North Carolina’s Rich Golf History

North Carolina’s Rich Golf History 1
(Photo courtesy of Beth)

TODAY I WAS REMINDED of North Carolina’s contribution to the game of golf. My wife, two daughters and I were in Raleigh for two days to see the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Museum of Natural Sciences. While there, we also visited the Museum of History, which included the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

The golf section is prominent, and as you can see from the above banners there were several well-known professionals and amateurs who hailed from, or played collegiate golf in, the Tar Heel State.

Arnold Palmer, Raymond Floyd and Charlie Sifford

The King, Arnold Palmer, played at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. And how about Raymond Floyd? I had forgotten he was a North Carolina product, born at Fort Bragg.

Charlie Sifford, from Charlotte, was the Jackie Robinson of the PGA Tour. Billy Joe Patton was a fine amateur who nearly won The Masters in 1954. Perhaps you have never heard of him, but Clayton Heafner won seven times on tour and posted a 3-0-1 record on two Ryder Cup teams. Heafner was also instrumental in helping fellow North Carolinian Sifford break the color barrier.

Harvie Ward

Also a Tar Heel, Harvie Ward was a phenomenal amateur who twice won the U.S. Amateur. With Ken Venturi as his partner, Ward nearly beat Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson in the famous match played at Cypress Point in 1956, the subject of Mark Frost’s The Match.

Donald Ross and John Derr

Two others deserve mentioning: Donald Ross, the famous architect of Pinehurst and about 400 other courses, and North Carolina native John Derr, the legendary broadcaster and journalist. Derr covered 62 Masters, walked every step with Ben Hogan at Carnoustie in 1953, and anchored coverage by CBS in the early years of televised golf.

I’m still pleasantly surprised by occasional emails from John, 90, and hope to meet him someday. He lives in Pinehurst and still plays a good game of golf.

−The Armchair Golfer

Photo of author
Neil Sagebiel

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