The Ocean Course, Long Absent From Golf’s Spotlight, Is Back

KIAWAH ISLAND, SC – The PGA Championship returns this week to the Ocean Course, a daunting place brimming with golf stories. Despite the almost spiritual status of the course in sports – “The legend of Bagger VanceWas filmed there – this is only the second major championship on the site.

Pete Dye, who began work on the course on Kiawah Island with his wife Alice in 1989, never questioned whether his creation would be one of a kind. When he stepped on the course on a quiet evening in 2012 for the month leading up to the PGA Championship that summer, he stopped to wave a hand across the windswept landscape, where the crashing of the ocean waves is an omnipresent soundtrack.

“It’s the only place we’ve built that runs and swims,” ​​said Dye. “It’s from the land and it’s from the water.”

Head down, Dye marched about 10 paces, then added, “You can drive from Miami to New York and you won’t find a golf course like this on the Atlantic.”

The return of the PGA Championship to the Ocean Course was made possible by the Pete passed away last year at the age of 94 and by Alice in 2019 Married for nearly 70 years, the Dyes were kings of golf architecture: Pete as the most influential designer in the latter half of the 20th century and Alice as his permanent partner who became the first female member and first woman president of the American Society of Golf Architects.

Their work on Kiawah Island symbolized their solidarity. During one of the couple’s surveys of the property when the last nine holes were being drilled in 1991, Alice said, “Pete, I can’t see the ocean on these nine. I don’t just want to hear it, I want to see it. “

The fairways were raised several feet, which provided more than improved visibility. Raised fairways exposed the closing holes to sea threads so volatile that they weighed on the charging or fading tournament officials. The gusts have become a trademark of the endlessly unforgettable course.

The dyes will be missed at this week the masterpiece they created, but their presence will also be felt by those who were toddlers when the course debuted.

Webb Simpson, who ranks 10th in the world, didn’t make the cut in the 2012 PGA Championship, but he left Kiawah Island forever impressed.

“I didn’t play well, but I didn’t blame the golf course,” Simpson, 35, said in an interview this month. “I loved Kiawah. I remember leaving ’12 thinking it was like a British Open course where you have to trust your lines over corners, over bushes, over swamps. There’s a 66 or an 80 for every golfer every day, which is exciting for a major. “

Keegan Bradley tied for the third at the 2012 PGA Championship won by Rory McIlroy. Bradley, 34, believes the Ocean Course’s relatively infrequent appearance on the calendar of elite golfing events is part of its appeal.

“It’s not a major championship venue that we go to every five years,” said Bradley, who won the 2011 PGA championship. “It has become a special place for us.”

The Ocean Course has not always been held in this regard.

During a 2011 interview, the Dyes sat in matching white wicker chairs in their South Florida home, remembering the earliest days of the course.

“I saw his future the moment I got there, even if there was nothing but myrtles and ugly bushes,” said Pete. He laughed. “Of course the PGA people first saw the country when they nearly vomited.”

Then, in September 1989, Hurricane Hugo blew through the southeastern United States. Kiawah Island has been declared a national disaster area. At a 1990 press conference for the 1991 Ryder Cup, Pete was asked where he was going to place the huge galleries of fans that were expected.

“Galleries? How should I know? “Pete replied.” We don’t even have holes. “

Alice’s memory of the day was a little different.

“You had a plan, Pete,” she said in 2011. “You just didn’t want to tell them yet.”

Alice and Pete later agreed that Hugo had strangely helped their project. It ruined the work already done on several holes, but the destruction gave the dyes a chance to rebuild sand dunes and other natural elements to their liking. Floodlights were set up so the work teams could schedule 16-hour days to complete the course on time.

Introduced to the golf world prior to the 1991 Ryder Cup, the course was breathtakingly beautiful. Playing it was far from pleasant. David Feherty, a television commentator who was on the European Ryder Cup team that year, called the course “something from Mars”.

The competition, won by the American team after three exciting days, became the most famous Ryder Cup, partly because of the betrayal of the finish holes on the Ocean Course. TV ratings for the event surpassed that weekend’s NFL games, a first for any golf competition.

The Kiawah Island creation of the Dyes instantly climbed to the top of America’s top rankings.

However, it has always been impossible for the Dyes to pick a favorite from the more than 100 courses they have designed.

“We think of them as we think of our children,” said Alice, “not pieces of history.”

This week, after nine years on the sidelines of great championship golf, the Ocean Course will take another turn in the spotlight. And with that, there will be another chance to appreciate the brilliance of Pete and Alice Dye, a golf team like no other.

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