Jerry Pate took a bellyflop in the lake
by 18 after winning the first Players
at TPC Sawgrass but not before he
threw in Pete Dye and Deane Beman.
‘We need to have the mounds on the
correct side so the spectators are facing
the players,’ and he got it,” Beman said.
What Dye failed to understand was
how the greens were going to play
under tournament conditions.
He chuckled recently when recalling
the initial reaction.
“I thought they were going to burn me
at the stake,” Dye said from his Florida
home. “You have to understand, when I
originally designed those greens, the av-
erage speed was about an eight or nine
on the Stimpmeter. Well, by the time we
completed the place, those greens were
rolling at 11 or 12. At those speeds, I
understand why the players were upset.”
It would have been worse had Be-
man not gone behind Dye and softened
many of the greens before they were
even planted. “They were so severe that
I smoothed them out after Pete had
floated them. But when we put grass on
them, they were still too severe. So a lot
of modification was made.”
Dye has been back to Ponte Vedra
five times to soften and reconfigure the
greens, each time taking into account
the newest agronomic advancements
and how the course will play under
tournament conditions. The most
recent renovations, a year ago, raised
the collars and flattened many of the
pin-placement areas. He also had the
bulkheads raised on the holes where
the greens abut the water.
Roger hit himself, took a quadruple-bogey, and finished four shots behind
the winner, Jerry Pate.
Years later, opinions have softened,
but memories haven’t.
“It was terrible,” Curtis Strange said
recently. “I mean, you can build hard golf
courses that are fair and challenging
and you can build courses that are just
ridiculous, and that is what that was.”
Strange lost in a playoff to Raymond
Floyd the last year The Players was held
at Sawgrass Country Club, but his criti-
cism of Dye’s Stadium Course had noth-
ing to do with a head-to-head compari-
son with its across-the-street neighbor.
“It was the first of its kind, that’s for
sure,” Strange said. “I never grew to
love the place, but I grew to appreciate
it. It was originally unfair. The greens
were just ridiculous, but more than
that, every fairway goes against the
grain. The hole turns to the left and the
fairway slopes to the right. Stuff like
that kept you off balance. You have to
pick your lines and hit it exactly on that
line or it will repel good shots.”
Designer Pete Dye and Beman knew
the criticism was coming, and they un-
derstood it. The concept of stadium golf
was new for everyone, as was building
a course specifically for the best play-
ers in the world.
“We did a lot of sketching and drawing and I would say things to Pete like,