By now you’ve most likely heard about the Pete Dye Golf Trail, seven golf courses designed by Hall of Fame course designer Pete Dye stretched across Indiana that the Dept. of Tourism has created to encourage more golf visitors to the state. The announcement of the trail was made by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels in a public news conference at Brickyard Crossing, one of the courses included on the trail. I knew there’d be an opportunity for some Q&A with Dye after the announcement. But I wasn’t expecting the casual encounter my wife, Ann, and I had with Pete in the parking lot on the way in.
As we made our way from the car toward the clubhouse, I spotted an older man walking across the lot with another man carrying two sets of golf clubs. The man carrying the clubs was Dave Harner, Director of Golf at the French Lick Resort. An the older gentleman was the 85-year-old guest of honor. (The two sets of clubs were those of Pete Dye and his wife/design partner, Alice). With no one else around, this was a perfect opportunity to meet the legendary designer. I approached Mr. Dye and introduced myself, followed closely by my wife. Pete was polite and genial and when my wife introduced herself, he jokingly said to me, “I’d rather meet her than you.” At 85, still sharp as a tack… with impeccable taste. We continued the conversation as we walked, pointing out that we actually live in a house on his very first design, “El Dorado” (now a private club kown as Dye’s Walk). His first reaction was to ask, “When are they gonna get a light down there?”, a reference to the club entrance on State Road 135 in Greenwood that can be a bit of a bear getting out of when traffic is heavy.
Over the course of the rest of the event, when Pete happened to see Ann in the crowd, he would refer to her as his “El Dorado girl”. I also ran into Alice Dye in the clubhouse as she was shopping for a new golf hat. I said hello and mentioned to her our home on her (and Pete’s) first design. She smiled and said, “They didn’t have us back to do the second nine.” She was good-natured about it, but something tells me it still kind of rubs them the wrong way that they weren’t asked to “finish the job”, as it were.
One of the surprise moments of the day’s event was supplied by Gov. Daniels. In addition to the creation of the golf trail, the governor decided to take the opportunity to honor both Dyes with a Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honor an Indiana governor can bestow. A nice touch and well-deserved for the long-time residents of the state (Alice, a native… Pete, a transplant from Ohio).
Speaking of the governor, I had a chance to spend a couple of minutes chatting with him and ask about his golf game. Daniels served as George W. Bush’s first budget director from Jan. 2001 to June 2003. I asked the governor if he had ever golfed with the Bush family. After a short pause, he said, “The short answer is no.” He then went on to explain that during his time in Washington, he almost always came back to Indiana for the weekends. The one time he decided to stay in the D.C. area, he was going to play golf with friends and was actually at TPC Avenel when he got a call from the president. “Hey Mitch,” said the governor, doing his best W impression. “We’re gonna tee off here at Army/Navy in a half hour. You wanna play?” Daniels knew the Army/Navy course was at least 30 minutes away from Avenel. That, and he’d already agreed to play with his friends. So he turned down the president’s offer. He said he had only minor regrets, but was happy that his friends now have a great story, “He turned down golf with the president to play with us,” Daniels said, quoting his buddy.
The final piece of the day’s event was a round of golf for the Dyes, the governor and about 10 foursomes of their closest friends. First on the tee was the course designer, followed by governor Daniels and finally Alice ( a nine-time winner of the Indiana Women’s Golf Association Amateur Championship). Ever the gentleman, after her tee shot, Pete came over and lent Alice a shoulder as she stepped gingerly down the steps from the tee… steps made of Pete’s ubiquitous golf course feature, railroad ties.