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Legendary Course Architect Pete Dye Dies at 94

By David Shefter, USGA

| Jan 10, 2020

Pete Dye's courses have hosted dozens of USGA championships. He also qualified to compete in 11 USGA events. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Legendary golf course architect Pete Dye, whose designs have played host to dozens of USGA championships, died on Jan. 9 in Gulf Stream, Fla., 12 days after turning 94. His death comes 11 months after he lost his wife, Alice, a two-time U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion and a collaborator on many of her husband’s iconic courses.

“Pete made a lasting impact on the game with his truly innovative style of golf course design,” said Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA. “He will be greatly missed, and he and Alice will always hold a special place in our history books.”

Many of Dye’s layouts are recognizable for their pot bunkers, bulwarks, small greens, railroad ties and other features he discovered in a transformational visit to Scottish links courses in 1963. His courses are also highly challenging, earning Dye monikers such as Marquis de Sod and Dye-abolical. In perfect Dye character, he once said of his design philosophy, “Life is not fair, so why should I make a course that is fair?” He also said, “The ardent golfer would play Mount Everest if somebody put a flagstick on top.”

Although none of his more than 100 designs has hosted a U.S. Open, layouts such as Blackwolf Run, in Kohler, Wis.; Crooked Stick, in Carmel, Ind.; Whistling Straits, in Haven, Wis.; Oak Tree National, in Edmond, Okla.; and The Honors Course, in Ooltewah, Tenn., have been the sites of historic USGA championships.

Se Ri Pak registered a seminal moment in U.S. Women’s Open history at Blackwolf Run in 1998, becoming the first Korean to win the championship and touching off a women’s golf revolution in her home country. When the Women’s Open returned to the Wisconsin resort 14 years later, another Korean – Na Yeon Choi – captured the title.

No Dye course has hosted more USGA championships than Crooked Stick, where Pete and Alice had a home. The venue’s six championships include the 1993 U.S. Women’s Open, won by Lauri Merten, and the 2009 U.S. Senior Open, won by Fred Funk.

The Honors Course will match Crooked Stick’s total of six USGA competitions in 2021 when it hosts the U.S. Senior Amateur. The club just outside of Chattanooga was the site of Mitch Voges’ 1991 U.S. Amateur victory as well as nine-time USGA champion Tiger Woods’ lone NCAA individual title in 1996 for Stanford University.

Three other venues – Whistling Straits, Des Moines Golf & Country Club and Oak Tree National – have hosted a U.S. Senior Open, while iconic TPC Sawgrass, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., site of the annual Players Championship on the PGA Tour, is where Woods memorably claimed the first of his three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles at age 18 in 1994. Alice Dye is credited with the idea for the famous island par-3 17th hole, one of the most recognized holes in the game.

Paul “Pete” Dye Jr. was born on Dec. 29, 1925 in Urbana, Ohio, where his golf-obsessed father had built a nine-hole course (Urbana Country Club). Before enlisting in the U.S. Army at age 18 in 1944, Dye won an Ohio state high school title. He also captured the 1958 Indiana State Amateur and qualified for the 1957 U.S. Open at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. He also qualified for a half-dozen U.S. Amateurs and lost to an up-and-coming Jack Nicklaus in the semifinals of the 1958 Trans-Mississippi Amateur at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan. A decade later, Nicklaus would become Dye’s design consultant for Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

In his later years, Dye qualified for the 1989 U.S. Senior Open and three U.S. Senior Amateurs (1983, 1985 and 1988), advancing to match play in all three Senior Amateurs.

Dye met his wife while attending Rollins College in Lakeland, Fla., and the couple returned to Alice’s hometown of Indianapolis. Pete first worked in the insurance business before embarking on his legendary course-design career.


Pete Dye attended the 2012 U.S. Women's Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., one of his signature layouts. (USGA/John Mummert)

Many modern course architects came under the tutelage of Dye, including Nicklaus, Tom Doak, Bill Coore, Jim Urbina, Bobby Weed, Dye’s two sons, Perry and P.B., and his niece, Cynthia Dye McGarey.

“It’s hard to overstate the influence that Pete, along with Alice, had on the profession of golf course architecture,” said Jan Bel Jan, president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. “Their designs were remarkable and advanced the profession, as did their mentoring of countless golf course architects. They were a major part of ASGCA for more than five decades and will be sorely missed.”

In 2008, Dye was one of five golf course architects enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame, joining luminaries Donald Ross, Alister MacKenzie, C.B. Macdonald and Robert Trent Jones Sr.

“My opportunity to mold God’s earth into a test that golfers can enjoy has given me great satisfaction, and I am extremely indebted to those who have given me the chance to build golf courses all over the country,” Dye said in Bury Me in a Pot Bunker, his 1999 autobiography. “Donald Ross once wrote, ‘My work will tell my story,’ and that is how I hope to be remembered.”

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at