Dye ready to welcome PGA TOUR pros back to his home course

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Crooked Stick welcomed big crowds for the 2009 U.S. Senior Open.
August 31, 2012
John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM

Pete Dye has left his imprint on so many great golf courses. Every golfer knows at least part of the laundry list-- TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course, Whistling Straits, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

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But there's only one course where the 86-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer steps out of his house along the 18th hole and walks his dog each evening, still examining every square foot of grass, every bend in the greens.

Other courses are his work, but Crooked Stick is Pete Dye's life. This week at the BMW Championship, as PGA TOUR golf returns to Indiana for the first time since the 1991 PGA Championship, Dye has more skin in the game than, say, at THE PLAYERS Championship or last month's PGA at Kiawah.

This is the architect's home track.

'I can say this with no degree of modesty, I've been working on this course for 40 years, 50 years," Dye said last week by phone from that house off the fairway in Carmel, Ind., north of Indianapolis. "But there's still 14 greens that are the same when I came in here."

Dye was an upstart architect in Indianapolis in 1967 when Crooked Stick opened, carved out of a cornfield after three years of stop-and-start building as club finances fluctuated. It was just his third design, after Indianapolis' Maple Creek Golf Club (still open as a public course on the city's east side) and Radrick Farms at the University of Michigan.

Before the island greens and wild fescue and ball-repelling bulkheads of his other nationally ranked efforts, there was Crooked Stick�-- nationally ranked itself for understated beauty and more subtle difficulty.

"It's real nice, straightforward, more of a straightforward course than some of those that he's designed recently," said Fred Funk, who won the 2009 U.S. Senior Open at Crooked Stick. "It's right there in front of you, you see everything. You know where not to hit it."

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Funk knew it, all right�-- he won with a 20 under total, six shots clear of second. Hoosier golf fans, starved for the pro game in their backyard, ate it up. Their last chance to cheer professional men was 18 years earlier at the course, where you may recall one John Daly put "grip it 'n' rip it" into the golf lexicon with a dominant win.

No one saw a 12 under score from Daly or anyone else at Crooked Stick in 1991, which played at 7,289 yards, then the second-longest course in PGA Championship history. Jack Nicklaus, then 51, called it the toughest course he had ever played.

For the BMW, Crooked Stick can play as long as 7,516 yards, but Dye concedes he's not likely to hear any quotes of fear from the top 70 in the FedExCup standings who will gather for the penultimate Playoffs event.

"When I built Crooked Stick, it was slightly uphill for 265, 270 yards," Dye said. "Now they'll run the ball down to God knows where. On holes 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11, 15, 16, they'll be landing on the downhill.

"If I was worried about it, I'd have to cut my throat, but I'm not worried about it. It's just different."

Errant drives will find some lush, though uniform, rough, and Dye is eager to see how his green complexes are handled. Nonetheless, he predicts another ultra-low winning score.

That's OK for the designer who calls the course home. He's just happy for the company.

"We'll wait and see what the pros do to it, they're a different bunch," Dye said. "But everybody's going to like the golf course."

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