Tar Heel Golf Notes

Henry Lister

Now hear this: golf is NOT dying, fading or becoming irrelevant. Despite all the doom and gloom you might read, golf is more robust than probably ever. This is most prevalent if you take a longer view. Consider that golf has been played in Scotland for over 500 years where it was fairly egalitarian. Golf has only been a sport available to the masses since early 1900s. And so in less than 5 generations we have achieved the following:

• over 20,000 golf courses (about 50% of the courses in the world) were built;
• nearly 10% of the US population plays golf
• approximately 45% of the golfers in the world live in the US
• only Australia has a lower ratio of people to golf holes than the US (1200 : 1800)

While the golf industry has suffered some small losses in courses and pure number of players in recent years, the game is strong and part of the fabric of our society. In fact, play is up 13% this year alone. Heed not the nay­sayers who chime the death knell of a game about which so many are passionate.

Resident golfers of NC have enjoyed an extraordinary year. The weather has cooperated to bring some of the best conditions from Murphy to Manteo. Grass is growing at astonishing rates and all green surfaces are faring well here in the Triangle. Personally, nearly every course I’ve played is in brilliant condition overall. Area superintendents are getting a much-needed break and deserve a big Atta Boy.

Three new tournaments bring to 7 the number of opportunities NC golfers have available to see the best golfers in the world. The biggest dog is the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow (Charlotte), the first time since 1974 it will be played in NC.

You may recall Rory McIlroy made a little noise there in 2010. (FYI, Lee Trevino won by a stroke over Jack Nicklaus at Tangle­wood Park in Greensboro in 1974. He won $45,000. This year’s winner will pocket $1.8m).

A new championship hosted by the US­GA was the 3rd US Amateur Fourball, played at Pinehurst in May and featured Wake Forest teens Akshay Bhatia and Grayson Wotnosky and several top college amateurs. The Wells Fargo moved in May from Quail Hollow to a little known but highly regarded course called Eagle’s Point CC (Wilmington) so that the PGA could play their championship at Quail Hollow.

The fifth big tourney this year in NC is of course the Wyndham Championship at Sedge­field CC (Greensboro) immediately after the PGA. Not to be forgotten is the Champions tour SAS Championship at Prestonwood (Cary) in September which is always well attended by players and fans.

Finally, the Web.com tour stop is at TPC Wakefield Plantation (Raleigh) in June and is shockingly under-attended given the quality of talent that shows up.

There are few states that can boast this amount and level of play in any one year and in my humble opinion this should be the norm. What is missing is the LPGA in NC. Sure, they’ve played the Women’s Open in Pine­hurst and at Pine Needles, but some course should be hosting a regular tour event for the LPGA in The Old North State.

A group of black bears was reported on several courses near Mt. Mitchell earlier this summer. There were no reports what their scores were.

Hobbit Golfer 2017 index: 48 rounds. Aver­age score 82, CGA handicap = 7.8 “The older I get, the better golfer I used to be.” — Lee Trevino