Alice Dye, the “First Lady” of golf-course architecture and wife to fellow designer Pete Dye, died Friday in Florida. She was 91 years old. The Dyes, married for nearly 69 years, teamed together to develop some of the world’s most recognizable and acclaimed golf courses, including TPC Sawgrass, Harbour Town Golf Links, Whistling Straits, Stadium Course at PGA West and scores more.
“The PGA is deeply saddened by the passing of Alice Dye, one of the most enduring advocates for women’s golf. She was the first woman on our Board of Directors and 2004 First Lady of Golf. We join the golf world in sending our thoughts and prayers to the Dye family,” said PGA of America President Suzy Whaley on Friday.
Dye, born Alice Holliday O’Neal on Feb. 19, 1927 in Indianapolis, Ind., began in the sport at a younge age and developed into a prolific amateur champion. She won the Indianapolis Women’s City title 11 times and nine Indiana Women’s Golf Association Amateur Championships.
After graduating high school, Dye attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., where she met Pete after his discharge from the military follwing World War II. Pete, originally from Ohio, was attending school on the GI Bill. Alice graduated from Rollins in 1948, and she moved home to Indianapolis. Pete left Rollins and returned to Ohio to take a job with his father’s insurance firm. Despite the long distance, the two remained together. On Feb. 2, 1950, the couple were married in Indianapolis, where Pete moved and sold insurance.
The couple had two sons together, Perry and P.B.
The Dyes began their design business in the Indianapolis area in 1959 when Pete quit his insurance job and began looking for local architecture work. In 1964, Pete began working on designing Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indianapolis, which hosted the 1991 PGA Championship. However, their first course to reach the national golf consciousness was in South Carolina at Harbour Town Golf Links in 1969. That’s because it became home to the Heritage, and it remains host to the post-Masters PGA Tour stop to this day.
Alice is credited with designing a variety of features on that course, including the par-4 13th, an effective island green surrounded by sand. However, it’s perhaps her vision for the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass that underscores her place in golf-architecture history.
As Dye was working on the Sawgrass Stadium Course, Pete Dye realized he had mined too much sand from that part of the property, as it was needed for the rest of the course. He wasn’t sure where to place the green on the par 3. As golf course architect and former Dye associate Bill Coore told Golf Channel, “Pete said to himself, ‘Now, what am I going to do?’ Alice said, ‘Well, you’ve taken all the sand out, so make a lake and just leave the green on sand out there. Thus, the island green.’”
One of golf’s most famous holes is the genius of Alice Dye.
But Alice Dye never worked in her husband’s shadow. They worked together, as a team, and Alice was not shy about getting on equipment and doing the work herself. She helped Pete keep the average golfer in mind as he concocted designs filled with mind games and demanding shots. Dye was a huge advocate for thinking about shorter-hitting golfers in course design, encouraging the development of more sets of forward tees with women in mind.
Alice, Pete and P.B. worked together on their final course together — the Links at Perry Cabin in Maryland — in 2017. The family redesigned the original course, Harbourtowne Golf Resort, which was led by Pete’s late brother Roy.
A true team, portraits of Pete and Alice together adorn many of the clubhouses of their designs.
Dye remained a stout competitive golfer, even as she and Pete embarked on an unimaginable journey through their architecture work. At 41, she won the North and South Women’s Amateur in 1968, ultimately qualifying for the 1970 U.S. Curtis Cup team. A decade after her North-and-South win, she won the first of back-to-back U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur titles. She won three Florida Women’s Amateur titles in the 1970s.
She became the first female member and first female president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, and she was the first woman to serve as an independent director of Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA).
Alice Dye is survived by her sons Perry and P.B., as well Pete Dye, who is 93 and living with Alzheimer’s disease.