Why we should all be thankful this week for Alice Dye
March 14, 2019
By Jim McCabe, PGATOUR.COM
In Memoriam: Alice Dye
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Had he not possessed the great sense to treat his wife with profound reverence and let her voice be such a roadmap in his life, Pete Dye might not have scripted a World Golf Hall of Fame legacy.
Then again, even Alice Dye saw the good fortune in that rare instance when Pete didn’t follow her advice.
It was some 40 years ago when Deane Beman, then commissioner of the PGA TOUR, offered Pete the chance to build a stadium course that would serve as the TOUR’s home facility.
“Pete, you’re crazy,” Alice said at the time, aware of Beman’s prowess as an amateur golfer and TOUR winner. “You can’t build for Deane Beman; he’s too good a player. He’s particular and he’s efficient, he’s all the things that you aren’t, and he’ll have his hands in there trying to tell you what to do and all this stuff.”
Her warning: “Don’t do it.”
His reply: “I’d like to do it.”
Alice was telling this story in 2006 during a roundtable discussion commemorating the 25th anniversary of THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Given how it eventually turned out, she had to concede, “Boy, was I wrong, because Deane was wonderful; he absolutely let Pete do his thing, but before we started, Deane said he wanted a stadium golf course.”
History shows, of course, that Pete Dye delivered beautifully, giving Beman, the PGA TOUR, and the golf world a stadium course by which all stadium courses would be measured. Ah, but the truth is, while he went against his wife’s wishes to take on the project, Pete might not have pulled it off so brilliantly without her uncanny sense of reason.
“They were a unique team and you couldn’t have one without the other,” said Vernon Kelly, former president of PGA TOUR Golf Course Properties. “There’ll never be another couple like them.”
“Pete liked to go to the edges of golf-course design,” laughed Tim Liddy, who has his own design company now but worked with the Dyes for years, “and Alice was the one who would reign him in with perspective.”
True, all of that, but in a break from the form of embracing them as a team, one member is being singled out in a fitting remembrance at THE PLAYERS Championship this week – Alice. She died Feb. 1 at the age of 91 and her significant contributions to this world-famous golf course are being recognized in a fitting locale – on the flagstick at the 17th, easily the most recognized hole at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course and arguably one of the most famous in the world.
Thank you, Alice is what it reads at the bottom of the flag. But emblazoned across the top is a quote from Alice that helped created the phenomenon that is the island-green 17th. “Why not just make an island green,” Alice famously said to her husband after he concluded that he had backed himself into a corner between the par-5 16th and par-4 18th.
“You know, Pete wasn’t much on plans,” Alice Day said that day back in 2006, “but for Deane to get the money from the bank, (Pete) had to draw a set of plans.” Asked how closely they followed those plans, Alice Dye laughed: “We didn’t follow the plans, we followed the sand.”
As the story goes, Pete Dye – who is 93 and living with Alzheimer’s disease – needed sand throughout this swamp of a landsite and he got the majority from the area around what was going to be the 17th green. “So, one day Pete came to me and he said, ‘You know, we’ve got a big problem.’ He said, ‘I’ve only got 17 holes out there; where’s the par 3 supposed to be? All I’ve got is a gigantic hole in the ground,’ ” Alice Dye recalled.
“He said, ‘Come out and look at it.’ So, we drove out, I walked out, we stood there and looked at that and that’s when I said, ‘Well, why don’t you put the green back where it was and just leave the big hole filled with water?’ So that’s what he did.”
With anyone else, the story would have been “look at me” material, prime fodder for the ego. Only Pete and Alice Dye were soulmates, two people devoid of ego and totally comfortable with one another to express disagreements. That shined through the first day Alice Dye saw the putting surface that her husband had come up with for the 17th.
“When I came out and looked at it and he said, ‘What do you think of it?’ I said, ‘Pete, you know the tournament is in March, right?”
Alice wasn’t a big fan of the green. The front of the green sloped toward the water in front, the back third of the green sloped back toward the water.
“I could just see the TV (coverage) and hear the announcers saying, ‘It’s 2 o’clock and we’re on the air. The first threesome is still on the 17th hole. Nobody has been able to stay on that green.’ ”
Alice and Pete Dye joined everyone else in laughter that day back in 2006 as she told that story, but more importantly is how the famed designer listened to his wife’s opinion back around 1981. “Thankfully,” she said, “he enlarged the bunker in front and smoothed the back (of the green).”
It was vintage Team Dye, dynamic talents who worked seamlessly together. “Just wonderful people, in addition to being so talented,” Kelly said. “I just have vivid memories of them standing on mounds of dirt, just talking, not really arguing, but if they disagreed, they just talked it out.”
Liddy said Alice Dye “was very smart and she gave Pete the sounding board” he needed. Knowing them as he did, Liddy suggests that Alice’s recommendation for the island-green 17th at TPC Sawgrass wouldn’t have come “out of a single conversation, but from weeks of conversation; that’s how they worked.”
Alice’s voice was always crucial to their projects, from the viewpoint that she was a polished competitive golfer in her own right and a woman who wouldn’t hesitate to remind the men that a significant cliental needed to be considered. “She was always very interested in where we were going to put the women’s tees,” Kelly said, “and that’s not something we gave a lot of thought to, because we were focused on a premier championship test.”
But Alice reminded them all that TPC Sawgrass was going to host regular golfers, many of them women, and so she devised a method for determining where to put the women’s tees. A quality women’s player from the golf shop walked the course with Team Dye and if it was deemed that the men would hit a 6- or 7-iron into a particular green, Kelly said the woman would go to the green and hit a 6- or 7-iron back toward the tee so they could determine where the landing area would be. Then, the woman would go to the landing area and hit a driver to put perspective on where the women’s tees should be.
Years after TPC Sawgrass was up and running, Pete played the 17th hole in a casual round with Alice and safely hit the green. “I don’t understand why they have such trouble with this hole,” he told Alice. She replied, “Well, Pete, it’s different when it’s just your wife and that frog looking at you.”
The next day in a more serious pro-am, Pete Dye stepped to the tee at 17 and “they had beautiful young ladies sitting there with a bucket of balls, in case you hit one in the water,” Alice recounted in 2006. “So, Pete strides up there, you know, no problem, and while his ball is still in the air, the girl rolls him another ball.”
Alice let the laughter fill the room that day, then added that she told her husband: “That hole is really simple, Pete, but it gets tougher when you put a pencil in your hand.”
Pencils will be in hand the next four days, and so it won’t be so simple a shot at a golf hole that remains a brilliant testament to a wonderful woman of substance. “You can’t be on this property and not think about Alice,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “As every player looks at the flag, they will see a tribute to Alice this week, something that we’re very proud of.
“We’ll miss Alice.”