The National Amateur golf championship is being held two weeks from now in the serene and single-minded little village of Pinehurst, N.C. This is as appropriate a gesture to history as it would be to play the World Series at baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., for golf has been Pinehurst's chief commodity for six decades. The drowsy resort is as significantly linked to the game as Las Vegas is to gambling, Cannes is to film festivals, or Saratoga is to horses.
Ask a resident or regular visitor to Pinehurst if he has been playing much golf lately. "No," he might reply with a sad shake of his head, "only in the afternoons." Or consider what happened in 1951 when professionals of the U.S. and Great Britain played in the Ryder Cup matches on Pinehurst's world-famous No. 2 course. Only several hundred people showed up to follow the pros. This astonished an English visitor, who observed that the other courses that make up the Pinehurst Country Club were jammed with golfers.
"The greatest players in the world are here and no one is watching them," he complained to a Pinehurst oldtimer. "What's the matter with these people?"
"My good fellow," was the reply, "people come to Pinehurst to play golf, not to watch it." This is the attitude that explains Pinehurst; it is a mecca of golf, and its pilgrims come to play.
Pinehurst is not really a town, it just looks like one. It is actually a privately owned corporation called Pinehurst, Inc., which has been run for 67 years by a onetime Boston family named Tufts. As a means of giving their little settlement of 600 permanent residents more financial solidity the corporation has sold a few home and business sites to private owners, but there is no municipal government at all, just a board of directors. Pinehurst, Inc. runs the police, the utilities and the fire department. It owns Pinehurst's land as well as two hotels, one garage, one laundry, greenhouses, stables, a training track for horses and many buildings that it has leased out to private businesses.
Its most vital holding, however, is the Pinehurst Country Club. This massive golfing preserve includes five 18-hole courses (only one other club in the world has as many), four tennis courts, a lawn bowling green and a rambling stucco clubhouse whose front portico of 29 Doric pillars gapes out over the huge playground like a giant, toothy bear. The country club is used to harvest the town's most profitable crop, the golfers. Some 30,000 of them come south to Pinehurst between October and April each year and play more than 100,000 rounds of golf. Just keeping them hurrying contentedly around the various courses requires an overworked fleet of 120 electric golf carts, plus 450 caddies who attempt to outdo each other in both efficiency and attire. A sample outfit: black alligator shoes, Argyle socks, mustard-colored slacks, a navy-blue shirt and shiny black straw cap.
Golf brings a great deal of money into Pinehurst every year, but the corporation has never let this fact rush it into overcommercializing its town. "We are trying very hard to keep things small, to preserve the amateur spirit of golf," says Dick Tufts, the recently retired president of Pinehurst, Inc., a former president of the United States Golf Association and a devoted golf scholar who has written two books, one on the history of the game, the other on its rules.
The corporation officers have not only tried to maintain the amateur flavor of golf at Pinehurst, they have enhanced it by sponsoring several major tournaments. The North and South Amateur, whose prestige is exceeded only by the National Amateur, has been played at Pinehurst since 1901, the North and South women's amateur since 1903, the men's seniors since 1952 and the women's seniors since 1954. Pinehurst's only professional tournament, the North and South Open, was dropped in 1951. Too commercial.
Considering its contributions to amateur golf, it may seem surprising that this will be the first National Amateur ever played in Pinehurst. One reason has been that the tournament is usually held in early September when Pinehurst would ordinarily be, to put it bluntly, too hot. Another is that Dick Tufts had been reluctant to ask for the Amateur for fear that it would be thought he was using the tournament to publicize his resort.
The decision to bring the Amateur to Pinehurst was forced upon him. It was made two years ago during the Amateur Championship in St. Louis and demonstrates the high esteem that Pinehurst's No. 2 course is held in by the country's top players. A group of competitors present asked the USGA's executive director, Joe Dey, why the Amateur had never been played in Pinehurst. He explained, supplying the reasons above, but agreed to poll the field in St. Louis as to its choice of a site for the 1962 event. Overwhelmingly the players were in favor of Pinehurst and its No. 2 course. Dick Tufts was asked if Pinehurst was available. Pinehurst would be honored, he said.