PINEHURST, N.C. – This week GolfChannel.com has shared some of the color of Pinehurst and its surroundings – the sights, the sounds and the restaurants brave enough to try to feed Ryan Lavner.
We conclude this feature, though, by returning to the course – specifically, the undulating putting green known as the Thistle Dhu.
Only a few yards from the main clubhouse and chipping green at Pinehurst, a sprawling series of holes offers a stern test for even the best putter. This course isn’t open to everyone, though: this week the Thistle Dhu is set up specifically for children under age 18.
The green derives its name from James Barber, who built America’s first miniature golf course and moved to Pinehurst in 1919. Upon seeing the construction on his new home completed, he proclaimed, “This’ll do,” which was translated phonetically to create the name for the complex that now sits near Barber’s original home from nearly a century ago.
Sunday afternoon, the 18-hole putting green was packed with a mix of fathers, sons and daughters as children took a break from watching the action to hit a few shots of their own.
Chris Long, who was guiding his sons Talbot (6) and Tanner (4), explained that this was the trio’s second day at the U.S. Open and second trip around the kids-only course.
“This was the first thing they wanted to do when we got through the gate,” Long said.
Both Talbot and Tanner donned orange Puma hats Sunday, indicating a rooting interest in Sunday’s final pairing, but they were also new fans of Gary Woodland. Woodland offered the pair his glove and ball after Saturday’s round, which Talbot displayed proudly and hoped to get autographed following the final round.
Nine-year-old Jake Allen was a few groups back with his father, Jeff, trying his best to tame the greens of Thistle Dhu. Jake was making his first trip to the U.S. Open, and planned to pull for fellow southpaw Phil Mickelson in the final round.
“Well,” he added, “I was going to root for Tiger if he was playing.”
On Father’s Day, the Thistle Dhu offered a respite for parents, and a chance for them to share the game with their children. Some fathers were challenging their teens to a friendly match, while others were trying to simply teach their younger children how to hold the club.
As players practiced nearby and the galleries roared from the 13th green some 50 yards away, the Thistle Dhu was a place where the backdrop became nearly irrelevant. All that mattered across the yawning green were parents, children and a chance to share the game.