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If the hats fit, wear them: Burt Baine juggles GM duties with playing aspirations, ESPN

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - As the saying goes, you can take Burt Baineout of Texas but you can't take the Texas out of Burt Baine. The 56-year-oldgeneral manager of Pine Lake Country Club has lived in North Carolina forfive years. But he still waxes nostalgic about his days back in the LoneStar state.

"Texas is a hotbed of golf with a ton of great players, but it is a tight-knit fraternity," Baine says. "I am not as much a part of the North Carolina fraternity, but that's because I am newer here and in a different phase of my career."

As Pine Lake's new GM, he soon may find out how tight the fraternity can be.Baine was the GM at the TPC of Piper Glen in south Charlotte from 1998 to 2001. A busy schedule, including assisting with a popular Champions Tour event and playing in two Senior U.S. Opens, kept him from filling up his rolodex.

"I am sure the fraternity here is just as tight," Baine says. "Texas andNorth Carolina are a lot a like in that they are both great states for thegame of golf."

But no matter how ensconced in the Tar Heel state golf scene Baine becomes,he always will hold his Texas days near and dear to his heart. He moved toFt. Worth from Colorado in 1976 to take the head professional job at RidgleaCC. One of the first people he was introduced to upon his arrival was BenHogan.

"I never got to play with him because he was basically beyond his playingdays," Baine says. "But I had lunch with Mr. Hogan a number of times, justhe and I."

Baine remembers a much different Hogan than the steely-eyed,ice-in-his-veins competitor who was typically on display to the public.

"The tough guy, iceman image was a façade," Baine says. "He was a shy,tender-hearted individual. He put that up because he knew he needed it tocompete against the guys he needed to compete against. It was his 15thclub."

Baine also counts Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite and Mark Brooks among his Texasfriends. He and Brooks struck a partnership in 1992 in hopes of breakinginto golf course architecture. Once they figured out the design business inTexas was a little too competitive for their tastes, they shifted to coursemanagement.

"Mark envisioned himself as a designer, and he's very talented, but thatbusiness is tough to break into," Baine says.

Baine eventually broke off his partnership with Brooks to take a shot at theSenior Tour. In 1997 he made to the final round of qualifying at the TPCSawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Fla., but he didn't finish in the top 16. Rather thangrind it out on a mini-tour, he took a job with the PGA Tour.

Being around golf from sunup to sundown, Baine was not able to shake hislove of competitive golf. He kept his game in tact while working for theTour and during his tenure at the TPC Piper Glen. He qualified and made thecut in two Senior U.S. Opens (2000 and 2001). A plus-two handicap who canshoot in the high 60s on any given day, Baine feels he has one or two morecompetitive years left in him.

"I am going to give the (now Champions Tour) Open one more shot this year,"he says.

Eventually, Baine concedes, his golf game will have to take a back seat tohis new full-time gig at Pine Lake and his part-time consulting job forESPN's National Golf Challenge. Baine actually started the popular amateurtwo-ball circuit last year as a full timer at the sports programmingbehemoth. In 2002, the charitable event (proceeds benefit the JimmyV-Foundation and The First Tee) was played on 121 courses in 40 states. Thisyear it will take place in 50 states on more than 1,000 courses.

"The growth of the event has been exponential," Baine says. "The publicreception has been incredible. It was a tough thing to leave butforntunately I am still heavily involved."

Baine says he couldn't resist responding to Pine Lake's need for a generalmanager. The venerable club on Charlotte's east side sports a revampedGeorge Cobb designed course that few golfers outside of its 467 members knowabout. Built before golf was all about selling real estate, the traditionalparkland style layout's only homes are situated around the perimeter of thecourse.

"I couldn't think of a better place to wind up," Baine says. "It is thefriendliest little club in Charlotte and it has everything you need. And itis also a player's club. We have 50 guys with handicaps of four or less."

And one plus-two tucked away in a clubhouse office who wears as many hats ashe can handle.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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