By HOWARD WARD
The Country Club of North Carolina’s Dogwood Course in Pinehurst is one of the most beautiful in the state.
Designed by the late Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame architect Ellis Maples and opened in 1963, CCNC is annually ranked among the top half-dozen courses in North Carolina.
The 100-foot tall longleaf pines give the course a regal look and, when the dogwoods and azaleas surrounding the course and the elegant 60-acre Watson Lake bloom in May, it can look as much like a magnificent garden as a golf course.
But the course is far from relying on beauty alone. It’s a wonderful test of golf and has proved to be a suitable venue for hosting not only a U.S. Amateur Championship in 1980, but serving as the host course for the PGA Tour’s Liggett & Myers Open Match Play Championship in 1971, won by DeWitt Weaver.
The beauty, the elegance and the playing characteristics are all part of the formula used by the United States Golf Association for choosing CCNC as the site for its U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship July 19-24.
A field of 156 girls under the age of 18 will compete for the title. Following 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying, the low 64 will enter match play, seeking the title won by Amy Anderson last year. A record 1,005 girls entered with hopes of advancing to Pinehurst.
“We’re very excited to be back at CCNC,” said Cece Durbin, chairman of the U.S. Girls’ Junior Committee. “This is the third year in a row that we’ve had a record number of entries.
“Ten of the girls who played last year also played in the U.S. Open and three of them made the cut. And half of the members of the 2009 Curtis Cup Team were in our championship last year.”
So the girls can play. But the course they’re playing will give them as much of a challenge as they could want.
“The course is in excellent condition,” Durbin said. “It’s definitely going to provide a lot of challenges for the girls with a lot of variety in the setup.”
Championship Director Donna Mummert is quick to agree. “The green complexes are very challenging,” she said, “and they offer the girls a lot of options.”
Mummert, who 12 years ago spent six months as an intern with the Carolinas Golf Association headquartered in nearby West End, is enjoying a return visit to the area.
“I’m very excited,” she said, “both with the golf course and the reception we’re getting from the community and the CCNC membership.”
As championship director, Mummert is responsible for the course setup.
“It’s going to play to around 6,395 yards,” she said, and there’s a great variety and flexibility in the par-3s. They can play anywhere from 123 yards to 195. The longest hole will be the par-5 12th, which will play 555 yards.”
Course superintendent Ron Kelly knows every blade of grass on both courses at CCNC and admitted that he had some qualms about conditions during the winter months.
“We had a tremendously cold winter,” he said earlier in the spring, “but the courses came out looking pretty good. We did have some winter damage, but all we needed was some warm weather.
“Our staff is very excited about the championship. We’ll have it shining like an emerald for these girls.”
CCNC head professional Chris Kushner is as proud as an expectant father.
“The course is impeccable,” he said, pointing out that warm weather and rains came at the opportune time for the course to be at its best. “It was almost like the perfect storm, the way everything came together at just the right time. It will be nice to have the course just like this through the championship.
“Everyone here is getting excited now. We’re all looking forward to CCNC putting on a great show.”
Putting on a great show is just what Director of Golf Jeff Dotson is expecting to happen. As he points out, this is far from being the first rodeo for CCNC.
“The Country Club of North Carolina is a long-time supporter of amateur golf,” he said. “We’ve hosted the Southern Amateur six times, the 2006 Women’s Southern, the 2008 Big I Championship, and we’re hosting the Southern Junior Championship in 2012.”
The 156 girls are bringing a lot of talent to CCNC. But the golf course is ready to offer them all they want, both in beauty and challenge.
2010 Area Qualifiers
Cecily Overby, High Point; Taelor Rubin, Cary; Katie Kirk, Davidson.