Pete Dye, who started his life’s work as an insurance salesman in Indianapolis, Indiana, but then became one of the most famous and often controversial golf course architects in the world died in January from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dye who served in the Army in 1942 as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, N.C. can credit that military time with affecting his whole life. His job at Ft. Bragg was to work at the golf course on base. (This reporter had the opportunity to play that course many times while stationed there in 1968-69).
Dye’s job taught him much about the ground work associated with a golf course. It also gave him the opportunity to meet his future wife, Alice, who was a tremendous golfer who played often at Pinehurst which was a short distance from Ft. Bragg. There was a back gate outside Ft. Bragg almost adjacent to the town of Pinehurst (since closed after 9/01), so Dye would often take senior officers over to the great golf courses to play.
Dye saw Donald Ross play golf at Pinehurst and got the chance to see Ross’ magnificent course creations including Pinehurst No. 2. Even better, on one of his visits he met Alice. Pete Dye was a scratch player who competed in five U.S. Amateurs and one U.S. Open in 1957 where he finished ahead of the very young Jack Nicklaus and also Arnold Palmer. But it was Alice who had the much better golfing resume. Alice won two U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur titles besides countless other wins.
After Pete’s service time the couple got married and settled in Indiana and dabbled in course design work. It was a trip they made to Scotland in 1963 where they saw old, discarded railroad ties being used to shore up edges of low areas and water hazards to created sight changes (think the 17th at the Stadium Course at Ponte Vedra in Florida that Dye designed in 1981).
One of Dye’s first major designs was Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C. That course is still used today as one of the stops on the PGA Tour. That course created a major stir in the golf design industry and led the couple to design courses all over the word, including many sites of major championships. He was known as the only person who could overspend an unlimited budget.
My wife and I had the good fortune to sit down with Pete and Alice about ten years ago at French Link, Indiana where he had just opened another wild and unique course. They were so pleasant and unassuming. We learned from Alice that most all of their designs had cart paths to the right of tee boxes so that when a woman bent over to put her tee in the ground, she was not mooning the people waiting to tee off.
Alice Dye passed away last February. What a wonderful couple and what a legacy of golf course design they are leaving. Many of the top designers in the world today credit Pete Dye with many of their architectural designs and initiative to get into the golf design business.
The Dye’s leave three children, P.B. Dye Jr., Perry Dye and Cynthia Dye McGorey who all have done marvelous work in the golf design business.