Episode 7 - Pinehurst #2 & Tobacco Road

Secret Golf's Steve Elkington visits Pinehurst #2 and Tobacco Road Golf Club in North Carolina, and reunites with legendary caddies, Willie Miller and Willie McRae.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] NARRATOR: On this episode of "Secret Golf," we travel down Tobacco Road to one of the true meccas of American golf.

-North Carolina is the place to go for a game of golf. This is very fertile lands, rolling, turf grows easy, pine trees. It's like no other part of the United States that I can really put my finger on.

NARRATOR: We catch up with two icons of the caddying world.


NARRATOR: And we see our first in our secret smackdown.


-So, I think it's the only time on our show we've ever had three birds. Uh-oh. Oh.


-Oh, ho, ho, ho, ho. Wow.

NARRATOR: "Secret Golf" is rolling your way.




It's "Secret Golf." It's what I'm looking for.


-Family tradition.


It's where I get up every morning, have my good time with friends, keep me coming back for more. "Secret Golf," we're headed down the road. We just love it enough, the big show, going looking for the heart of stone. Move until the wheels fall off. It's "Secret Golf." Shh. It's a secret.

NARRATOR: Pinehurst, North Carolina is referred to as the cradle of American golf. And Pinehurst Resorts Number Two is its crown jewel. While it may be famous for Donald Ross designs and major championship drama, this sleepy sand hill village boasts over 30 courses in just a 10-mile radius.

-North Carolina is the place to go for a game of golf. It reminds me a little bit of the sand belt in Australia. This is very fertile lands, rolling, turf grows easy. There's pine trees. It's like no other part of the United States that I can really put my finger on.

-Pinehurst, you're going to get up in the morning. You're going to play 18 holes, replay in the afternoon. You're going to have dinner and go to bed. That's what Pinehurst is. You know, it's pure golf.

NARRATOR: Number Two is well documented. But the town of Pinehurst has something for everyone, including tracks on and off the beaten path.

-We've made this little secret run over to Talamore Country Club. Up until a couple years ago you would have llamas as caddies.

-Yes, we would. Yep. They'd-- they'd come out and caddy. We've have to get a-- we'd put two bags on them, have somebody walk them around. And they'd go out and walk around, people carrying their bags, and getting them out. And--

-We're having trouble getting those llamas up there to come down. I'm going to try the old Mike Dundee. Come on. We need to play a few holes, just three or four. Yeah.

We found a whole different kind of caddy down there. And it's-- now it's got cold hoofs. It won't come down. Never had this much trouble getting a caddy to come out of the pen. Don't be confused.

This is not a gimmick. Talamore Golf Club is a fine golf course. But they have llamas that are caddies. Insert llama into that frame. Tomorrow, I come back. We caddy. Me, you, we talk. But we couldn't get our llamas to do any work.

There was three over there, and they wouldn't come to work for us. You think I should hit driver [INAUDIBLE] 14, bandit? OK. I'm going without you. That was a good shot too, Bandit.

You'd have to walk in a straight line to find that one. It's not listening to you, either. It doesn't understand Australian.

NARRATOR: Despite the llamas, Talamore is a traditional Pinehurst course, while Mike Strands Tobacco Road Golf Club is anything but.

We're at Tobacco Road. We are in the best part of the golf in the United States, Pinehurst area. This course was an old sand pit?

-Yeah. Parts of it was used for the sand for the asphalt company as you see coming in.

-And they've got some nasty looking undulations out here.

-It's visually intimidating. But there's ways of getting at the pen.

-Now, Jimmy, you regular here pretty good.

-I'm a regular.

-Come out here, and you know-- and you enjoy this course why?

-It's just wide. It's easy to play. And it's always in good shape.

-Always in good shape. I've been to Pinehurst Number Two before. We played US Opens here, et cetera. Never really knew much about all the other courses at Pinehurst. But you tipped me off to a little place that we put on the map this week, which was Tobacco Road, which was a most successful trip for us in many ways. It was just mind blowing golf course from a visual perspective.

-17 years ago everybody thought-- thought they were crazy building the golf course. It just turned out beautiful.

-And the designer, Mike Strands, who only designed nine courses, had this reputation during his career that he was going to make impossible looking courses. Well, it is impossible looking. But it's only 6,500 yards long.

-Mike was a little ahead of his time. Unfortunately, he passed way too soon. When he burst onto the scene, really didn't care about what a typical golf course should look like. He was an artist first and then architect second. And he wasn't scared to do something that might be considered too hard or something different. Just because it's different, doesn't mean it's wrong.

-I'm telling you right now. Yes. I'm sitting at Pinehurst Number Two right behind one of the most famous greens in golf. But if you come to North Carolina, you've got to go to Tobacco Road and check that out.

NARRATOR: There are few more passionate about the game of golf than a caddy. How else can you explain carrying a 40-pound bag up to seven miles up hills and over water hazards while also calculating yardage, pulling clubs, cleaning equipment, and most importantly, calming the golfer's nerves. But in this modern era of golf carts, some say caddying is a lost art.

-Here, it's a little different. You have more tradition. You have, obviously, years and years of caddies. A caddy is a tradition on Number Two. We do have nine golf courses here. So they can take a caddy wherever they want.

-Caddies provided jobs, number one, for people who may or may not have a particular trade other than caddying.

-But that's their thing. They want no 9:00 to 5:00. They want to caddy, you know? Caddy's a pretty good paying job.

-It's not lost down here on this course. But Willie says golf cart can't give you your yardage, can't tell you which way the ground's going to go. I've always loved to take a caddy.

And because I play on the tour, I'm very lucky that I get to be with one every day. And he was talking about-- doesn't matter if the player is dead wrong. You tell him he's right. You tell him he's right. I'm embarrassed to tell you that I'm well aware of doing that over the years.

NARRATOR: Elk relived a little personal history by inviting his former caddy and mentor Willie Miller to come out for a visit.

-His nickname on the tour was best dressed. So I had to wear my best-- I had to wear my best shoes today. And I had to wear my best slacks. And back in the old days, when we used to go out west to LA Open, that's where we used to get all our stuff made.

-We got all the slacks we want made.

-And I'm talking Raymond Floyd--


-[INAUDIBLE] Sutton.

-Jimmy Dent.

-Jimmy Dent. And we'd all get them made without any pockets [INAUDIBLE].

-So we-- you tell him that story.

-No. Well, he took me down to LA. And it's in a bad part of the town.


-And I'm walking down the street hitting my pocket like this. Willie said, what are you doing hitting your pocket like that. He said, put the money in the front pocket.

-I said, Steve, keep it out of your back pocket. Put it in your front pocket. He don't know nothing about that down in LA.

-It's good to see old friends reunite, you know. And that bond was genuine. But back in those days, caddies were family. Elk was young. Here's Willie. There has to be a little mentorship there. Although it's a business relationship, there's a true friendship and a little mentorship.

-I left my parents in Australia. So I didn't have a father figure when I came over here for all those years other than talking to my dad on the phone. So Jackie Burke played that surrogate father role. But when I was on the tour and Willie Miller was my caddy, I had much more calming effect came from Willie. He would be able to calm me down, say hey, son. You know, you got it. You can do this.

Remember when you used to hit me with the club in the back of the grip? Can you do that for me one more time? This is what I-- he put it right here. Boom. Right there.

People don't know how deeply bonded those connections are between the player and the caddy. You know, Willie and I didn't even win anything as far as trophies. But we won a lot of things together. He helped me a lot in my life.

What do you do when you play? Tell me how you-- what you think about your swing, and--

-I try to turn my shoulders because I have a bad habit of just using my arms. And I line up way right of the target and pull it back--

-Pull it back.

- --with my arms.

-And that's the way you've always done it?

-That's the way I've been doing it the last three or four years.


-I'm bad about lining up right of the hole and pulling it back. And when I'm on my game, it's no problem. And he gave me a tip to play it forward a little bit. And it seemed to work.

-So the two rules of thumb would be if you are going to aim right, pull a little bit further forward, because on the swing arc, if we have the ball back, that guarantees it's going to start to the right, agreed?


-If the ball's forward, that pretty much means it's going to go to the left. So if you are aimed to the right, you better have the ball up a little bit. Does that makes sense?

-It makes sense.

-How about we go out and have a look at this golf course?


-Willie, we're going to do this together one more time. We're going to wear him down just with the mouth.

-Wear him out and with the mouth.

-Wear it out.

-Talk to him.

-Jimmy, that's pretty intimidating looking. People that come down here from other parts of the country, what do they say when they first see the course?

-Oh, my god.

-You know, the first hole at Tobacco Road reminded me of, like, being up in [INAUDIBLE], Wisconsin or something. Like, things are in your face, like this big hump over here, and another hump there. And there's a saddle you got to get through. And it's like, awesome for me because I love that.

That was perfect. Yeah. Nice. Oh, I hit it right where he told me to hit it.

-We'll shoot between the mound. It's so small from the tee box. But really, just get it in the air. Let it go. And there's plenty of room on the other side.

-They were right. Once you get over those hills, it's no big deal, right?

-Whack that way.

-But now we gotta get. This is there. There, there. That's me over there. I looked like I clipped him a little bit, Willie.

-Looks like you got him all.

-Got me a good angle over there, it looks like.

-Oh, yeah. I heard it will be good.

-Man, I can't do much better than that, Chris, can I?

-About like that.

-That looks good.

-Beta one, baby, come on. One time.

-Oh, yeah.

-One time.

-Oh. Yeah. What?

-One time. One time.

-Man in the pink shirt came to play. Chris hit it out of bunker when the bunker was so deep you couldn't even find him in the camera. What's it like down there? It's OK?

-It's OK.

-Deep. Oh, well played, Chris. Oh, wow. Wow. That might be pretty good.

-Better, I know that.

-Hey, come on, baby. Ease over there. Walk that dog over there a little. Hey, hey, hey, hey, Whoo.


-Hey, what about it? Good? Good?

-Well, I was just going to say, now, we can make it good, good.

-Yeah. Let's go. Let's


-Let's keep this friendly. Why do we love the monsters? They kick our ass the most. They're the most enchanting places. They're the most unique, and they're worth seeing. And that's where all the characters are. And that's why we're there.

Hole number five, people that come here have to be amazed. This is gorgeous. This reminds me of, like, Pine Valley or something. Number five typifies the architect's style, where was either go for [INAUDIBLE] for in one across all this sort of nastiness, or you can galay up to the right. So, Jimmy, what are you going to do?

-I'm going to go for it. The pros can hit it a little bit farther than I can. So they're going for the green. I'm trying to go for the bowl right in front of the green because I know if I can get it in that bowl I got a good chance to make a three.

-Damn straight it's a good hit.

-We opted to go for the green. Don't necessarily have to. You know, wouldn't recommend it for every golfer. Go big or go home. So we all hit the big dog.


-There we go.

-There she blows.

-Carry, sugar.

-Oh, yeah. I saw that one.

-You got it.


-There you go. There you go.


-And the boys hit great drives. I was just a little bit longer than they were off the tee. And my ball actually got up onto the green and went over the back. But oh, well, there you go. Jimmy played the most courageous shot from down below. Just keep running.




-That's on line.



-Look at that, Willie.


-That's tough to put it up there. You got that reed though did you?

-That would have went into a mouse's ear.

-Elk, as we expected, drained his. And now Jimmy is left with one of the hardest puts in golf to have.

-That's a [INAUDIBLE] put.

-Boom. There you go. There you go. There you go.

-Staying right here is another put, [INAUDIBLE]. We like to talk a little trash. We'll likely throw some putters down. And-- and slap hands. It's fun.

-Hey, Willie, these guys are serious down here. OK, Willie. Give us a little gospel before we get going, would you?


-Your grace and mercy brought me through--

NARRATOR: No other man has graced the grounds of Pinehurst quite like Willie McRae. For 72 years, this unforgettable man's impact on the game and its players emits wisdom like the Gospels he sings.

-So, Willie you started caddying when you're 10 years old?


-What was it like back then?

-Back in the day, they didn't have no carts. So they had to have 500 caddies.

-500 caddies here?

-Yep. And I told my daddy. He said he was a caddy. He says, how do you like caddying? I said, well, me try it, and I'll see. After the first day, I loved it. I said, I'm getting off this farm. I'm--

-You're staying.

-I'm tired of working on a farm picking cotton because it's too bad on your back. So I was so glad to caddy I didn't know what to do.

-You've been here so long. This course is so famous. But you're probably almost the most famous thing here.

-I'm probably-- I'm probably the oldest caddy in the world.

-You've worked every day of your life here at Pinehurst. How did you get everyone's respect?

-Well, one thing about it, if you're going to be a caddy, you gotta show up, keep up, and shut up. And then if somebody asked you something, and if you can tell them, tell them. But if you can't tell them, then don't say nothing. You tell them. You say, I don't know. And be honest with the man.

-It's always a great day to start your day with Willie McRae. Willie was the first bag caddy I had. I didn't know who Willie McRae was then. He was just my caddy at that moment. And then as we went on, I learned about the man and I got to learn, you know, some of his values and things that-- that are, you know. He is one of the greatest human beings I've ever met.

NARRATOR: Granting no special treatment to greats like Ross, Hogan, and Sarazen, this small sampling doesn't give justice to those who've been fortunate to have Willie on their bag.

-You and I, I've only met you once before, but our lives are kind of connected because you're friends with my mentor Jackie Burke.

-That's right, one of the greatest men in the world, Jackie. Hello, Mr. Burke. I enjoyed caddying for you. And me, you'd only [INAUDIBLE] from the 1951 Ryder Cup.


-Willie, I don't know how you can do any more for the people around here. During the day you take care of them when they play the golf. And then when they come down and they need a little spiritual help, you do that for them too.


-You're a good man, Willie.

-Yeah. I'm glad to know you.

-Yes. I'm glad to know you.

[SINGING] Grace and mercy bought me too.

-People love golf for different reasons. And in Tom's case, he loves golf. Not only he love it here at Pinehurst, but he loves Willie. He'd rather walk the course with Willie than walk the course at all.

He's not playing with anyone else. He's not coming down here not to be with Willie. If Willies not here, he's not coming.

OK, guys, we are on the third hole of the secret smackdown. You say it with like a [GROWLS]. And it's number 14.

-Par 3, the only hole that's a [INAUDIBLE] world of water.

-Great hole to finish our match on. Although it looks very simple, par three poses a lot of challenges.

-Which piece do you say looks simple?

-Well-- [LAUGHS]

-Over down the hill we got bunkers.

-There it is.


-You guys are serious.

-That might be a little short. Oh, look at that. Look at that. Look at that. Look at that.

-Good shot. Good shot.

-We negotiated this water shot, beautiful hole, down the hill, all kind of intimidating looking. And I didn't hit particularly that good a shot. That's perfect. I pulled it. It's all right though. I'm putting good.

And Willie and I were thinking that we were going to knock one in there close and steal it. But Chris was away. And I just knew he wasn't going to make it.

-Made it. He made it.


-He made it. He made it.



-Oh, ho, ho, ho, ho.


-There we go. There we go.

-Wow, wow, wow.

-He pulled it right in the middle from 30 feet. I mean, it was just beautiful. Willie Milly called it right off the blade. He saw it come off. He said, oh, no. That's going in.

-First in, always nice. You like to-- you like to turn the screws a little bit. First in usually wins.

-Willie and I, we were-- we were kind of thinking that we were going to give him a little rim service, that we were going to walk off that green like two show ponies from the old days. And I hit this perfect put.

-More better. More better.

-Don't do it.


-Oh. Oh.

-Give them the little walk, Willie. Whoo. Willie got a little slower than he used to, got to get it out for me. And we had a good time. It was a great way to finish the match. I think it was the only time on our show we've ever had three birds--

-That ain't right, right there.

- --in a smackdown each. So if I could produce a little of that style of golf, maybe I could win some money on the tour if I could have some bursts like that. The reason that everyone comes to Pinehurst is because it's just unreal. It's like no other part of the United States that I can really put my finger on.

I just wanted everyone to know that there's a couple of other little places that are maybe just off the beaten track that they may not have heard about. And then you got to go to Talamore and see the llamas, don't you? I mean, what, are you kidding me? And two of the greatest caddies, Willie Miller, who caddied the tour, Willie McRae who's spent his whole life dedicated to the Pinehurst Resort.

Everyone in the whole town's here for golf. It proves to us, it proves to me, and it proves why we do our show, is that people love golf for different reasons. And that's why we're there.

NARRATOR: On another episode of "Secret Golf," Elk saddles up on an Oklahoma ranch--

-We got a couple cowboys here.

NARRATOR: --where he shares his Elkspertise in horsemanship--

-You know, I'm an expert.

-Oh, are you?

-I've ridden three.


-Three horses in the last year.

NARRATOR: --tries to take advantage of a fellow tour mate's first--

-Oh, boy. See. Now it's starting to move.

-PB, I'm not so sure about your posture. It doesn't look right from the back to me.

-Posture's fantastic. Thank you.

-Is it? OK.

-Elk has got a lot of great advice on certain things. But when it comes to horse, I'm not going to listen to that.

NARRATOR: --and unveils Oklahoma's mystical golf arena.

-I'm about ready to get back into my comfort zone. I heard there's a really nice course here somewhere in Oklahoma. You want to go see if we can find it?

-Let's go. I can't wait.

NARRATOR: "Secret Golf" with Steve Elkington has been a presentation of Secret Golf Incorporated.

-Shh. It's a secret.