When NBC’s coverage of the U.S. Women’s Open’s final round went live Sunday at 3, few – if any – will have a walk down memory lane quite like Louise Suggs.
Suggs won the 1942, 1946 and 1948 North & South Amateurs on Pinehurst No. 2, playing the course on the original design before rough was added. On the latest renovation, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore restoration tried to take the layout back to that original design, removing 35 acres of rough. However, not everything is the same, according to Suggs.
“I don’t remember the wire grass being as prolific as it is now. That looks fake to me for some reason or another,” Suggs said. “There wasn’t rough but I remember pine needles and sand. It looks more like I remember, but the fairways seem wider now than they were then. I don’t know if they are, but it’s back more or less to its original form.”
Everything about the course is going back to the old days. Following the conclusion of the U.S. Women’s Open, No. 2 will be reverted back to bermuda greens that it had up until the 1970s when it switched over to its current bent grass in an effort to lure the U.S. Open. Suggs had grown up on bermuda and found them a natural fit to her game when she was at Pinehurst. The equipment then wasn’t where it is today, so Pinehurst will be able to go back to Bermuda, which is better suited for the heat of the South, and still maintain greens quick enough for USGA standards.
“You couldn’t cut that bermuda down to the roots like they do now,” Suggs said with a laugh.
No. 2’s return to its original form is one Suggs would like to see more courses make. But it’s “all about the money” these days, she said, and courses are often built to set up scenic views for houses and hotels and in turn have lost the natural feel of the courses of her era.
“All courses in my day were more or less laid out on the land. They didn’t have equipment to push dirt around,” she said. “They were not manipulated.”
No one was that more true of than Donald Ross – a man Suggs remembers fondly. Although Ross designed courses all around the country, Pinehurst was his crowned jewel and he was always around the practice area that players called “Maniac Hill” when Suggs played the North & South.
“I remember he was always up on Maniac Hill in his knickerbockers. He smoked a pipe and wore a Hogan type Scottish cap with a little mustache. Very friendly and he wandered around. Everyone knew who he was,” Suggs said. “He would be sitting on the porch and we’d talk a little bit every once in a while.”
Suggs, whose 14-shot victory in the 1949 U.S. Women’s Open still stands as the largest margin of victory in a major, never got to play an Open at No. 2, but she visited Pine Needles just down the road when it last hosted the Open in 2007. Now 90 years old, living in St. Augustine, Fla., Suggs remembers a far different Pinehurst than the one she found seven years ago.
“It’s a quiet village and it is a village. And in my day there wasn’t as much traffic and there were quite a few horses around there. I used to ride horses a lot when I was there. It just had the old Carolina charm to it,” she said. “When you walk into the front door, it just felt different. You felt like you were in a golf environment and everyone was attuned to it.”