. It also rained buckets during two of the afternoon rounds. Why not give anyone who would be willing to brave such conditions a price break?
The course where the tournament was held is Pinehurst’s most famous No. 2. Designed by golf architectural legend Donald Ross, it has hosted the nation’s most prestigious events and will be home to both the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Opens in 2013. The last 2 years work has been completed to restore the course to its original look with white sandy “waste areas” lining both sides of the fairways -- like sand dunes more common on the state’s Outer Banks some 200 miles away.
Golf architects went to great trouble to restore white sand waste areas alongside the fairways at the Pinehurst No. 2 golf course.
The waste areas give the place a special character, but really don’t affect the players very much. The fairways down the middle are wide with plenty of room to land the ball. In three rounds Allie was only in the fairway sands three times and just barely in it at that.
You do kind of wander through it a various times and it looked like a real maintenance headache to me. Of course weed control is not what a caddy is supposed to be thinking about during a competitive round of golf, but I couldn’t help but notice where a green-dyed 2,.4D had been applied to chickweed and other broadleaves in the sand.
When I came upon a worker pulling weeds from the areas, I asked him about keeping dunes looking good. “It takes a lot of work,” he told me. “This is the perfect place for crab grass and we get to spend a lot of time pulling it out.” He said they have planted some 80,000 tufts of wire grass in the bunkers and will plant about that many more before the Open tournaments are held. They try to leave some of the flowering broadleaves to keep the dunes interesting.
He was happy for the rains. The area was under a severe drought and had not had rain fro several weeks. During the reconstruction of the course, they had torn out the double lines of irrigation that used to run on both sides of the fairways and put a single line down the center. The thinking was the dunes didn’t need water and they could save money by not using as much irrigation. Unfortunately the new wire grass did need water to get established and the maintenance crew has to hand water all of it.
The courses biggest claim to fame are greens that undulate like giant potato chips and are cut tight so the ball rolls like it would on smooth concrete. However, given the extreme heat and the fact the greens had just been rebuilt, they had to keep them relatively shaggy and wet. They were more of factor for how slow they were rolling than how fast.
The fairways were wide enough that my golfer only found these bunkers a couple of times in three rounds. However, the caddy still has to rake the areas whenever a golfer goes in and hits the ball out of them.
Allie won here first round after the 16th hole. The second day she played Lisa McCloskey, the top-ranked amateur in the tournament. Despite losing four of the first five holes, Allie bounced back to have chance to tie the match on the 18th. However, Lisa made a long birdie putt to finish things off.
The golfer chalked one up to experience and promised to be back for the U.S. Open with a little more course knowledge under her belt. The caddy looked for a towel and some dry clothes – maybe a little relieved he didn’t have to go back for a second match that afternoon.