LA QUINTA — Pete Dye never was known as golf’s defensive coordinator, but that’s what he was. He was the king of different looks.
“Indecision, I love indecision,” Paul Casey was saying on Tuesday, at the newly-retitled American Express PGA Tour event here, also known as Beyond Hope.
“When I play a great golf hole, that’s what I’m faced with. Like No. 12 at Augusta National, for instance. Such a simple hole and it creates massive indecision.
“Pete Dye was able to do it time and time again. He’s the best modern architect. A lot of names get thrown around, but he was an absolute genius.”
Dye passed away last week, at 94, two years after he had shot an 89. He designed the PGA West Stadium Course, one of the three in use this week.
He also invented the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course in Ponte Vedra, Fla., home of The Players Championship, where the tiny island in the middle of an alligator-plagued lake has become the most famous snapshot in golf.
Seventeen is its name, its number and, for a 30-handicapper, a potential score.
“You stand behind there and there’s no depth perception at all,” said Bill Harmon, the golf instructor. “There’s nothing behind it. Then you bring in the wind and the pressure and the fact that you can’t miss anywhere. One day it’ll play hard downwind and they’ll never be able to finish.”
Golf is not as easy as it looks on TV. But it is comfortable, to a degree that would have troubled Dye.
He moved enough land to build a continent and he loved mounds and he didn’t believe in straight or automatic putts. Most players don’t enjoy resistance on the golf course. Dye was the loyal opposition.
“I’m all over the place when I think about him,” Harmon said. “He has built some great golf courses, beautiful ones, too. Whistling Straits (on the shores of Lake Michigan, and the host of the 2020 Ryder Cup) is stunning.
“But I just don’t think the regular golfer can really enjoy playing those courses. One of the great things about golf is the recovery shot. Pete didn’t really believe in the recovery shot.”
However, Casey remains fascinated with the illusions Dye created. Casey played at Arizona State, on the Karsten Golf Course.
“It’s been dug up now, sadly,” Casey said. “Yeah, he was diabolical, and there were some holes I wanted to blow up, but it was brilliant stuff.”
In 1982, the Players (then known as the TPC) moved to the Stadium Course. Jerry Pate won it and then approached Dye and Deane Beman, the tour commissioner who founded the tournament, which is the Tour’s own major. Even now it brings in the best field of the year, and everyone has a shot.
Rocket-launchers like Tiger Woods, Greg Norman and Fred Couples have won it. So have finesse artists like Fred Funk, Craig Perks and Tim Clark.
Paul Goydos came close to a workingman’s win when he lost to Sergio Garcia, thanks to a plunge at 17.
“You think about 17 the whole way around,” said Tom Sargent, the retired pro at Mesa Verde Country Club in Costa Mesa.
That ’82 inaugural almost sent the pros to a picket line. “I’ve never been good at stopping a 5-iron shot on the hood of a car,” Nicklaus said.
Pate sank the winning putt, grabbed Beman and threw him into the lake at 18. Dye was next to go. Both had removed their watches and wallets beforehand.
“I did it to Deane for wanting this course, to Pete for building it, and then I went in to drown them both,” Pate said.
But no one had a serious complaint about Crooked Stick in Indianapolis, where John Daly burst into our lives by winning the 1991 PGA Championship.
“He made a lot of contributions,” Sargent said. “He made it easier for women to play golf because he would give them a 4,800-yard course while we would play it at 7,000. I think Alice (Dye’s wife and a two-time Curtis Cup player) had something to do with that. They really were a team.
“Pete was a character, good company. He had strong beliefs and he wouldn’t back down. That’s a good quality.”
And when a player told Dye that the course was hard, Dye would reply, “Thank you.”
“We’d stand on a tee,” Casey said, “and we wouldn’t see a fairway, and we’d be intimidated, and then you’d get down and find that he’d been very generous with the fairway. Those tricks and those mind games, done to players of all standards. … There’s always flavors of the month or the decade, but he was the one.”
Sure. Golf can use a Rocky Road.
Source: East Bay Whicker: Remembering Pete Dye, golf’s last taskmaster