There’s not a day that goes by when we don’t wake up being thankful for being a sports fan in North Carolina. This November, the SportsChannel8 team and a panel of peers from NC media will be counting down to Thanksgiving with the top 25 things we have to be thankful for in this great state.
Today’s installment written by Stephen Schramm, Fayetteville Observer
If you ever get the chance to see a major in person at one of our country’s classic golf venues, there are a few epiphanies you’ll end up having. First, you’ll find that watching today’s best players walk the same fairways as the greats of previous generations is really, really cool. You’ll also learn that, knowing you don’t need a logoed hat, shirt, head cover, towel and travel mug doesn’t mean you won’t end up buying a logoed hat, shirt, head cover, towel and travel mug. And at some point, it will hit you that, while everyone is happy to have you there during the week of the tournament, it’s temporary. The last putt will drop, someone will get a trophy and you’ll head to the shuttle. The gates will close and that legacy course you happily roamed will go back to being a private club, off limits to people like us. Here in North Carolina, we should be thankful that there’s nothing standoffish about our little piece of hallowed golf ground.
For more than a century, Pinehurst No. 2 has been the gem of the Sandhills. As one of the country’s first golf-centric resorts and the home of famed course architect Donald Ross, Pinehurst is where the Scottish game met Southern hospitality. It’s hosted three U.S. Opens, a U.S. Women’s Open, a PGA Championship and a Ryder Cup. Its signature event, the North & South Amateur, was created to help soothe the lingering hurt feelings of the Civil War, which had ended just 36 years earlier.
And all along, Pinehurst has wanted you to come.
Look, you want to play Winged Foot, Oakmont or Shinnecock? Well, you can’t. Want to play No. 2? Call and get a tee time. Drive down Washington Road in Augusta, Georgia and all you’ll see of Augusta National are tall shrubs and an imposing green fence. Drive down Palmetto Road heading into the village of Pinehurst and No. 2 is right there. Now, I’ll warn you. A round there isn’t cheap. And it’s not easy.
No. 2 is famous for the dome-shaped greens that punish off-target approaches and over-aggressive putts. After a recent redesign, it’s also got ruggedly beautiful waste areas that add a certain adventurous element to missed fairways. Land in them and you could have a good lie or be hitting from a clump of Eastern prickly pear.
But that’s just part of it. On No. 2, the fairways are wide, there’s no meaningful water and, with the course free of underbrush, you have to work very hard to lose a ball. No matter what level of player you are, you will be playing the course, the course won’t be playing you.
Now, if you do go, you are getting a caddie. This shouldn’t be a question. After the slick, deceptive greens turn you into a human-shaped mass of goo, you’ll need a caddie to keep you together. And if that pesky slice comes back and your confidence wilts, they’ll keep you loose and swear they’ve seen worse. Even if they haven’t, they’ll lie to you and tell you they have. Trust me, after you putt out on the 18th hole and do the obligatory Payne Stewart fist pump, regardless of what you shot, you will have had a blast.
“I am firmly of the opinion,” Ross once wrote, “that the leading professionals and golfers of every caliber, for many years to come, will find in the Number Two Course the fairest yet most exacting test of their game, and yet a test from which they will always derive the maximum amount of pleasure.”
That’s what Pinehurst No. 2 is all about, challenging golf that never loses sight of how much fun the game can be. And while that fun is open to the game’s top players and jet-setting golf aficionados, it’s open to you, too.
Two summers ago, I ended up at the U.S. Open at Merion, the playground of Philadelphia’s elite. Merion has a lovely veranda on its clubhouse. If you want to grab a drink and spend an afternoon out there, you can do it. Here’s how.
Step 1: Move to Philadelphia.
Step 2: Become a lawyer.
Step 3: Become a really successful lawyer.
Step 4: Become friends with a member, who is probably another really successful lawyer.
Step 5: Get invited by your new friend to join him out there for a day.
Step 6: Order a drink.
Step 7: Enjoy.
Pinehurst’s clubhouse has a nice veranda, too. If you want to spend an afternoon there doing the same thing, here’s how to do that.
Step 1: Go to Pinehurst.
Step 2: Order a drink.
Step 3: Enjoy.
Pinehurst’s past belongs to the game’s giants. Be thankful that, on any given day, its present can belong to any of us.
Stephen Schramm is widely known as one of North Carolina’s best sportswriters, earning national recognition for his work covering ACC sports and other events across the state. His work is available on the Fayetteville Observer website, and on Twitter.