If not for a fortunate military transfer, Pete Dye might have stayed an insurance agent and amateur golfer. And golfers worldwide wouldn't have had the pleasure of playing some of Dye's most diabolical course designs.
But while stationed at North Carolina's Fort Bragg during World War II, Dye not only played regularly at Pinehurst No. 2, he met Donald Ross, the father of American golf architecture. That relationship eventually led Dye to switch careers in his mid-30s. And razor-sharp -- and sharp-witted -- at 88, Pete Dye is still designing golf courses, more than 80 at last count.
We recently sat down with Pete at his newly redesigned Ford Plantation Golf Club in Richmond Hill, Ga., to see if he'd share anecdotes about some of his more famous courses, and how they came about:
Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head
"I built Harbour Town on a real shoestring. We finally got the course done, and I can remember it was in August and Joe Dey, who was then with the PGA of America, called me and said, 'I hope you have all the sand in the bunkers.' I thought they were talking about having the tournament at Sea Pines in November. I said, 'Well, OK. I'm sure the sand will be in.' But there wasn't any sand in any of them. I sent my wife, Alice, out to finish the 13th hole with a crew and a bulldozer.
"But the day the tournament started, I was on the 13th hole. It was real early and I was out there with a crew, trying to put the sand in. The first guy was coming down the fairway just as we finished. So I walked behind him and two men were standing behind the green and said, 'Isn't this a lovely hole that Jack Nicklaus built.'
"I was standing behind them, all dirty from raking the bunkers, and said, 'Jack Nicklaus has never seen this hole. A lovely young lady designed it.' I walked away, and heard one guy say to the other, 'There goes an early-morning drunk for you.' "
Whistling Straits, host of the 2015 PGA Championship
"Herbert Kohler came down to Oak Tree in Oklahoma and got me to go back and look at the land. I could tell that he'd never played golf. Finally, he convinced me to build the course. I started out and the next thing I knew, he had a national women's open scheduled.
"He wanted to put the 17th green about a mile and a half away from the 18th tee. And I kept saying, 'Mr. Kohler, you can't do that.' So he said, 'I'll be down there at 5 o'clock.' Well, he didn't show up, so I grabbed the equipment, knocked down all the trees and put the green where I thought it should be and put everything on fire. And I thought, 'The best thing I can do is get the hell out of here because he's going to have a heart attack.'
"He came there and saw the smoke and everything burning. He called me and told me to get back there, because he was going to kill me. He did everything but kill me, but I finished the golf course. The next thing I knew, he wanted me to build two more courses. And it's been successful. Every time I go back, he wants to know what I'm doing -- and I never tell him."
Ford Plantation Golf Club, Richmond Hill, Ga.
"When I first built this golf course, it was about 30 years ago. Anyhow, I thought I knew everything, but I didn't know anything. They called me back and I told them it'd take five or six million dollars to fix it back up. Tim Liddy was working with me and he went through all the processes to get the permits, and then he put a few bunkers out where the high handicap players would hit.
COURSE REVIEW: Ford Plantation Golf Club
"I must have made 30 or 40 trips down here, and we finally got the golf course worked out. We changed a few holes. I remember moving No. 1 way out to the right, and we cleaned up the whole area so you can see the water. We put in all new greens and bunkers, and added new irrigation.
"But it's amazing to me, when I come here to see this course, you play Nos. 1 through 9 and it's in a wooded area. Then bang, you're out in the open. There's only four trees out there someplace on the outward nine."
Casa de Campo Resort, Dominican Republic
"They wanted me to build a course in Santo Domingo. But there was no land there. I said, 'Do you own anything else?' They said, 'Yes, but nobody would go there.' They owned about 500,000 acres about 50 miles from Santo Domingo, and I thought, 'Well, there's got to be somewhere in there to put a golf course.'
"But the road stopped at this river, and it took all day to get out there. They were going to build an industrial park right on the ocean, and I said to them, 'This is where the golf course ought to go.'
"Now there's five golf courses out there, 3,500 homes worth an average of two to three million dollars, and people will come from Italy and France to stay there. Since I started down there, the whole country's tourism has grown. Now there's a four-lane highway that'll get you there in 45 minutes."