Considered in many circles to be the most influential golf course architect of the last five decades, Paul Dye, known as "Pete" to his colleagues and the rest of the world, is now in his 80s and still designing great golf courses
Pete Dye comes by his career naturally. His father designed and built a nine-hole golf course on his mother's farm in Urbana, Ohio, and Dye grew up playing and working on the course. He won the Ohio State High School Championship and was medalist in the Ohio State Amateur.
Dye was born December 29, 1925, in Urbana, Ohio, to Paul and Elizabeth Dye. From there he became a legend in the field of golf course design and construction. No easy task, unless you're as easy-going as Dye.
World War II interrupted his high school education, and Dye served in the 82nd Airborne Infantry of the United States Army. Upon his discharge, he attended Rollins College, where he met Alice O'Neal.
Alice and Pete were married in 1950 and moved to Indianapolis, where Pete became a star salesman for The Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company. Before he was 30 years old, Dye was one of the few Midwest members of the Million Dollar Round Table. During this time, he was also pursuing his golf career and won the 1958 Indiana State Amateur Championship after runner-up finishes in 1954 and 1955. He also won the Indianapolis District Championship, participated in the Western Amateur and five U.S. Amateur Championships, and played in the 1957 U.S. Open, where he finished ahead of both Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
Dye served as Greens Chairman at the Country Club of Indianapolis for about eight years. His interest in course maintenance continued and he began attending turf sessions at Purdue University under Dr. William Daniel. While his front yard on Kenwood Avenue grew into a hayfield, the sometimes-impatient members of the Country Club of Indianapolis suffered through his learning of agronomy and golf course architecture.
Although he was a champion golfer, Pete's interest was really in the design and maintenance of a golf course. He decided to leave the life insurance business to devote his time to designing and building golf courses. Supporting the career change and partnering with him in the new venture, Alice accompanied Pete on a visit to noted golf course architect Bill Diddle in his log cabin at Woodland Country Club. Mr. Diddle was not too encouraging about the economic rewards of the golf course architecture profession. Undaunted, Pete and Alice pursued and began by building a nine hole course just south of Indianapolis called El Dorado, now titled Royal Oak Country Club. Accomplishing this feat, they built their first 18-hole course, Heather Hills, now named Maple Creek Country Club.
A 1963 trip to Scotland profoundly impacted Pete's subsequent designs. Touring the great Scottish courses, he was influenced by the features he saw – small greens, pot bunkers, undulating fairways and wooden bulkheads. He began incorporating these concepts into his designs. This, in turn, influenced future golf architects and Pete has been hailed as the father of modern golf course architecture.
Pete is also acclaimed for his innovative, environmentally friendly designs. He lent his expertise in the renovation of the Kampen Course of Purdue University's Brick Boilermaker Golf Complex. The Kampen Course incorporates Pete's drainage and irrigation designs and wetlands areas that help recycle and purify water that drains onto the course. The course additionally serves as a living laboratory, combining turfgrass research and environmental studies.
This article originally appeared in the official program for the 2009 U.S. Senior Open Championship, published by Golfweek Custom Media.