Loving Our Black & Whites

By Lee Pace


A vintage photograph showing Pinehurst owner Richard Tufts seated on a bench beside architect Donald Ross taken in the 1940s had long captured Tom Pashley’s fancy. Here was Tufts, third generation of the Pinehurst founding family and a giant in American golf administration circles in the mid-1900s, alongside Ross, the native Scotsman and architect of four golf courses at Pinehurst by 1919 and nearly 400 nationwide through his death in 1948.

So, when Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were headlong into restoring Ross’s work on No. 2 in 2011, Pashley, at the time the resort’s executive VP for sales and marketing, took the initiative to set up a similar photo of current owner Robert Dedman Jr. and Coore. Same bench setting, same hedgerow background, same black and white format, same positioning with the owner on the left (from the camera’s view) and the architect on the right.

Today the Tufts-Ross photo and the Dedman-Coore photo occupy prominent spots on the office wall of Pashley, who ascended to the post of president and chief operating officer on Oct. 1, 2014. To the left of the former photo is an image of Walter Hagen taken at Pinehurst in the 1920s; to the right of the latter is Ricky Fowler snapped during the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. Both Hagen and Fowler are resplendent in plus-four trousers, Hagen because it was the style of the day and Fowler because on the first day of the championship he wanted to pay homage to the late Payne Stewart, who won the 1999 Open at Pinehurst wearing his ubiquitous “knickers.”

Pashley looks at the display with a sense of awe, respect and responsibility.

“It’s where we came from and where we’re headed,” he says. “You have the top player of the day on the left and one of the top players today on the right. Having Ricky is all the more appropriate because of his tribute that day to Payne. That makes it very special.”

That at the core is the essence of the Sandhills and Pinehurst golf experiences — tying a heritage that dates back more than a century into the present.

“We love our black and whites, but we have to have color,” Pashley says. “I say that a lot. It does sum up what we’re trying to do. We don’t want to live in a time capsule. We want to celebrate our history because that’s what distinguishes us from a lot of newer golf resorts. But we have to remain current, we have to appeal to what golf wants today.”

Many of those black and whites displayed around the resort and particularly in the hallways of the Carolina Hotel were taken by John Hemmer, who in 1924 began a 45-year association with the Tufts family and Pinehurst.

Hemmer was an enterprising boy of German-Irish descent in the Flatbush area of New York when he started taking photos in the early 1900s for a New York studio. He first set foot on a golf course in shooting the 1911 U.S. Amateur and two years later was lucky enough to be on site at The Country Club in Brookline when an unknown amateur golfer named Francis Ouimet stunned the golf world by winning the U.S. Open. Hemmer’s photos from Ouimet’s win over established pros like Harry Vardon and Ted Ray gave him instant credibility in the photography business.

Hemmer first visited Pinehurst in 1925 when Pinehurst owner Richard Tufts hired him to shoot the Mid-South Tournament.

“We are very favorably impressed by him and are looking forward to good results from his work here,” Tufts said in a dispatch to the studio that had assigned Hemmer for the job. Tufts in time liked what Hemmer produced and hired Hemmer directly to capture all elements of the Pinehurst experience.

“Mr. Hemmer has beaten all previous records for the number of Pinehurst pictures published during a season,” The Pilot newspaper said in February 1926. “Every real newsstand in America puts out some paper every day exhibiting specimens of Mr. Hemmer’s art and genius. He is giving this section the highest type of publicity it has ever enjoyed … not only in the metropolitan papers, but all through the east, west, north, and south.”

Hemmer lived at least part-time in Pinehurst during the high seasons over the next half century, and his photographs ranged from snapping horses at the Pinehurst Track to hounds on fox hunts in the countryside; shots of golf course designer Donald Ross playing golf or posed grandly in suit and tie outside the clubhouse; professionals like Ben Hogan and Walter Hagen playing in the North & South Open surrounded by spectators in their Sunday finest; and the colorful caddies with monikers like Dr. Buzzard, Hog Eye and Dr. Hawk.

Today some 85,000 images from Hemmer are catalogued in the Tufts Archives in the Village of Pinehurst and remain an integral part of the Sandhills’ rich heritage — something worth experiencing today in everything from sepia to living color.

Read more about area photography with Lee’s story about Lens of the Sandhills.

Lee Pace is a freelance golf writer who has written about Sandhills area golf for four decades and is the author of club histories about Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Mid Pines, Pine Needles and Forest Creek.