Golf-course architect

Born: December 29, 1925;

Died: January 9, 2020.

PETE Dye, who has died aged 94, was an American golf course architect who was arguably the most skilled and influential creator in his profession throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Together with his wife Alice, a sometime champion golfer and Dye’s partner in the family business, he was responsible for the design and construction of over a hundred courses, the great majority of them in his home country, although there are also Pete Dye courses in Guatemala, China, the Dominican Republic, Israel, Italy, Switzerland and elsewhere.

Among the most famous golfing locations created by Dye are TPC Sawgrass in Florida, home to the annual Players Championship; Harbour Town in South Carolina, which was created in 1967 with the assistance of Jack Nicklaus; Trump National in Los Angeles; Mission Hills, one of twelve courses at the sprawling Shenzhen Resort in China; and Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, which will play host to the Ryder Cup later this year.

A capable young player in his own right, Dye played at school, college, state and US Amateurs level, as well as competing in one US Open in 1957, in which he finished ahead of both Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. In 1963 he qualified for the British Amateur at the Old Course in St Andrews, reaching the third round (he told a reporter it was a “goat ranch” on his first day’s play, but later softened that opinion), and while he and Alice were in the country they toured thirty of Scotland’s courses, taking inspiration for their growing business.

“(We) knew that if we were going to make our livelihood from golf course design, we needed to establish a link between our future courses and those of the past,” Dye later said. Beginning with El Dorado Country Club in Indiana in 1959, the couple had already designed a number of courses in the state when their experiments with Scottish-style wide fairways, tight greens, varying grasses and deep pot bunkers gave then their first hit within the golfing world.

Completed in 1964, the Crooked Stick course in Carmel, Indiana, was the first major design which Pete and Alice completed after their Scottish trip, and its blend of the classic and the contemporary caught widespread attention and inspired many imitators. The course later played host to arguably the most famous event any of the Dyes’ courses saw, John Daly’s shock win in the 1991 PGA Championship.

Although Pete took the public lead in the Dyes’ design business, the work was very much a partnership between he and Alice, who as a golfer had won over fifty Amateur championships and later a gold medal at the Senior Olympics. “Nobody had more sway with Pete, nobody could influence his perspective on making a golf course fair for all players, be they young or old, man or woman, skilled or neophyte, as could Alice,” says the family’s official website.

“I don’t mind the attention,” joked Dye, referring to his wife’s local celebrity as a golfer. “I’ve been playing second fiddle to Alice for so long in Indianapolis I’m glad it’s finally my turn.” As well as the scenery and European classicism of their designs, Dye’s courses were known as being fiendishly tricky. “If players pay attention,” he once said, however, “they can outthink me or any designer who’s trying to hoodwink them into attempting the difficult, gambling shot.”

Paul Dye Jr was born and raised in Urbana, Ohio, receiving the name Pete as a similar-sounding variation on his childhood nickname ‘PD’; in his teens the family moved to Florida, and he attended boarding school in North Carolina. His parents were Paul F. ‘Pink’ and Elizabeth Dye, and his father had designed a local nine-hole golf course before he was born, although Dye didn’t immediately take to the family business.

Instead, he went into training as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division during the Second World War, serving the rest of his time as the greenskeeper on the base golf course when the war finished prior to his graduation. He met Alice O’Neal while attending Rollins College in Orlando, Florida, and the couple moved to her home city of Indianapolis and got jobs in insurance, marrying in 1950.

Although Dye became a member of the Million Dollar Round Table before reaching age thirty, however, his greatest interest was in his side career as the greens chairman at the Country Club of Indianapolis and the agronomy classes he was taking at Purdue University, and his career chance seemed inevitable.

A recipient of both the PGA Distinguished Service Award and Tour Lifetime Achievement Award, and an inductee of the World Golf Hall of Fame, he and Alice – who predeceased him by eleven months – are survived by their sons Perry and PB (Paul Burke), both of whom are golf course designers for the family firm.