This weekend on the Thistle Dhu putting course, Pinehurst Resort hosted the first Moore County Putting Championship. With the proceeds benefiting the area’s Young Life program, competitors were encouraged to pay a $10 entry fee during two qualifying rounds. The four lowest scores and ties in a men’s and women’s division would square off in the finals on Sunday afternoon.
During a break in Friday’s qualifier, though, a little conversation sprang up between Pinehurst President Don Padgett II and decorated Pinehurst golf professional Kelly Mitchum. Padgett talked of his best round on the putting course, a tidy 37 on the 18-hole course like few have ever seen before.
Soon, a friendly wager was in the offing. Could Mitchum tie the 37? How would the two fare in an impromptu head-to-head match?
“Give me a minute to go grab my putter,” Mitchum said.
“Yes, get your putter,” Padgett quipped. “We don’t need any excuses.”
The Thistle Dhuel was on.*
*Watching these two play the course, there was a lot to be gleaned for someone who wants to post a score. In fact, there’s a video below that will give a player an immediate leg up.
The first hole features the simplest putt of the match. A warm-up hole that would warm Donald Ross’ heart. While Mitchum scampers away to get his putter, Padgett lines up the putt.
Mitchum never sees it, returning to the course to hear he was already down. “How many times have you seen that putt?” Padgett is asked.
“All day,” he chides, a smile on his face.
Mitchum has to settle for a 2.
Padgett misses the downhill, wide-arching putt, and barely slips in the 5-footer for a deuce. Mitchum, though, slips the edge of the cup on his first putt. “Whoa!” Padgett exclaims. “Almost a sinkee!”
Still, just a 2.
Putting second, Mitchum reads the putt differently, seeing a line that initially goes away from the hole and up a molehill to the right of the cup. But the ball angles back and around toward the cup, settling 3 feet away. “I knew you had something up with that,” Padgett says of the line.
Doesn’t matter. Mitchum misses the 3-footer.
Mitchum bounces back by rattling his second putt in the cup.
Mitchum plays three breaks on the putt, which settles within a couple of feet from the hole. “Wow,” says Padgett.
Padgett misses for the first time, letting his second putt slip away. His short putting to this point has been rock solid. “There’s a kink in the armor,” he says. It gives Mitchum a bit of a window.
The second – and last – straight putt on the course. The last breather. Padgett’s first slides by. Mitchum’s, though, looks good the whole way.
Until it brushes the edge of the cup. “I needed that one,” he says.
The Bowl Hole.
The toughest hole on the course. Everyone who has played on Friday has run the ball off the green, some of them into the sand outside the fringe.
But Padgett studies the line, his eyes narrowing. He sees something.
Then he turns 90 degrees to the right.
“I bet you’ll be the only one all weekend to figure that one out,” Mitchum says.
Padgett slips in his second putt. He may have saved a stroke there. Then again, he’s been deadly from 6 feet in.
The longest hole on the course – at least 60 feet – and one of the most treacherous. If the player doesn’t make it all the way up the first steep slope, the ball will roll back 20 feet.
Padgett makes a great putt on a great line.
Mitchum, though, is even better. On track the whole way, Mitchum knows he’s made it.
Until it hits the pin.
“Unbelievable!” Mitchum cries out.
“You got robbed!” Padgett says.
The ball lies 2 inches from the cup.
“You can have that one,” Padgett quips.
Padgett makes another dagger on his second. “Nifty, nifty,” Mitchum says.
This one gets away from both of them, though each had the line perfect and seemed to have the right speed. But the ball rolls off the side of a hill and trickles…trickles…trickles. They both end up nearly 20 feet away, their golf balls side-by-side.
Mitchum knows he’s running out of holes. Padgett hits a good putt, but it won’t go. Mitchum has the line, and…
“Short!?” he yells incredulously. “I needed this one and I left it short?!”
The next putt Mitchum hits will be his 38th stroke. He won’t match Padgett’s best day. But can he match Padgett today?
Padgett’s putt slides by with a little too much heat on it. He faces a 7-footer coming back.
Mitchum hands Padgett a small bill to pay off the wager – he couldn’t match Padgett’s low round – which Padgett quickly donates back to Young Life.
The Thistle Dhuel ends with a clear victor.
MOORE COUNTY PUTTING CHAMPIONSHIP UPDATE:
Apparently Don Padgett II knew what he was doing around Thistle Dhu.
Padgett and Nancy Barnes won the men’s and women’s divisions, respectively, of the Moore County Putting Championship. Padgett, who qualified with a 39, matched his career-best with a 37 in Sunday’s finals. Scott Lincicome was the runner-up with a 39 after qualifying with a 37. Pinehurst caddies Michael Wilson and Eric Bennett also qualified for the finals.
Barnes, who qualified with a 49, won with a 47, topping runner-up Veronica Karaman by a single stroke. Karaman had qualified with a 43. Pat Padgett and Kaye Pierson also qualified for the finals.