Walk through the front door of Eddie and Jan Marshall’s home and mention anything about golf – and really, at a home sitting on a hill overlooking the par-3 13th hole at Pinehurst No. 6, who wouldn’t mention golf? – and you’ll invariably hear their favorite story tying together this cozy residence and the game they love.
The story begins innocently enough in 1998 at Mid Ocean Golf Club in Bermuda, where Eddie is a member. As host of something called the Gillette Tour Challenge Championship, some of the game’s biggest stars from three tours mingled in this hit-and-giggle, back when the Silly Season was still silly.
During the week, Eddie met Payne Stewart, the 1991 U.S. Open champion, who had finished second to Lee Janzen that year. Like most who met Stewart, he found him approachable and affable.
“I told him I was looking forward to seeing him in Pinehurst,” Eddie recalls of their conversation about the upcoming U.S. Open. “He said, ‘Yeah, it’s going to be fun.’”
Fast forward to early 1999 and the Marshalls decided they wouldn’t actually be in Pinehurst. They contacted USGA officials to rent out the 1,500 square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom detached townhouse for the week, but at first the organization wanted to fill the place with – gasp! – members of the media.
After initially balking, the Marshalls were told two months before the tournament that they had a competitor who wanted to stay in their house.
None other than Payne Stewart.
The rest, as you can imagine, is history. Payne and his wife, Tracey, paid $4,000 to stay in the home on Barton Hills Court for the week. Like any other renters, they barbequed dinners out on the deck and exchanged pleasantries with the neighbors. Payne happily signed a photo for the little boy who lived across the street.
“People would come by,” Jan says. “And he was just very friendly. He was a great guy.”
Meanwhile, the Marshalls got away from the hustle and bustle of a major championship in their hometown, instead enjoying a week with friends in Vermont. Once the tournament began and it became clear that Stewart was going to be in contention throughout the weekend, they took extra pleasure in rooting on their tenant – and maybe even gloating a little about having him staying in their home.
“Word got around very quickly that Payne was staying in our house, so we were celebrities, as well,” Eddie remembers. “We watched the tournament all week. We thought it was fantastic.”
Tracey was watching, too – and here’s where the cozy townhouse on Pinehurst No. 6 becomes a part of the story’s lore.
Because of the difficulty maneuvering throughout saturated galleries, Tracey decided to view the final round from the comforts of their rental house. She watched the first 17 holes that afternoon on Eddie and Jan’s living room television. When her husband took a one-stroke lead to the final tee, she hopped in the car and headed to the course herself.
Since the home on Barton Hills Court is only about three minutes – five, tops – from the clubhouse at host venue Pinehurst No. 2, Tracey was not only able to get to the course before Payne finished, but she successfully navigated her way through the awaiting throng behind the 18th green to witness his 15-foot par putt to clinch the title.
A few hours later, Tracey was back at the rental house while Payne was finishing off his media obligations as the tournament champion. Eddie called his own home to offer congratulations, passing them along to Tracey when she answered.
“She said, ‘This is so exciting. It must be a good-luck house,” recounts a still-beaming Eddie.
In fact, she told them again, leaving that same sentiment in a note attached to a coffee table book before checking out the next morning.
“It wasn’t meant for anybody but us,” says Jan. “It was just a nice memento.”
Ever since then, the Marshalls’ story has been told over and over, with just about every visitor to their home regaled with the tale of the time a popular U.S. Open champion won the tournament while staying here.
“It is not an everyday occurrence, that’s for sure,” Jan concludes with a laugh. “But it’s a nice story for us to tell.”