Golf world pays tribute to Pete Dye

Iconic golf course architect was 94.

The death on Thursday, Jan. 9 of Pete Dye, the most iconic golf course architect of the modern era, has drawn an outpouring of tributes from the golf industry.

Dye, 94, who had suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years, was the designer of some of the most famous — and some might say infamous — courses of the latter 20th century, including TPC Sawgrass, PGA West Stadium Course, Crooked Stick, Whistling Straits, Blackwolf Run, Harbour Town and Kiawah Island. Many of his designs were in collaboration with his wife Alice, who died in 2019. 

Just as impressive is the generation of outstanding designers such as Tom Doak and Bill Coore who learned their craft under Dye’s wing. Architects influenced by his work included Bobby Weed, Tim Liddy, Brian Curley, Lee Schmidt, John Harbottle, Jim Urbina, Rod Whitman and many more. 

His work was called innovative, unconventional and challenging, but never boring. 

“I think Pete Dye was the most creative, imaginative and unconventional golf course designer I have ever been around,” legendary golfer and course designer Jack Nicklaus said in a statement. “Pete would try things that nobody else would ever think of doing or certainly try to do.” 

Nicklaus, who collaborated with Dye on several projects, said he had first met Dye as a 16-year-old in Urbana, Ohio, when they played in an exhibition match with Sam Snead. They became friends, played golf together and designed courses together. 

“It was Pete who inspired me to start designing courses more than 50 years ago, and so in many ways I owe my second career to him,” Nicklaus said. 

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said Dye leaves a legacy of some of the best-known courses in the world. 

“Pete’s influence is far-reaching, leaving a global imprint on the amateur and professional games,” he said. 

Developer Herb Kohler, who selected Dye to design the Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run courses, said that his designs could pose severe challenges to the skilled golfer but still be accommodating to beginners. 

“While Pete designed to torment the most accomplished professional, his forward tees allowed the most inexperienced to play,” Kohler said.  

Before Dye, a native of Ohio, turned to course design, he was an accomplished golfer. He won a state championship while in high school and after serving in the military during World War II, he played in the 1957 U.S. Open as an amateur. 

Following his marriage to Alice — herself an outstanding golfer — in 1950, the Dyes moved to Indiana and Pete embarked on a successful career in the insurance industry. But in the early 1960s, the couple made the risky decision to launch their own golf course design firm. Their first 18-hole course was completed in 1962 in Indianapolis, Ind. 

From that modest start, they shared a career that eventually included dozens of designs or co-designs in more than 20 states and in a half-dozen foreign countries. Over the years, Dye won countless honors and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2008, just the fifth architect to earn that distinction. 

Dye’s legacy in recent years has been carried on by sons P.B. and Perry and niece Cynthia Dye McGarey, all successful architects in their own right, who have continued to work under the Dye Designs banner.

Bobby Weed met Dye in the 1970s at Amelia Island Plantation. 

"We built Long Cove together in 1981, and I’ve been building golf courses ever since," Weed said. "I can hardly approve a feature without feeling Pete’s influence. Pete was always ahead of his time. How many golf course designers could that be said about? As much of a legacy as his courses will be, the impact he had on those fortunate enough to work with him may be more enduring. Everything I hold dear in golf took root from my relationship with him."

 

 

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