Dye’s legacy looms over first Play­ers Cham­pi­onship since his death

The Kansas City Star - - Lee's Summit Journal - BY GARRY SMITS Florida Times-Union

This week’s Play­ers Cham­pi­onship is the first one to be played since its cre­ator passed away two months ago.

And even though Pete Dye didn’t make it a point to at­tend ev­ery Play­ers Cham­pi­onship at the Sta­dium Course at TPC Saw­grass, those in­volved in the tour­na­ment, from play­ers to the PGA Tour lead­er­ship, still feel a void as the deep­est field in golf tees it up for the 39th time on Thurs­day at Dye’s de­sign.

“I miss his love of the game,” said for­mer PGA Tour com­mis­sioner Deane Be­man, who col­lab­o­rated with Dye to cre­ate the mas­ter­piece that be­came the per­ma­nent home of The Play­ers in 1982. He re­ally cared about the game.”

“One of the very unique peo­ple in the game,” added for­mer com­mis­sioner Tim Finchem, who made it a point to con­sult Dye on any change, small or large, to the golf course. “Not just about here but the game.”

Those close to Dye still can’t be­lieve he’s gone, even though he lived a long, full life be­fore his pass­ing on Jan. 9 at the age of 94, less than a year af­ter his wife and part­ner in ev­ery sense of their per­sonal and busi­ness life, Alice, passed at 91.

“It was al­ways good to pick up the phone and call, and get his ad­vice and opin­ions,” said Bobby Weed, who worked with Dye on the TPC Saw­grass Dye’s Val­ley, and cour­ses in Amelia Is­land and Hil­ton Head Is­land, S.C. “I miss that. I miss talk­ing to him and Alice. They were a dy­namic duo. Pete was a men­tor and a friend and there’s still a void.”

The Play­ers is hon­or­ing Dye in sev­eral ways this week:

A per­ma­nent plaque has been in­stalled on the first tee with a quote from Dye: “It is a great bit of per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion to be asked by the Tour mem­bers to build their golf course.”

Three large pan­els on the PGA Tour Fan Shop are in­scribed with trib­utes to Dye by Jack Nick­laus and Tiger Woods, flank­ing an image of the par-3 17th hole.

NBC and Golf Chan­nel will honor Dye through­out their tele­casts with vi­gnettes of his life.

“When (Dye) passed away … golf lost a vi­sion­ary, a leg­end and a cre­ative force,” Tour com­mis­sioner Jay Mon­a­han said ear­lier this week.

Dye never used the week of The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship to re­turn and pre­side as an ar­chi­tect emer­i­tus.

“Pete had the least ego of any ar­chi­tect I ever knew,” said Ver­non Kelly, for­mer pres­i­dent of PGA Tour Prop­er­ties. “He was smart as could be but I never ever saw him put any­body down. He was a good man.”

But that’s not to say Dye was never around.

Finchem said the prob­lem is that you never know when that would hap­pen. And when it did, Dye usu­ally had an agenda.

“He would show up unan­nounced, not dur­ing the tour­na­ment but odd times, and go out and find some­thing to tell us,” he said.”It just the kind of thing he did.”

Finchem him­self was the vic­tim of one of those im­promptu visits. Dye had been pes­ter­ing the Tour for years af­ter the turn of the cen­tury to ren­o­vate the fair­ways and scrape off about a half-foot un­der the turf that had turned into a moist, mucky mix­ture of dirt and or­ganic ma­te­rial that was in­hibit­ing drainage.

Finchem and the Tour had a plan. They wanted to ren­o­vate the course and the club­house at the same time, and time it for a move of the tour­na­ment to May. But ge­nius isn’t al­ways pa­tient and Finchem looked up from his desk one sum­mer day in 2005 to see Dye strid­ing in with sty­ro­foam cups filled with the dirt he had dug up.

Dye then tipped over the con­tents onto Finchem’s desk and pro­claimed,”There … this is what this golf course has be­come.”

Finchem un­der­stood that Dye loved the Sta­dium Course like he loved one of his chil­dren.

“There has never been any­thing done around here with­out him be­ing in­volved,” Finchem said.

Play­ers learned to play Dye cour­ses the way he in­tended, or went down in flames.

It wasn’t just about Is­land Greens, un­du­lat­ing fair­ways and pot bunkers. Dye gave play­ers un­easy sight­lines off the tee, loved to cre­ate op­ti­cal il­lu­sions and made holes that gave them fits if they were too ag­gres­sive, or too con­ser­va­tive.

“(Pete Dye cour­ses) are like beer when you’re younger,” said de­fend­ing Play­ers cham­pion Rory McIl­roy. “You sort of don’t like it but then you think it’s cool to drink and then you sort of ac­quire a taste for it.”

Jim Furyk, who fin­ished sec­ond to McIl­roy last year, said he re­mem­bered that Dye said he liked his cour­ses to be “visu­ally dis­turb­ing.”

“The first fair­way from the tee looks ex­tremely nar­row,” Furyk said. “It’s un­com­fort­able, it’s tough to pick a tar­get and it looks like you’re hit­ting to a 15-yard wide fair­way. And you get up there and look around and go ‘sheesh … the fair­way is pretty big.’ Then I look at the green and I go, ‘my good­ness, that’s a tiny green.’ And I miss the green, get up there and say, ‘this green was plenty big enough to hit with an 8-iron. How did I miss it?’”

Furyk said trust­ing your game is dif­fi­cult on a Dye course.

“They look more dif­fi­cult than they are and I think he forces you into hit­ting shots that you wouldn’t nor­mally hit be­cause of that,” he said.

Mark McCum­ber, the 1988 Play­ers cham­pion, said Dye would tweak play­ers who com­plained.

“I would see Pete and tell him that his cour­ses had too many rough edges and were too visu­ally in­tim­i­dat­ing,” he said. “Then he’d tell me, ‘what are you com­plain­ing about? You’ve won four times on my cour­ses.’ ”

AP file

In 2012, Ernie Els laughs with golf course de­signer Pete Dye dur­ing the Pro-Am at the BMW Cham­pi­onship at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind. Dye died in Jan­uary at age 94.

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