Hall of Famer Pete Dye Serves as Anxious Host at 43rd PGA Professional National Championship

By
PGA of America

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He's been roasted over his creations on grass, from Florida, to South Carolina, to Indiana, and countless ports of call in between. Pete Dye's body of work often gives golfers fits of apoplexy.

It may come as a shock, but 84-year-old Pete Dye prefers that he will not be remembered as "Dye-abolical." He would just as soon not cause future golfers fits of apoplexy.

As the PGA Professional National Championship draws to a climax Wednesday afternoon, the World Golf Hall of Fame architect is one of the most anxious spectators, awaiting verbal reviews like a Broadway playwright on his namesake layout, The Pete Dye Course. The venue is one of two on display in the showcase event for PGA Professionals.

"I'm very interested to hear what the golfers think of the course," said Dye. "I hope that someone shoots a real good score."

A field of 312 PGA Professionals representing 43 states and 41 PGA Sections are competing on both Dye's challenging par-72 layout, played at 7,174 yards, and at the 6,885-yard Donald Ross Course, the handiwork of the legendary Scotsman.

Dye, who lives 2 hours, 15 minutes away in Indianapolis, said that he made 140 trips to French Lick to complete his course, which opened April 23, 2009. The entire project resulted in the movement of two million cubic yards of earth.

"Today's 11th hole used to be a giant hill," said Dye of the highest perch on the course. "We were fortunate to find a D-10 [the world's largest Caterpillar earth mover]. We were able to cut down deep through that hill. You know when you build a golf course, you got to take into account how the game of golf has changed dramatically."

The game, Dye said, takes into account more than the changes in equipment.

"You have to look at how you prepare the rough, cut the fairways and where you put those bunkers," Dye said. "We have the new turf type fescue that stands 1¾ inches here and we have narrow fairways and nothing in front of the greens.

"What you got to do here is play conservative when your ball rolls down off the side of a fairway. The better players are thinking about their second shot in an effort to save par. Joe Q. Public is thinking about making a bogey and plays conservative. If the ball is sitting up, it's better to be conservative and play back to the fairway.

"What I like is that you can walk this golf course. I'm one-half of 168 and I walk it."

The Championship, presented by Titleist, FootJoy and Club Car, offers a $550,000 purse and most importantly to its competitors – a crystal Walter Hagen Cup.

Dye, who was the 2004 PGA Distinguished Service Award winner, has been the host architect for previous PGA Professional National Championships in 1989-90 at PGA West-Stadium Course in La Quinta, Calif.; in 1999 at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., and in 2005 at The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, S.C.

He recalls vividly many of the conversations and the results of how many of the game's premier players dealt with his creations.

"When I built the course [Harbour Town Golf Links] at Sea Pines Resort [in Hilton Head Island, S.C.], everyone wanted to kill me," said Dye. "But Jim Colbert turned in rounds of 66 and 67, and Arnold Palmer ended up winning [1969] the event.

"And the 1991 Ryder Cup at The Ocean Course was the first time any event was played on the course. Raymond Floyd said prior to the Ryder Cup how great a job I did, and all that. He awakened the next day and the wind was blowing out of the northwest and oh, boy, everything was wrong.

"You never know what you're going to get once you get to a the course, and I'm just hoping that they will still want me to be showing up when it's over."