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- Alice Dye
Alice Dye, born Alice Holliday O’Neal in Indianapolis, left Shortridge High School to study at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where she first met her future husband. She then graduated with a Batchelor of Science degree in Zoology in 1948 before marrying Pete Dye a couple of years later then moving back to her home city with him.
Alice was a very good amateur golfer (she would win nine Indiana Women’s Amateur titles, eleven Indianapolis City Championships and two US Senior Women’s Amateur Championships and was also a member of the 1970 Curtis Cup team) and her competitive female viewpoint certainly loomed large in her husband Pete’s design decisions.
The Dyes raised two sons, Perry Dye and Paul Burke Dye (they would become partners in the family business later in their lives) and both parents established successful careers in the insurance industry – Alice with Connecticut Mutual and Pete as a salesman for his father’s firm, Northwestern Mutual.
Keith Cutten takes up the story in his book The Evolution of Golf Course Design:
“Although still highly competitive in golf, Dye decided to leave insurance and become a golf course designer. Even though he was aged in his mid-thirties and had a young family to support, Pete made the move. Alice, a fantastic amateur golfer in her own right, supported the career change and partnered him in the new venture.
In 1961, the couple visited and talked to noted golf course architect Bill Diddel, who lived nearby. He did his best to warn them about the economic uncertainties of the industry; but the Dyes persisted anyway.”
Two years later, Alice joined Pete when he played in The Amateur at the St Andrews Old Course and they visited dozens of courses in the British Isles during what effectively became an enlightening field study. Little wonder then that pot bunkers, wooden bulkheads and small greens would become trademark design traits for the Dyes in their future designs.
In a Public Service Broadcast interview years later, Pete confessed: “Alice’s family thought I was nuts when we both decided to try to build golf courses… I didn’t know any more about moving dirt than the man on the moon when I first started! I accidentally built a 9-hole (course) for a farmer south of Indianapolis; he was a contractor, so I used his equipment.”
Alice chipped in: “We were young and ambitious to do something like this. I was very active in the first courses that we built. We both had ideas and we tried to incorporate them into different holes. I was playing a lot of national tournaments… and I would have these concepts and ideas about ‘Let’s copy such and such a hole’ but Pete is very original and very creative, and so the holes that he did really came out of his mind and the ones that I was involved in were more copies of other great holes.”
Geoff Cornish and Ron Whitten continue the narrative in their book The Golf Course:
“Pete and Alice formed a company and began designing and building small-town layouts around central Indiana. It was an extremely low-budget operation in the beginning; for one project, Alice propagated a stand of bentgrass in their front yard and transported it to the course site in the trunk of their Oldsmobile.
In those early days, Alice handled all the drafting for Pete. ‘Pete couldn’t read a contour map. I had to teach him,’ she later recalled. ‘And he never did learn to draw.’ While their sons were young, Alice handled projects close to home while Pete went out on the road, and for a time mainly handled the paperwork of the business. Once the boys reached their teens, she again took a more active role in the design aspect of their projects.”
Some might feel Alice’s main input to golf course design starts and ends with the iconic par three 17th hole on the Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass, which she implored Pete to build when the course was being constructed, but authors Cornish and Whitten know otherwise:
“Alice Dye considered her most valuable contribution to golf architecture to be the expert attention she devoted to the planting and placement of tees and hazards to create proper challenges for female golfers.
For years she spoke and wrote extensively on the need for more than one set of tees for women. The wide variance in women’s skills at any course, she contended, dictated forward and back (and sometimes even middle) tees for women, just as had been provided for years for men.”
The last word belongs to Alice in her aforementioned PSB interview on YouTube:
“Our golf courses really have very few forced carries for women. Almost all of our courses have an opening in front of the green and this plays really well, not only for women players but for higher handicappers and even for an excellent player who would happen to miss his tee shot; he doesn’t ever have to lay up because we have a corner or a place he can go to on most of our holes.
Our golf courses are playable but they’re very formidable, and kind of scary looking, but when you start to play them and get to know it, they’re not that difficult – unless you’re a really good player and you’re shooting for the pin. I think we’ve got a wonderful job, making it very difficult for a good player and very playable for your average guy… or woman.”
Sadly, Alice Dye passed away at her home in Gulf Stream, Florida, on the 1st February 2019, aged 91, where she was helping to care for her husband Pete (aged 93) who was living with Alzheimer’s disease. Regretfully, Pete died less than twelve months after Alice's passing in January 2020.
“Dubious Dye Debut” by Alice Dye from Secrets of the Great Golf Course Architects by Michael Patrick Shiels:
“People often ask us how we got started... Pete and I were members of the Country Club of Indianapolis and, as greens chairman, Pete finally killed most of the fairway grasses. He decided what he really wanted to do was build golf courses.
After unsuccessfully pursuing a job with Robert Trent Jones Sr., a local Indianapolis farmer-turned-developer gave us a job to build nine holes.
We tried to build a championship course with all the ideas we had from our national tournament experiences. Our carefully drawn routing crossed the creek thirteen times and included trees, bunkers and small, severely contoured greens. We were not hired to build the second nine.”
Courtesy of the American Society of Golf Course Architects:
“An American golf champion and golf course designer, Alice Dye is known as the "First Lady" of golf architecture in the United States. Accomplishments credited to her name include: designing some of the country's most acclaimed courses with her husband Pete, winning at least 50 amateur golf titles, and being the first women member and President of the ASGCA and to serve as the first women independent director of the PGA of America.
A leader in golf administration, Alice has served on the USGA Women's Committee and USGA Handicap Committee, the LPGA Advisory Council and on the Board of the Women's western Golf Association.
Alice joined with Pete in the design and construction of their first course, El Dorado, now called Dyes Walk, in Indianapolis. She then continued as co–designer for such famous courses as PGA West in La Quinta, California; Harbour Town Golf Links and Long Cove Club on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina; and Teeth of the Dog in La Romana, Dominican Republic.
Over the years, Alice has received numerous awards and honors, including inductions into the Indiana Hall of Fame, Florida State Golf Association Hall of Fame, The Heritage of Indianapolis Award, the Don Rossi Award for Lifetime Contributions to Golf, the Women's Western Golf Association's Woman of Distinction Award, and the PGA of America's 2004 First Lady of Golf Award.
Even with these countless accomplishments, one of Alice Dye's most fulfilling achievements has been leading a campaign to make golf courses more manageable for women. She has developed a chart and video suggesting yardages and positions for a ‘Two Tee System for Women.’ Alice also collaborated on the book From Birdies to Bunkers: Discover How Golf Can Bring Love, Humor and Success into Your Life ” (published in 2004)”.
From PGA.com published in March 2018:
“Alice Dye’s introduction to the game of golf was a study in dogged determination. She joined group lessons at age 11 at Woodstock Golf Club under the guidance of PGA Professional Wally Nelson. She would play alone on weekday mornings when the course was almost deserted.
If she hit a wayward shot, she would drop her bag, chase after the ball, return and hit it again. Under her rules, her best nine-hole score was a 45. Those early morning experiences led to her ability to focus on every shot.
Alice also was a tiger when it came to competition. She won 50 amateur championships, including 12 state amateur titles; led a victorious 1970 Curtis Cup Team and served as captain of the 1992 World Cup Team. She also captured two U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur and two Canadian Senior Women Championships, and pocketed a gold medal in
Perhaps the drive Alice Dye demonstrated in her golf career stemmed from parents that believed in giving a daughter every opportunity possible to succeed. Her mother Lucy O’Neal gave her a set of wooden-shafted clubs. One week, Alice stayed home with friends while her family went fishing in Canada. Alice spotted a set of six new clubs in the local golf shop.
‘I had asked for a pony prior to my golf career,’ said Alice. ‘Well, my father did get me a pony, but it was that set of clubs I was interested in. It was a driver, fairway wood, three irons and a putter. I wrote my father a letter and explained why I needed each of those clubs on the course. I got a Western Union telegram back, Buy them! They don’t eat all winter like a horse does.’
When pressed about a favorite venue, Alice said that Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana, first comes to mind. ‘That was the dream course, the first where Pete took the lead in getting it built,’ she said. ‘And, we lived there and we were together. Our children were with us. I have one photo of P.B., about age nine, running equipment on the green.’
Alice has worked hard to bring more women to the game. She is a board member of the Women’s Western Golf Association, and recently wrote a letter of regret about not being able to travel to help run a tournament. A tournament official sent back a reply, ‘Don’t feel any regret. You have done more for women’s golf than all of us together.’
Reflecting on a life journey through golf, Alice’s career is a canvas painted with special moments. What stands out for her, she said, may surprise you. It is not necessarily the glitter of major championships or ribbon-cutting at new courses. ‘I have too many really good, happy memories of playing with friends,’ said Alice. ‘That’s the biggest thing that you get out of the game – the friendships you make along the way in amateur golf.’”
Lee Schmidt: “I first met Alice Dye when I interviewed for a job with Pete in the fall of 1970. From that early meeting, I learned that Ms. Alice was the organized one of the partnership. Numerous times when I called Pete about making a site visit on a specific date he would say ‘hold the phone, I need to check with Alice.’ In short, when Alice spoke, Pete, as well as others, would listen.
“Over more than fifty years I knew her, she would often send me handwritten notes saying she read a certain article about my firm, Schnmidt-Curley Design, and may even enclose the article. Other times she would send an old photo of me on a job site with a note saying, ‘boy, have you changed’ or ‘fun times.’ Her thoughtfulness over the years of thinking of me when she had so many other things to do was really special. Also, knowing full well she probably performed the same wonderful gesture for many others she knew.”
Bobby Weed: “From my introduction to Alice in 1981 at Long Cove Club until today, I was fortunate to observe first-hand what most in golf now know: she was Pete’s equal as a partner, contributor and collaborator in all that they did. In the late afternoons at Long Cove, Pete and I would be with the crew: tired, dirty, tongues hanging out, and Alice would come out in her Lilly Pulitzers, fresh as a daisy, to critique Pete’s work. And critique she would! That she could push him to do better and to go farther, and that he would allow himself to be pushed, was the foundation for everything they did.
“Hers was the opinion he trusted most, and they each filled an irreplaceable role in the partnership. Observing that dynamic was probably my most significant benefit from my time with them. From Pete I learned that it’s essential to push boundaries, try new things, and never stop innovating. But from Alice, I learned the importance of having wise counsel around – a voice that can pull you back from going too far, or give you confidence to put the pencil down.”
Bill Coore: “She was such an accomplished woman in so many ways. She was a crusader and a pioneer, obviously for women’s golf, but much more than even that. She was a crusader and pioneer for golf architecture, she was the first female president of the ASGCA and was such a proponent of the Society and golf architecture in general. She was such a huge influence on Pete’s designs.
Obviously, Pete got the lion’s share of the credit for them, but those of us who did work with Pete and Alice knew that Alice was very instrumental and influential in those golf designs, and far beyond just where the forward tees might be. The 17th hole at Sawgrass and the 13th green at Harbour Town – they are two minor things out of countless ways she influenced Pete.”
Perry Dye: “A fabulous lady who achieved a lot in her lifetime. Mom exposed her three boys – dad, PB and I – to women’s golf. She was a good player (representing the winning US Curtis Cup side in 1970 and winning two US Senior Women’s Amateur titles in 1978 and 1979), but exposed us to how difficult the game is.
“The hardest thing to do is mentor someone who doesn’t play the game. My mother did that every day. She worked aggressively to mentor average players and championed the average woman player, one at a time. Most beginners are afraid to play with good golfers – mother broke that barrier immediately. She would encourage good players and high-handicap players to play together. Mother protected them and tries to make the game enjoyable.
“She probably had the most influence on us with things she didn’t like. She would say ‘the hole’s unplayable, start again,’ but she wouldn’t tell us exactly what to do, she let us think about it ourselves. That’s what really engages your brain. Mother hates blind shots, but my dad included one on every course he built. He would say ‘Ally, it’s only blind once.’ He got away with that one. She had an insight into how people play golf holes that was unbelievable. She was the player in the family. Dad, PB and I are just a bunch of dirt diggers.”