In 1999, Payne Stewart was among four PGA Tour players scheduled to appear for a skins match at Mill Creek Golf Club the day after the U.S. Open.
Then Stewart won the U.S. Open, beating Phil Mickelson on an 18-foot putt on the 72nd hole at Pinehurst No. 2. It’s a putt that’s lived for the ages, the celebratory fist pump now immortalized in a statue at Pinehurst.
Everyone was wondering if Stewart would show at Mill Creek the following day.
Stewart’s U.S. Open trophy was on display there in the pro shop. A crowd of about 6,000 turned out to watch Stewart, Paul Azinger, Fred Couples and Hal Sutton compete.
“It was crazy,” said Mike Long, Mill Creek’s director of golf.
Stewart’s caddy, Mike Hicks, lives at Mill Creek. Stewart spent the night following his U.S. Open win at Hicks’ house, the two staying up until 4 a.m. celebrating and toasting one another.
Hicks laughs now when asked what he was thinking on the 18th green at Pinehurst before Stewart sank his dramatic, U.S. Open clinching putt.
“I thought, ‘We’re not going to be at this Skins Game because of a Monday playoff and I’m going to have to call Neal Lancaster to take our spot,’’’ Hicks said. “I had put a lot of energy into planning the event and I didn’t want to look like an idiot because we sold all these tickets. It ended up working out and was just a great, great day.”
With the U.S. Open returning to Pinehurst this June, officials at Mill Creek are planning to recreate an event similar to 1999. The 2014 Skins Match will be held at Mill Creek on June 16, the day following the final round of the 114th U.S. Open.
Four PGA Tour golfers will be playing at Mill Creek that day. Three – Chesson Hadley, Will MacKenzie and Carl Pettersson – have committed and Long said the final attendee will be announced soon.
Hadley, MacKenzie and Pettersson all have ties to North Carolina.
The four will be competing in a charity match, proceeds of which will benefit UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“We’re trying to get quality people,” Long said. “It’ll be a good thing for everybody involved.”
Hadley, 26, is a native of Raleigh who played golf at Georgia Tech where he was a three-time All American.
The 39-year-old MacKenzie is a native of Greenville who has two PGA Tour wins to his credit. MacKenzie has career PGA winnings of almost $6 million. He was a golf prodigy as a child, but gave up the sport following high school and only began playing again after seeing clips of Stewart, his boyhood idol, winning the U.S. Open in Pinehurst in 1999.
Pettersson, 36, is a native of Sweden who graduated high school in Greensboro (Grimsley) before playing on the golf team at N.C. State. He has won five times on the PGA Tour, including the 2008 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro.
Long said former University of North Carolina play-by-play man Woody Durham will emcee the event at Mill Creek.
In addition to competing in a skins match, the four golfers competing at Mill Creek will start the day with a putting demonstration at 8:30 a.m. followed by a driving demonstration.
They’ll be paired in two-person teams and tee off in the skins match at 10 a.m. Tickets to the event are $30.
“It’ll be real up close and personal,” Long said.
The Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center is in the top tier of nationally-recognized centers in the United States, one of 41 designated by the National Cancer Institute. It is the only comprehensive cancer center in North Carolina.
Physicians and scientists involved with the Lineberger Center are members of the UNC School of Medicine and national leaders in the areas of cancer treatment, research and prevention. They work to advance the knowledge of what causes cancer, how to prevent it and how best to treat it.
The N.C. Cancer Hospital opened in September 2009 and is the clinical home of UNC Lineberger. It is designed with input from patients and health-care providers.