The Associated Press
Pete Dye won’t forget the gushing praise he heard from just about everyone about his new creation, The Ocean Course, as the world’s best players got ready for the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island in weather that was perfect for golf.
Then the wind blew in from the Atlantic Ocean, and that changed everything.
“They had a heck of time,” Dye said with a chuckle. “The trouble they had on those par 3s was unbelievable.”
It has taken more than two decades of tweaks _ all overseen by Dye _ and the PGA of America’s resolve to again make the feared course a showcase for the strongest field in golf for the PGA Championship, the final major of the year.
“It will be hard, but it will be fair,” said Roger Warren, the president of Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
Dye was commissioned more than two decades ago to fashion a course on piles and piles of sand alongside the Atlantic. He laughs now about those early, positive reviews, recalling how four-time major champion Ray Floyd told him during Ryder Cup practice the course was “the greatest thing ever,” after playing in a mild, southeasterly wind.
Few were smiling once gusts reached 20 knots.
“People ask if I designed the course like that on purpose,” Dye said.
All you have to do is look at the Ryder Cup that year to know why.
Floyd and Fred Couples hit 9-irons and wedges into the par-3 17th during practice rounds. They were hitting 3-iron and 3-wood on the weekend. Wind carried balls into marshy hazards that would have never been in play in mild conditions. Mark Calcavecchia went 8-over par over the final four holes and lost a 4-up lead to Colin Montgomerie. Seve Ballesteros won a hole against Wayne Levi with a triple-bogey 7. Hale Irwin shot a 41 on his final nine _ and still earned a halve that gave the Americans the cup in what became known as the “War on the Shore.”
Calcavecchia sat a sand dune staring at the ocean when he was done, believing he cost the United States the trophy. The lasting image of the match, though, was Bernhard Langer’s dazed expression after his missed 6-footer on the 18th hole would have allowed Europe to retain the Ryder Cup.
Floyd called it a course you should never play with a scorecard _ and it took some time before anyone dared to try.