PINEHURST, NC – Playing the Dogwood Course at the CC of North Carolina as a bad golfer (like me) is kind of like being dropped halfway up Mount Everest as a warped office jockey (like me) ). You marvel at the beauty, while simultaneously realizing that you have some really big problems.
That was the experience of playing the Dogwood two weeks before the US Junior Amateur, which begins today at CCNC and ends with the 36-hole championship game on Saturday. The Dogwood Course and Cardinal Course host the championship stroke game, the first since the USGA decided to expand the field from 156 to 264, while match play takes place on Dogwood. Suffice it to say that the best junior golfers in the world will have their work cut out for them. As someone who can fight for the mid 80’s on a good day at my local municipal course, but who until recently hasn’t played golf regularly for a few years, I made it my business the seemingly modest goal of breaking 100. I gave it a combat shot too, but thick, rough and the prevalence of bunkers ready to punish any slightly wandering approach took its toll. On my 16th hole it became clear that unless I had a miraculous finish with birdies and maybe an eagle, I would be missing a few shots.
That last miraculous stretch didn’t happen, but I took the time to appreciate the beauty amidst the carnage. Like Pinehurst No.2 on the road, the Dogwood Course is framed by tall pines from start to finish, immaculately maintained and worthy of the reputation it has earned despite being in the shade of the one of the most famous courses in America.
It was the site of the 1980 US Amateur, won by Hal Sutton, as well as the 2010 US Girls’ Junior (won by Doris Chen) and countless Southern Amateurs. Founded in 1963, CCNC may claim to be one of the oldest golf communities in the Sandhills, but age has not weakened its vigor as club officials clearly want to showcase its two courses. championship. Following this year’s Junior Amateur, the first in the state of North Carolina, the course hosts the US Professional Match Play Championship and the ACC Championship in 2023.
At a post-round reception on Boss’s Day, Sutton and Webb Simpson, longtime club member and honorary president of the Junior Amateur, spoke about their careers and the impact CNCC has had on them.
“It’s been a great week,” said Sutton, recalling his victory in 1980 as he returned to the course for the first time in 41 years. “It was a long week. The USGA is making it very difficult to win. Someone this week is going to launch their career.”
“I love this place,” said Simpson, who won the 2007 Southern Amateur at CCNC. “I started coming here when I was 3 or 4 years old… there couldn’t be a better place for me to not only be part of a USGA Championship but also to merge with the Country Club. from North Carolina, a place I call home. “
Simpson’s dad, Sam, who died in 2017, often took the family to CCNC, where he owned a property, and Simpson said he remembers his dad relaxing and smiling more when he got here.
It’s easy to understand. The landscape at CCNC certainly inspires respect and a certain serenity. However, for this week’s competitors, relaxation will be scarce. America’s best young golfers will converge on an event where the winner will earn a seat at next year’s US Open at the Country Club. With the cancellation of US Junior 2020 for COVID-19, the field has a surprisingly low number of players (14) who have previous experience in the championship. And the Dogwood Course will play 7,301 yards at a par 71.
Many in the field will one day be household names in the professional golf landscape. For now, they are contenders, and as Sutton said, one of them will make his mark when the final putt falls on Saturday. Drama will be in abundance and, as the host, the CCNC will be eager to showcase their championship courses. This is their step, they are ready and they want more.