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News Every Day |

U.S. Open Host Site Pinehurst Has Major Historical Tie To Massachusetts

The U.S. Open returns to Pinehurst Resort this week, and the entire golf world has Massachusetts to thank for that.

The world’s best golfers are getting prepared for the test that is Pinehurst No. 2. The signature gem situated in the middle of the 250-acre village has been home to some of golf’s most memorable moments, and the 2024 major tournament marks the first of five USGA stops to Pinehurst between now and 2047.

But before we look ahead to those future stops or even the 72 grueling holes on tap for the crispy, sandy challenge this week, a look back at the history of Pinehurst reveals a decidedly Massachusetts and New England influence on perhaps America’s most recognizable and popular golf resort.

The story starts with James Walker Tufts, a man with a familiar surname, who was born way back on Feb. 11, 1835 in Charlestown, Mass. His second cousin, once removed, Charles Tufts, is a slightly more famous Bay Stater. Charles Tufts, of course, is the namesake for Tufts University in Medford, Mass., after he got super-rich and donated land for the school.

James Walker Tufts did all right for himself, too. He built a considerable fortune as an entrepreneur, starting with a drug store chain before cashing in on a soda fountain empire. He eventually consolidated his business in 1891, and according to the Village of Pinehurst’s literature, he received a $700,000 payout, an equivalent of about $25 million by today’s spending power.

In addition to having a whole bunch of money, Tufts also endured health issues. Ultimately, he decided to go south and eventually settled upon the sandhills of North Carolina.

“He decided to build a health spa,” Tufts Archives executive director Audrey Moriarty told No Laying Up a few years ago, as seen on an episode of the “Tourist Sauce” YouTube series. “He had some kind of gastric disease off and on when he was a young man and an older man, and he knew the importance of health. Up north, everyone was suffering from consumption, which was a wasting disease, and they came south for warmer weather and sunshine to help cure what was wrong with them.”

Ultimately, Tufts scooped up about 6,000 acres of land in the Tar Heel State, a move that led some to wonder whether he had “more fear money than sense,” Moriarty told NLU of Tufts’ purchase for about $1.25 per acre.

Construction began and eventually it became time for a name. At the same time, developers in Martha’s Vineyard — where Tufts liked to spend his summers — were having a contest to name one of the towns on the island. Cottage City, as it was named, would eventually become Oak Bluffs — which turned out to be good news for Tufts. According to the village history, Tufts saw the Pinehurst as an option for list of names in the Vineyard contest. The name stuck.

Six months after construction began, the Pinehurst Resort opened in early 1896.

As for golf, that came a little later. Pinehurst No. 1 opened in 1898, the first of an eventual nine 18-hole courses on the resort. The signature course, though, is No. 2, the home of the 2024 U.S. Open. Donald Ross, perhaps the most famous golf architect to ever live, got his start from Tufts at Pinehurst. Ross also has deep New England roots; he was working as the golf pro at Oakley Country Club in Watertown, Mass., before heading to North Carolina.

It became one of the most significant decisions and developments in American golf history.

“Pinehurst absolutely was the pioneer in American golf,” Ross said, as seen on Pinehurst.com. “While golf had been played in a few places before Pinehurst was established, it was right here in these sandhills that the first great national movement in golf was started. Men came here, took a few golf lessons, bought a few clubs and went away determined to organize clubs.”

Ross fittingly would return to New England where he left a lasting imprint on the region. He designed roughly 30 18-hole courses across Massachusetts — from the ultra-private Country Club in Brookline to public golf gems like George Wright and Franklin Park in Boston. A pretty good golfer in his own right, the future Hall of Famer also won a couple of Mass. Opens.

So, as you put your feet up this weekend to watch the Father’s Day final round in the heart of the North Carolina sandhills, be sure to give Massachusetts a tip of the cap, too.

Pinehurst No. 2 thumbnail photo via USGA/Jason E. Miczek

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