PINEHURST, N.C. — Winged Foot and Merion seem to be the favorite golf courses of the United States Golf Association and its prestigious tournaments, but for destinations, they sure seem to pine for the sandy hills of Pinehurst.
Winged Foot has hosted 11 USGA events, including four U.S. Opens, and Merion has had a whopping 17, with four U.S. Opens and another scheduled for 2013.
The Pinehurst area has welcomed 15 USGA-conducted events. The Donald Ross-designed No. 2 course at the Pinehurst resort has two U.S. Opens to its credit, but unlike Merion and Winged Foot, it isn't the only golf course to get its share of the limelight.
"The USGA has held so many events in the Pinehurst area because it is considered the 'St. Andrews of American Golf,'" said USGA official Marty Parkes. "Pinehurst has one of the greatest and longest associations with the game."
Not surprisingly, the famed resort's eight golf courses have hosted the bulk of the USGA tourneys, with eight: the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Opens, 1994 Senior Open, 1989 Women's Amateur; 1980 World Amateur Team and Women's World Amateur Team, 1967 World Senior Amateur Team and the 1962 Amateur.
The 2007 Amateur, one of the most prestigious tournaments in the country, will be played next year at No. 2. Qualifying will be held on the resort's No. 4 course before the championship is settled in match play format on No. 2.
No. 2 has cast a brilliant light on the Sandhills region's other tracks, some of whom have been bestowed with national tournaments.
Pine Needles has hosted the 1996 and 2001 Women's Open, and will host another next year, the 1991 Senior Women's Amateur and the 1989 Girls' Junior.
The Country Club of North Carolina hosted the 1980 Amateur and Legacy Golf Links in Aberdeen had the 2000 Women's Amateur Public Links. In addition, Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club in Southern Pines held the 2002 Senior Women's Amateur.
"The major drawing card for us is the quantity and quality of the golf courses," Parkes said. "When you conduct national championships like we do, the fields of those events are composed of the best players in a particular category. They expect and deserve a top-flight golf course that challenges them to an extent that is consistent with a national championship. Pinehurst and its area golf courses provide several such venues."
The Sandhills has 43 golf courses spread through the region, not even half that of Myrtle Beach, but Pinehurst attracts the sort of golfers who want to play golf and not much else. If you run into someone in the area who doesn't play or at least enjoy watching golf, you've run into an anomaly. As a community, the support of the game is almost unmatched.
"It's also important for local communities to embrace our events and prove a congenial host for our players and officials," Parkes said. "There are few communities in our nation that do a better job of celebrating golf and providing a welcoming atmosphere than Pinehurst.
January 15, 2007