PINEHURST — Bill Coore stood on the first tee and gushed over the restoration project he and his partner, Ben Crenshaw, accomplished at the famed No. 2 course at Pinehurst.
Coore remembers when he received the phone call from Pinehurst Resort and Country Club CEO Robert Dedman asking the pair to basically gut the course.
“It was a huge risk,” Coore said. “It wasn’t a business model that was broken. Pinehurst played two United States Open Championships here, they were successful. It was going to be a dramatic alteration, but I thought it was the right thing to do.”
Despite his belief, Coore wasn’t without his share of detractors, especially golfers who had fallen in love with Ross’ crown jewel.
“I had someone come up to me after we started removing all the rough, he told me ‘I have no idea what you are doing, but you better not mess this up,’” Coore said. “It’s fantastic. I walked around a few of the holes and it looks so good. It was his (Ross’) masterpiece.”
Coore has a vested interest in making sure Pinehurst No. 2 was returned to the way designer Donald Ross envisioned the course when it opened 1907. Coore, who grew up in Davidson County and played on the Wake Forest University golf team, would jump in a car as a teenager and make the hour-long trek to tee it up at No. 2.
“I would come here and play, particularly in the summer because a lot of times it was the only one open,” Coore said. “At the time you could play for $5. You could get a pass for $5 and play all day. We would play three rounds on this course and go home.”
Now some 40-plus years later, Coore was right in the middle of a $2.5 million restoration that will be highlighted when the best men and women golfers in the world invade Pinehurst in less than two months for the first-ever back-to-back U.S. Opens in history.
And the man who pulled the trigger on returning Pinehurst No. 2 to its past couldn’t be happier and it showed as Dedman addressed the media Monday morning.
“After the 2008 U.S. Amateur, Don (Padgett) and I were talking with Mike (Davis) and others about how Pinehurst has been a very special place for a view long time,” Dedman said. “But we felt like we have become too much like everybody else. We felt it was time to really try to help restore the character we think that Donald Ross intended and certainly that Mother Nature had intended.”
Davis, the USGA executive director, believes the players will be challenged from tee to green like they haven’t been before, at least in a U.S. Open. For the first time in 120 years, there will not be any long, rough grass to deal with, instead golfers will have to contend with something completely different.
“So what they’re going to encounter is sometimes they’re going to be on sandy hardpan. Sometimes they’re going to be on soft, foot-printed loose sand,” Davis said. “Sometimes they’re going to be up against or underneath wire grass. Sometimes some of the vegetation, the natural vegetation that’s just come up in these area. Sometimes it will be on pine needles or up against a pine cone. But it’s going to give these players who miss a fairway just a different type of challenge.”
Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.