By Brian Biggane
GULF STREAM — Alice Dye, a golfing icon who built a strong reputation for her charity work in South Palm Beach County, died Feb. 1. She was 91.
Dye, who with her husband, Pete, formed a legendary golf course architecture team that designed 145 courses around the world, was named First Lady of Golf by the PGA of America in 2004. She was one of the top female amateur players of her day, winning 11 Indianapolis city titles and nine Indiana state championships.
One of her solo designs was the par-3 St. Andrews Club course in Delray Beach, which had been planning to honor her at its ladies member-guest event on March 6.
“Coming to a golf course that she designed, and getting to meet her, and seeing all the things she has done for women in golf, it was truly an honor,” St. Andrews club pro Amy Carver said.
Dye had signed 80 copies of her book, From Birdies to Bunkers, which will be distributed to all participants in the event.
“We asked her permission to do the member-guest [event] in her honor and she thought that was great,” Carver said. “And I asked her if it would be too much to sign these books, and she said she would do it, and she did.”
Born Alice Holiday O’Neal in Indianapolis on Jan. 24, 1927, she was a student at Rollins College in Winter Park when she met Pete Dye, who had just returned from serving in World War II.
The two were married in 1950 and for much of their time together spent their winters in Gulf Stream and their summers at a home off the 18th green at Crooked Stick Golf Club near Indianapolis.
Gulf Stream neighbor Tony Graziano fittingly called the pair “golf royalty” but said, for all they’ve accomplished, their humility sets them apart.
“You go in their house and it’s a simple house that any one of us could live in, not pretentious at all,” he said. “The only thing pretentious is the golf memorabilia, which comes from a family life of golf success.
“And the personalities that go with them — they are and were absolutely regular folks. They never changed from being good, solid Midwestern people, no matter how famous they were.”
Perhaps the only way Mrs. Dye rode her reputation was in her work for charity. Her brother, the late Perry O’Neal, was a longtime president and board member of the Wayside House, a treatment center for women in Delray Beach. For more than 25 years, the Dyes hosted the Alice & Pete Dye Golf and Bridge Invitational each November at St. Andrews.
“For a long time, we had just the golf tournament,” Wayside President Kathryn Leonard said. “But then Alice said some of her friends no longer played golf, but all of them played bridge. So, it was her idea to add the bridge tournament and that brought in 100 more people.”
Last year’s tournament raised more than $25,000.
In addition to her prowess as a golfer — she won the 1978 North and South Amateur and the U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur in both 1978 and 1989 and was a member of the U.S. Curtis Cup team in 1970 — Mrs. Dye worked hard to help women enjoy the golf experience. She is considered the person most responsible for the advent of ladies tees that typically shorten par-72 courses by 1,000 yards or more.
She was the first female board member of the PGA of America and the first woman to serve as president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects.
It was also her inspiration that brought about one of the most famous holes in golf. Pete had removed so much sand from what was intended to be the par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra that he had no idea what to do next, whereupon Alice pulled out a napkin and drew a lake with the green in the middle. That lake has since become home to thousands of errant shots.
Other courses designed by the Dyes include Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, which will host the 2020 Ryder Cup matches, The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island in South Carolina and PGA West in California.
St. Andrews in Delray was always a favorite of Mrs. Dye, and former greenskeeper Charley Crell recalled what an honor it was to be hired there about eight years ago.
“That was part of the reason I took the job,” Crell said. “It’s a smaller golf course, but it’s really special because of the people who are there, in particular the Dyes. She really enjoyed being at the club, playing bridge and going out and playing. She did a lot for St. Andrews, loaning her expertise to different things. A great lady.”
Crell left St. Andrews last year for Reunion Golf and Country Club in Mississippi and said Mrs. Dye played a role in his getting that opportunity.
“She put in a good word for me, and it made a difference,” he said. “That meant a lot to me and my family.”
Mrs. Dye spent much of her time in recent years caring for Pete, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
The Dyes have two sons, Perry Dye of Colorado and Paul Burke Dye of Ohio, who are also golf course architects.
Pete Dye along with Perry’s wife, Ann, and Paul’s wife, Jean, are among Mrs. Dye’s survivors.
A celebration of life was held at the Gulf Stream Golf Club on Feb. 20. Another celebration of life is planned for 2-5 p.m., May 29, at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind.
Donations can be made to Wayside House, 378 NE Sixth Ave., Delray Beach, FL 33483; waysidehouse.net; or the Indiana Golf Foundation, 2625 Hurricane Road, Franklin, IN 46131.