Obituary: Paul ‘Pete’ Dye Jr.

By Brian Biggane

GULF STREAM — Pete Dye, a longtime Gulf Stream resident who along with his wife, Alice, designed some of the world’s most iconic golf courses, died Jan. 9 in the Dominican Republic, where he had a home. He was 94.
7960930265?profile=originalMr. Dye and Alice, who died last February at age 91, split time for many years between their modest residence in Gulf Stream and a home in Indiana.
Gulf Stream Town Commissioner Paul Lyons, a Polo Drive neighbor of Mr. Dye, noted his death at the Jan. 10 commission meeting. “He’ll be genuinely missed,” Lyons said. “I consider myself fortunate to be in a community with such great people.”
Mr. Dye was a member of Gulf Stream Golf Club and served on its Greens Committee for many years. The club issued a statement: “Mr. Dye was a longtime honored member of Gulf Stream Golf Club who did a wonderful job renovating the golf course in 2012-13.”
Mr. Dye designed more than 100 courses around the world. In South Florida his credits include Delray Dunes in Delray Beach, Palm Beach Polo in Wellington, Dye Preserve in Jupiter, Loblolly Pines in Hobe Sound, and the Dye course at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie.
His crowning achievement may be TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, home of The Players Championship and best-known for its island green on the 17th hole.
Born Dec. 29, 1925, in Urbana, Ohio, Paul “Pete” Dye Jr. was traveling with his family as a young boy when their car broke down. While waiting for repairs, his father, Paul, wandered to a nine-hole course nearby, hit some shots and fell in love with the game. He built his own nine-hole course in Urbana, and Pete spent much of his childhood working and playing there.
Mr. Dye became a top amateur player, winning the state high school championship and medaling in the state amateur championship before joining the military at age 18. He was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where he got to know famed designer Donald Ross, who had crafted courses at nearby Pinehurst.
Mr. Dye enrolled at Rollins College in Winter Park following his discharge and met Alice Holliday O’Neal, who would become his wife in 1950. He sold insurance for a time, becoming a million-dollar salesman before he and Alice turned their attention to golf course design in 1961.
After some modest successes, they accepted an offer to work on a tract of land near Indianapolis that became Crooked Stick Golf Club, which was completed in 1967 and hosted the PGA Championship in 1991 and the U.S. Women’s Open in 1993.
Soon afterward, Jack Nicklaus, then in his late 20s, received an offer to design a course in Hilton Head, S.C., and asked Mr. Dye for help. The two teamed up and produced Harbour Town Golf Links, which became and remains an annual mid-April stop on the PGA Tour.
Nicklaus has always credited Mr. Dye with his help in getting started in the design business and was profuse in his praise on Twitter the day of his death.
“It was Pete who inspired me to start designing courses more than 50 years ago, and in so many ways I owe my second career to him,” Nicklaus wrote. “Dye was the most creative, imaginative and unconventional golf course designer I have ever been around.”
Mr. Dye was unique in the business for never taking pen to paper in the design process, sometimes sketching an idea on a napkin and then getting his hands dirty — often driving a backhoe or an earthmover himself — to get the job done.
A major influence occurred in 1963 when he was in England to play in the British Amateur. He and Alice took the opportunity afterward to visit courses there and in Scotland and drew inspiration from famed designer Alister MacKenzie, incorporating railroad ties, pot bunkers and small greens in future designs.
Said NBC commentator Mark Rolfing: “His design legacy reminds me of Arnold Palmer’s golfing career: unique, authentic, willing to take bold chances. And, with credit to his beloved wife and partner, Alice, he never deviated from his identity.”
Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2008, the unassuming, amiable Mr. Dye spent much of his time in his later years in Gulf Stream with his succession of dogs, all named Sixty, named for how much it cost him and Alice to buy the original, a German shepherd, along with a collar and leash.
Recalled Lyons, the Gulf Stream commissioner: “I’m sure that many who have been here recall Pete, in the old days he would be walking Sixty, his white dog, down the street, and he did it twice a day to the golf course and he’d walk the golf course. And then later on he’d be in the golf cart with Sixty and he’d be all wrapped up.
“He was an iconic gentleman who excelled at something he loved, (and) that was designing golf courses. But what he really did wasn’t design golf courses, he loved moving dirt! And that’s really what he did. He understood how to move dirt on a golf course to make it an experience.”
Mr. Dye was also preceded in death by his brother Roy and sister Ann Doss. He is survived by sons Perry (Ann) of Colorado and P.B. (Jean) of Ohio, both successful golf architects carrying on the family tradition. Like their parents, they are members of the American Society of Golf Course Architects.
Also surviving are two granddaughters, Lucy Dye (Erik) Bowman and Lilly Dye (Ross) Harmon, and two great-grandchildren, Brooks and Margaret Harmon.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to International Circle of Friends Inc., 12012 South Shore Blvd., Suite 208, Wellington, FL 33414 (www.internationalcircle.org).
A celebration of life will be held at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana, on May 28.

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