There are many ways to measure the legacy of an influential person. In the world of golf course architecture, one way to assess the impact of a particular figure is to look at the network of successful people connected to him or her.
In the case of Pete Dye, who passed away in January of 2020, that legacy is just about unbeatable. His “family tree” of architects spans beyond his blood relatives to the likes of Tom Doak, Bill Coore, Bobby Weed and several others. But his influence doesn’t end there.
Dye liked to think of himself more as a greenkeeper than an architect or engineer. He had a special relationship with the people charged with maintaining his vision after his tornado of artistic talent turned out a finished golf course.
Dick Gray is one of those people. His relationship with Dye spans from a chance meeting in the summer of 1969 to the present, where the now 76-year-old Gray works as the superintendent over the Dye, Wanamaker and Ryder courses at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
In his seven-year tenure, Gray has led a remarkable transformation of a golf facility that was, as he puts it, “underappreciated” when he arrived. He was named TurfNet's Superintendent of the Year in 2016.
Now, however, PGA Golf Club’s three courses are in what Gray calls “everyday tournament-ready shape.” They’re as immaculate as any courses one can play for less than $200 in peak season in Florida (the club reserves at least one course for non-member play every day). And though it’s a bit overshadowed by the likes of TPC Sawgrass and other flashier names, the Dye Course there is without a doubt a major work: fun to play for the everyday golfer but all the physical and intellectual test a low-handicap player could want.
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Topics covered include:
- How Pete Dye courses "hide the cheese" from golfers, and force them to "face the bully."
- How a disagreement over water turned into a lasting friendship.
- Why greenkeepers don't always need to cater to other golfers.
- How being a golf course superintendent is like being a coach.
- Why every golf hole is, as Gray says, "an opinion."
- What it took to turn the three courses at PGA Golf Club from a "travesty" into three of Florida's best-kept layouts.
- How, beyond fixing ball marks and raking bunkers, everyday golfers can support the people who care for the courses they play