Like a lot of elite golfers, Joey Hines has tried to qualify for a U.S. Open. Six times he has entered the process and six times he has failed to advance past the local stage, twice missing by three strokes.
But that doesn’t mean the 52-year-old head professional from Wilmington, N.C., hasn’t enjoyed the U.S. Open experience. In fact, Hines has a unique U.S. Open story, one that few – if any – players can match; not Tiger Woods, Bob Jones or Ben Hogan. Probably not Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson or Phil Mickelson, either.
Although it took 29 years, Joey Hinds can say that he has played every course that has hosted a U.S. Open.
The odyssey began in 1981 at Northwood Club in Dallas, site of the 1952 Open, and ended on Sept. 23, 2010, when Hinds played Worcester (Mass.) Country Club (1925 Open). That final notch concluded a run of 49 courses in 17 states.
It certainly was no small task. In many cases, he had to beg, borrow and plead to play the course.
Rounds were played in snow (Southern Hills Country Club), rain (Skokie Country Club) and even sleet (Champions Golf Club). But once Hines established his goal, he was determined to finish.
“The best I can tell, I’ve got them all except for Englewood, which no longer exists,” said Hines. Englewood Golf Club in Bergen County, N.J., hosted the 1906 U.S. Amateur and 1909 U.S. Open, but it closed in the 1960s to make room for I-95. The approach ramp to the George Washington Bridge actually cuts through portions of the former course. “It’s a little hard to play that one.”
The Country Club of Buffalo (N.Y.), which hosted the 1912 U.S. Open, has changed locales, moving from Amherst to Williamsville. Hinds played the new venue and visited what now is Grover Cleveland Golf Course, a hardscrabble municipal layout across the street from the University of Buffalo’s campus. The course hardly looks the way it did 100 years ago and many of the holes have been reconfigured, but a plaque commemorates the second of John McDermott’s back-to-back U.S. Open victories.
“It’s the only course to have a par 6 for a U.S. Open,” said Hines. “I found a regular there who could show me the holes pretty much the way they used to be. I thought about whether it was worth it to trudge around. I counted that I played the existing club that hosted the championship, not the existing site.”
For Hines, the challenge often was landing a starting time. Phone calls had to be made to the head professional or a member. He used contacts at his home club, Cape Fear Country Club in Wilmington, to assist with the process. Often, he would accompany members on junkets to Chicago, New York or California, where they played premier layouts.
“I had to beg, borrow and steal,” said Hines. “Baltusrol wasn’t easy. Chicago Golf Club was brutal. Riviera [in Los Angeles] wasn’t easy. Every one of them had their rules and you had to respect what they are. Sometimes they just put you with a member and make things work. Sometimes you just beg, borrow and cry until they let you on.”
For example, he had a time set up at Chicago Golf Club, site of three of the first 17 U.S. Opens, only to have the member call back and cancel, fouling up Hinds’ travel schedule. So he contacted a friend who knew the superintendent, John Jennings. Jennings agreed to help Hines, but they had to play at 7 a.m. on a Tuesday and start on the 10th hole.
“We played and had a blast,” said Hines, adding that if he had only one more round to play in his life it would be at Chicago G.C. “If you don’t get goose bumps walking around the clubhouse … then you are not much of a golfer. It gets your blood going. I would compare it to the experience of playing at St. Andrews and standing there on the first tee.”
When Hines started in the business after attending East Carolina University, he never had any delusions of grandeur of playing every U.S. Open course. He had seen some of the courses on television and heard members’ stories. In college, he had played Pinehurst No. 2 and clearly recognized its beauty.
But everything changed in 1981 after a friend helped Hines land an assistant professional position at Northwood Club. Seeing this layout whetted his appetite. Club members also belonged to tony places such as Seminole, Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links of America. During his three years at the club, a few members backed Hines financially in his bid to play on the PGA Tour. He made it to the finals of Qualifying School in 1984, but failed to obtain his card. He also qualified for the 1987 Byron Nelson Classic, bu0t missed the cut.
Eventually, Hines understood his bread would be best buttered as a teaching pro. And in 1990, he accepted the head professional position at Cape Fear C.C.
But during the previous nine years, Hines had already managed to play some high-level courses, including Congressional Country Club, site of this year’s U.S. Open, and Atlanta Athletic Club (1976 Open). He also did a brief stint at Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas, where members had taken him to California to play Cypress Point, Pebble Beach (site of five U.S. Opens), San Francisco Golf Club and The Olympic Club (which is hosting its fifth Open in 2012).
“When I got the job here at Cape Fear, [playing all the U.S. Open courses] was still not on my radar,” he said. “I just wanted to play famous courses that you see on TV.”
Then a group of members suggested a trip to New York to play Shinnecock Hills (four U.S. Opens) and National Golf Links. The trip also included a stop at Baltusrol (seven-time Open site), Merion (fifth Open coming in 2013) and Aronomink.
U.S. Open Courses Played By Joey Hines
Newport Country Club (Rhode Island)
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (New York)
Chicago Golf Club (Illinois)
Myopia Hunt Club (Massachusetts)
Baltimore Country Club (Maryland)
Garden City Golf Club (New York)
Baltusrol Golf Club (New Jersey)
Glen View Club (Illinois)
Onwentsia Club (Illinois)
Philadelphia Cricket Club (Pennsylvania)
Englewood G.C. (New Jersey, defunct)
Country Club of Buffalo (New York)
The Country Club (Massachusetts)
Midlothian Country Club (Illinois)
Minikahda Club (Minnesota)
Brae Burn Country Club (Massachusetts)
Inverness Club (Ohio)
Columbia Country Club (Maryland)
Skokie Country Club (Illinois)
Inwood Country Club (New York)
Oakland Hills Country Club (Michigan)
Worcester Country Club (Massachusetts)
Scioto Country Club (Ohio)
Oakmont Country Club (Pennsylvania)
Olympia Fields Country Club (Illinois)
Winged Foot Golf Club (New York)
Interlachen Country Club (Minnesota)
Fresh Meadow Country Club (New York)
North Shore Golf Club (Illinois)
Merion Golf Club (Pennsylvania)
Cherry Hills Country Club (Colorado)
Philadelphia Country Club (Pennsylvania)
Canterbury Golf Club (Ohio)
Colonial Country Club (Texas)
St. Louis Country Club (Missouri)
Riviera Country Club (California)
Medinah Country Club (Illinois)
Northwood Club (Texas)
The Olympic Club (California)
Oak Hill Country Club (New York)
Southern Hills Country Club (Oklahoma)
Congressional Country Club (Maryland)
Bellerive Country Club (Missouri)
Champions Golf Club (Texas)
Hazeltine National Golf Club (Minnesota)
Pebble Beach Golf Links (California)
Atlanta Athletic Club (Georgia)
Pinehurst No. 2 (North Carolina)
Bethpage Black Course (New York)
Torrey Pines Golf Course (California)
By now, Hines was intrigued by the idea of playing all the U.S. Open venues. He purchased a book on the Open’s history and began to plot annual trips. The next year he went to Massachusetts to play The Country Club (three Opens). Next he was off to Minneapolis to play Hazeltine National, Interlachen and Minikahda Club. He flew to Detroit to play Oakland Hills and then to Chicago to play Medinah.
That was followed by an Ohio/Pennsylvania trip to play Inverness, Canterbury and Oakmont outside of Pittsburgh. He visited Colorado to play Cherry Hills and St. Louis for Bellerive C.C. and St. Louis C.C.
When his wife became envious, he took her to Southern California for rounds at Torrey Pines and Riviera, along with Los Angeles Country Club, which many people think could host an Open. He played five courses in three days in the Boston area, including Myopia Hunt Club (four U.S. Opens), The Country Club and Newport (R.I.) Country Club, which hosted the inaugural Open in 1895.
Interesting enough, he had never played Colonial C.C. in Fort Worth while he worked in the Dallas area, so he arranged a trip to the Metroplex. Ironically, an ice storm hit the city, so Hinds had to set up another trip.
Another visit to Chicago included stops at North Shore, Onwentsia, Glen View, Midlothian and Skokie C.C. When the group arrived at Skokie, it was pouring, so they waited out the storm in the clubhouse. By 5 p.m., the rain had subsided and the only remaining pro shop staffer let them play the course sans caddies or carts. By the time they reached No. 18, darkness had enveloped the course.
“We trampled through the mud and played until dark,” said Hines. “The club was having this huge party on the veranda. As we stumbled up that fairway, we used the lights from their party to putt on 18.”
When East Carolina’s football team traveled to Houston to play Texas Tech in a bowl game, Hines decided to take his daughter, then 10, for a getaway that would include a round at Champions Golf Club (1969 Open). On the day they arrived, the city was hit with a freak storm. Despite the sleet and frigid temperatures, Hines and his buddy played the entire course in a sprint as his daughter and his friend’s wife drove the cart.
“I was not worried how well I was going to play,” said Hines. “We just wanted to get the round in. Hardly anyone was there on that particular day because it was so cold.”
His round at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., was played under similar conditions. It was just Hines and a few crazy members of the University of Tulsa men’s golf team carrying bags in near-frigid conditions.
To get on Bethpage State Park’s Black Course, a state-owned venue which hosted the 2002 and 2009 Opens, Hines had friends dial into the reservation system to secure a starting time. Because he had other courses arranged for the trip, Hines wanted to avoid the sleep-in-the-car method of course access. They procured a 2 p.m. tee time and finished the six-hour-plus round in the dark.
“I don’t think I found my tee shot at 18,” said Hines.
Eventually, Hines was left with just one course unplayed, Worcester C.C. in central Massachusetts. Last September, he flew up to Massachusetts and played Essex County Club, Salem C.C., Brae Burn, The Country Club and finally, Worcester.
To commemorate the feat, a Cape Fear member created a display that can hold 52 golf balls. A small engraving accompanies each ball with the club name and the years it hosted the U.S. Open. Two spots have been reserved for Chambers Bay (2015) and Erin Hills (2017), future Open courses that Hines plans to play in the coming years.
“I’m very proud of it,” said Hines of the display. “It jumps out at you. This is not your average every-day ball collection.”
As for his favorite course, Hines said he has a soft spot for Northwood, the place where it all began. “I would not have my break in golf without it,” he said.
Asked which was the toughest course, he didn’t hesitate. “Oakmont and Winged Foot. If they want to, they can make both of them so hard you can’t finish.”
As for a hidden gem, Hines was quick to point out Torrey Pines. “Pebble is one everyone talks about out West, but for a daily-fee course, [Torrey Pines] is not that far off from Pebble. But for other hidden gems, I would say the ones in Chicago blew me away. Places like Glen View and Onwentsia. Those two were just really neat. And Myopia Hunt Club [in Massachusetts] because it’s so quirky and different. It has such history with the polo fields there. People are riding horses all over the golf course.”
Now that his U.S. Open odyssey has been completed, does Hines have plans to play other major venues? He’s got the Masters covered, having played Augusta National. He has also played many of the courses that have hosted the PGA Championship, and he’s eight away from completing the full British Open rotation. That to-do list includes six courses in England, one in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland.
Some might think he’s a bit nuts, but most are just envious.
“How can you not be envious of somebody who has been as fortunate and lucky as I’ve been to go to the places I’ve gone,” said Hines. “A lot of things came together. The people at the club have been very supportive. My family has been supportive. The golf pros that you call… you are asking a big favor to let a stranger who you don’t know off the phone come [to your course] and might embarrass you by showing up in blue jeans and taking a divot out of the first green.
“It keeps me as young as I am in an old man’s world.”
David Shefter is the USGA's senior staff writer. E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.