Dyes Celebrated at Golfweek Architecture Summit

Pete Dye has made a life out of playing in the dirt. The 88-year old golf-course architect and his partner in life and design Alice Dye, 87, charmed an audience of Golfweek course raters, friends, colleagues and former field staff at a three-day architecture summit that ended Nov. 11 at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

The occasion was simply to appreciate the life work of this remarkable couple. Fine amateur golfers in their own right, they set up shop out of their home north of Indianapolis in the late 1950s and proceeded to transform the American golf landscape. They also spawned a whole generation of new designers, who all studied under them and went on to establish themselves. That list includes two sons, Perry and P.B. Dye, as well as Bill Coore, Tom Doak, Tim Liddy, Jason McCoy, Lee Schmidt and Bobby Weed.

Those who gathered out of respect for the Dyes told stories of a design team that relied a whole lot less on formal plans and documentation than simply scratching designs out of the dirt. Nelson Caron, superintendent at the Ford Plantation in Richmond Hill, Ga., spoke and showed field images) of Dye on his hands and knees there last year as he laid out his ideas for renovating the golf course that he had opened there 25 years earlier. Weed, who ran the project at Long Cove Club on Hilton Head Island, S.C., more than 30 years ago reminded everyone of Pete Dye’s work ethic – rousing the crew at 5:30 a.m. and working them hard through 90-degree heat and dust.

Doak paid homage to the generosity of spirit in which Dye shared everything he knew. “There were no trade secrets,” said Doak. “He was amazingly patient in explaining what he had in mind and asking us, encouraging us, for our input.”

The Dyes’ influence reached far beyond their immediate circle of former associates. Course designer Jan Bel Jan, a Jupiter, Fla.,-based course architect who was the second woman accepted for membership into the American Society of Golf Course Architects, paid homage to the first female member. Bel Jan praised Alice Dye’s work on behalf of female golfers and golfers of all handicaps and her encouragement of modern architects, including her husband, to build courses for all players.

Bel Jan recounted her own upbringing into the golf industry working on maintenance crews, in the pro shop and calculating by hand members’ handicaps, and reminded everyone of the hard work and long hours that go into making the modern game. It was all part of honoring two distinguished, self-effacing folks who have spent decades turning dirt into fascinating golf ground.

The event, sponsored by Golfweek, is the second in an annual series. Last year’s honoree was Donald Ross. Next year’s has yet to be determined.

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