Alice Dye passed away last week, at the age of 91. Although long appreciated by golf course enthusiasts for her long career and role alongside husband Pete, the wave of coverage was nice to see. If you read any, you’ve at least learned that she was the mind behind “Pete’s” most famous hole: the island green at TPC Sawgrass—which claims some 100,000 lives a year, on average. This might have one believe that Alice put the “kill” in “Dye,” but the exact opposite was true, as Pete noted during this PBS segment some years ago:
“She’s always on me ‘how is Mary Smith going to play this golf course?’ I have more respect for Mrs. Alice than anybody because she doesn’t worry about moving the dirt or the swamp or the drains, she worries about Mary Smith.”
In an era where design intentionally became extreme in its difficulty, Pete Dye is often cited by modern architecture philosophers as the guy who found the middle ground—the place where holes resembled Lovecraftian monstrosities while still playing more cuddly for amateurs.
This dynamic would not have been possible sans “Mrs. Alice.” In the same PBS segment, she basically claimed to be the left-brain to Pete’s right. The results speak for themselves.
Part of her wisdom comes from her own background as an accomplished amateur golfer. Her push of the “Two Tee” system for women came from a lifetime of playing weekly rounds with 100-plus scorers (“Mary Smith”) while also having also demonstrated her ability to kick most men to the curb in a competitive setting. Why shouldn’t women have tee options based on ability?
With that amateur career in mind, we did a bit of research to learn more about her biggest victories. There’s not a lot of coverage…it was a different era…but here are the six courses where you can relive Alice’s biggest wins.
The North & South Women’s Amateur (1968)
If you’re looking to recreate the “Alice Dye Amateur Trail,” you may be tempted to quit after this first stop. The North & South Amateur Golf Championship has been held at Pinehurst since 1901 (with women joining the fray in 1903). Now, our research is already coming up a little short because the resort didn’t get back to our request to learn which course the 1968 event was played upon. The North & South is currently played upon the No. 2 course—but it originated on the much more mundane No. 1 Course. When the location switched, and whether both genders took part, is fuzzy. It’s a fact that Jack Nicklaus won the 1959 N&S on No. 2, so we can hope.
A No. 2 victory would be a feather in any cap, for sure; as Davis Love III said of his own 1984 N&S victory: “I’m still thrilled to have won any golf tournament on Pinehurst No. 2.”
Recall, of course, that Nicklaus was 19 and Love was 20 when they won, respectively. Alice was 41 when she won.
The Curtis Cup (1970)
The Curtis Cup is similar to the Ryder Cup in that it’s the most hallowed team competition for its gender. The Curtis Cup is dissimilar to the Ryder Cup in that the United States has traditionally dominated the United Kingdom (admittedly, no other European countries take part).
Alice participated during the 1970 rendition, at Brae Burn Country Club outside of Boston (once again humbling a Donald Ross design). The U.S. was in the middle of a 24-year streak. Still, the competition was tight, tied 4.5 – 4.5…until a certain golfer broke it open. Here’s a quote directly from the Curtis Cup’s website:
“However, Mrs. Paul Dye, Jr., of the United States, rallied from being two down with four to play, won the next three holes from Miss Julia Greenhalgh, and put the United States ahead to stay, 5.5 – 3.5.”
Mrs. Paul Dye? The couple had already completed work on Crooked Stick, The Golf Club, and Harbour Town, and yet newspaper coverage referred to her as “Mrs Paul Dye”? It’s just a preview of the “controversy” of her initiation into the ASGCA, eventual presidency of the same organization, and just underrated nature of Alice’s role as a woman in golf, in general. Of the three courses listed above, she still wouldn’t have been able to—as a woman—play The Golf Club until last-goddamn-year, despite having helped design it.
And yeah, for the record, anyone who refers to Pete Dye as “Paul” can get the hell out of here, legal name be damned.
Back to the point: If you look at the scorecard, Alice made her run at probably the course’s most sinister stretch; the no. 2 handicap Par 5, a lofty Par 3, and a typically-long Ross-ian Par 4.
The U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur (1978)
This is the most foggy of Alice’s victories as—believe it or not—women’s golf, particularly at the senior level, did not much receive much press coverage. The Country Club of Rancho Bernando doesn’t necessarily stand out in the annals of San Diego golf, and it’s not even the only course that William P. Bell designed with “Rancho Bernando” as part of its name.
One thing that is confirmed for the Dyes in 1978: Pete met with the PGA Tour’s commissioner, discussing the building of a course to host The Players Championship. Pete, having not seen the property, sketched a theoretical final three holes. You can see that he planned on a forced carry for the No. 17 Par 3. In a few years, Alice would convince him to make it a forced carry, a forced stop, and a forced left-and-right as well on that Par 3.
The U.S. Senior Women’s
There was a period where architects not only designed tougher-than-nails courses, but ownership went ahead and gave courses names that matched (i.e. “Dubsdread,” the Dick Wilson dick-move that perhaps stands above the rest of his penal discography). Hardscrabble Country Club in Arkansas doesn’t fit that category, despite the name; it’s a classic Perry Maxwell design dating back to 1926.
This course is interesting when considered within the scope of Alice’s accomplishments, because legend holds that the concept of the LPGA emerged from player meetings at Hardscrabble. The course hosted The Hardscrabble Women’s Invitational from 1946 until 1953. It was big enough to count icons such as Babe Zaharias and Patty Berg among its winners. The nation’s best female golfers came to play, and also to sympathize with each other during post-match get-togethers. Hardscrabble may very well have provided some tinder for the new Association, which formally launched in 1950.
As for Alice, her opening round set her up swimmingly for a consecutive Amateur. Her first round score of 70 is fourth-best in Senior Amateur history (you’ll see soon how huge this is for Senior play).
The Canadian Senior Championship (1983)
Remember when the U.S. Open was at Merion in 2013, and everybody kvetched about the how at less than 7,000 yards, every pro on Earth was going to destroy it? And then Justin Rose won without even breaking even? Comparing Newfoundland’s Bally Haly to Merion is a tad of an exaggeration. The ultimate moral is this: Bally Haly played at 5,855 yards from the tips for the ‘83 Canadian Senior.
And it plays from the same distance today. Now we have heard so many jackasses claim that “if I got on Muirfield, I would play from the pro tees just to see what it’s like.” Ha-ha, no you wouldn’t, you big dummy. But Bally Haly? Go for it!
Granted, it plays a bit longer than the yardage shows. Remember Alice’s opening round 70 at Hardscrabble? She opened with an 81 here…and again had the best opening round score. But then she truly went in juggernaut mode and played the next two rounds in 74, ultimately winning a 54-hole by 11 strokes. Again, maybe comparing apples to blood oranges here, but Annika Sorenstam’s LPGA record for highest margin of victory in 54 holes is 11 strokes.
The Canadian Senior Championship (1984)
Dye’s dominance was less pronounced when she repeated in 1984—only winning by four strokes—so we’re going to focus on the course instead.
The Mactaquac Championship Course still features the word “championship,” paying homage to the tournament in question. But there’s little doubt that the newer Kingswood Course is the main attraction at the resort now. Canadian golf publications hailed it as the best new course in the country during 2002, thanks to Graham Cooke’s bunkering variety and its more nature-centric outlook; the 30-foot waterfall isn’t Wynn Resort gross; it’s Black Rock great.
Disagree with all the love shown for Alice Dye and, by proxy, Pete? Well then go away. If you have anything else to say, get @BPBlackMetal (Twitter) and @BethpageBlackMetal (Instagram).