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DeCock: Foundation of Pinehurst golf course renovations under threat

By Luke DeCock - staff columnist
ldecock@newsobserver.com
Luke has worked for The News & Observer since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist in August 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.
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  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/18/21/57/11ePYa.Em.138.jpeg|395
    Jim Bounds - Jim Bounds
    This undated photo shows Donald Ross practicing with an iron. Ross designed the Pinehurst No. 2 golf course. Of the roughly 400 golf courses Ross designed, No. 2 at Pinehurst was always his pet. He shaped the first nine holes from the sand hills of North Carolina in 1901, completed the course in 1907 and then spent the last 41 years of his life trying to perfect it.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/18/21/57/MkqM9.Em.138.jpeg|488
    Chris Seward - cseward@newsobserver.com
    View down the first hole from the porch of the clubhouse on Pinehurst No. 2 golf course on April 14. Both the Men’s and Women's U.S. Open golf tournaments will be played on thiscourse in June later this year.

PINEHURST The path Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore followed as they tried to turn back the clock on Pinehurst’s No. 2 course starts here, in the basement of a crowded but tidy library in the Village of Pinehurst.

It was here that they found the original Donald Ross plans and vintage aerial photos that showed what the course looked like before it was carpeted with grass and, over the course of a century, lost touch with its original Sandhills roots and character. It couldn’t have been done otherwise.

The Tufts Archives, endowed by the family that founded Pinehurst, occupy a small room at the back of the Given Memorial Library as well as the basement below. It is the history of Pinehurst in documents, from Ross’ drawings to hotel registers to family letters to decades of original photographs. It was an invaluable resource for Crenshaw and Coore. It remains an invaluable resource for the Pinehurst community. And so much of it is at risk of being lost.

The public display, with photographs and drawings and letters, is impressive and wonderfully organized by hard-working archivist Audrey Moriarty and dedicated volunteers, but it’s only the beginning of what the library has collected. A large collection, including Ross plans for courses far from Pinehurst, remains stored in the basement in less-than-ideal conditions.

Rodents have nibbled on linen drawings. A flood last year threatened the entire collection. Irreplaceable photos by longtime resort photographer John Hemmer need protection from light (there are already three freezers full of negatives). Only a small portion of the original material is readily available upstairs to visitors. Meanwhile, plans to expand the library and archives remain on hold, awaiting funding.

“There are a lot of things we ought to do,” Moriarty said. “What we do, we do well, but we really need to do more.”

Much of this has already been saved once. When Diamondhead, a real-estate developer, bought Pinehurst from the Tufts family in 1970, a longtime Pinehurst employee, Mildred McIntosh, was told to clear out the comprehensive files at the Carolina Inn and dispose of them. Instead, she stashed the material until a place could be found to keep it.

Richard Tufts, the grandson of Pinehurst founder James Tufts who ran the resort for decades, endowed the Tufts Archives to house the papers in 1975, but the accumulation of material long ago outstripped the library’s ability to contain and display it.

After an $8 million fund-raising campaign to expand North Carolina’s only privately funded library stalled, Stuart MacDonald, a Cary golf publisher, helped start a foundation dedicated to better preserving the Ross files specifically but the overall expansion of the library as well. Working with the blessing of the library and the Donald Ross Society, the launch of the campaign – donaldrosslives.org – is timed to the twin Opens.

“We wanted to let the golfing world know that while we’re celebrating Donald Ross’ masterpiece, his life’s work is just across the street and some of it is in boxes and some of it is crumbling,” MacDonald said. “We need to do something about it.”

The No. 2 course will once again be the epicenter of the golf world in June, with the men and women playing back-to-back. The Crenshaw/Coore retooling of the course will be as much of a star as the players themselves. And none of it would have been possible without the trove of history stored not far away in the village, desperately in need of a new home to give it the showcase it truly deserves.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947
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