After his time as a golf writer for the Durham Morning Herald, Lee Pace started freelancing for golf magazines in the late-1980s. He had missed writing about so many good walks spoiled and wanted to get back to writing about golf.
So he married that longing to geographical convenience — Pinehurst Resort was only an hour and 15 minutes away from his home in Chapel Hill, and he discovered the allure of Pinehurst’s courses and the stories they held.
In our upcoming issue of NC State magazine, Pace tells the story of Pinehurst’s most profiled course, No. 2, and the historic restoration its undergone with the help of three NC State alumni, Kevin Robinson ’92 , John Jeffreys ’00 and Tom Lineberger ’11.
Pace will release his third Pinehurst-centric book, The Golden Age of Pinehurst: The Story of the Rebirth of No. 2, this fall, chronicling No. 2’s grand history. We caught up with him to talk about why the course that will host the 2014 Men’s and Women’s U.S. Opens is so captivating and some of his favorite stories from his time writing about it.
Why does Pinehurst continue to be so magical for you? The whole Pinehurst experience is something you’ve got to experience to understand. It has been called an” oasis in the Sandhills.” You stumble on this New England-style village in the middle of nowhere. It’s mystifying in that it’s not along the coast. It’s not on a river. It’s not in the mountains. There’s no reason for it to be there. It’s an enclave of golf established more than 100 years ago. …It’s just got an entirely different feel and personality to it.
In your new book, you turn to the No. 2 course and its design. Why did you choose to tell that story? I’ve known the designers in charge of the restoration, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, for 20 years. I felt the two of them would be open and accessible, and that I could get a really good book not just about Pinehurst, but about golf architecture itself. The way they look at design. The way they respect the old world style.
What most surprised you this go-round about the course’s history? One of the things, and it was one of the cornerstones to the restoration that Coore and Crenshaw did, was that the single-line irrigation that was laid in 1923 was still there. Those lines were laid by Donald Ross in 1923 when they first laid irrigation. The only water it got was when it fell from the sky, so they laid the irrigation. And it could only hit 75 feet on each side. They were able to go back to the original line and, along with aerial maps, get a really good view of the course and see where the fairway lines were.
What is your all-time favorite Pinehurst story? One of the best ones from [amateur golfer] Billy Joe Patton is that the second hole runs along the road. He was over in a bunker in a playoff. A woman had gotten lost and didn’t know who she was talking to when she asked Patton and the gallery where she could get a hotel room. Billy said, “Lady, if you can wait a few minutes you can probably get mine.” Patton bogeyed the hole, causing him to lose a playoff.