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A Puritan’s Pine Valley | T+L Golf

A four-hole stretch that plays across the broken terrain of the former gravel quarry is the most stirring part of the course. It begins with the 317-yard uphill fifth, which dares long hitters to reach a level landing area within tossing distance of the green. And there the fun begins: Golfers must decide whether to loft, chip or putt the ball onto the raised sliver of a green. The sixth hole, a mid-length par three, can best be described as Pine Valley–esque: an all-carry shot over a chasm of sand and scrub. “People were saying, ‘You guys are nuts. That’s a derelict, awful piece of ground,’” explains Hanse. “But to us it was the most beautiful spot on the property.” The drive on the par-four seventh must carry another section of the quarry, then the green at the par-three eighth yields one last look across it and completes the loop.

Another, less obvious parallel between Boston Golf Club and Pine Valley is that each was created in large part by an independently wealthy, single-minded founder who died before the tableau he envisioned was completed. (In Mineck’s case, only the clubhouse had yet to be built.)

Pine Valley, the top-ranked course in the world, owes its existence to George Crump, a Philadelphia hotelier and accomplished golfer. Around the time Crump was selling his Colonnade Hotel in 1910, he embarked on a dream of creating an outstanding golf club in the pine barrens of southern New Jersey. The project became his obsession. A widower with time to spare, he moved into makeshift quarters on site and painstakingly surveyed the land. Crump solicited ideas from the leading golf architects of the day, most notably Englishman H. S. Colt, then laid out the course himself. But four holes hadn’t been constructed when he took his own life in 1918, at age forty-six. (Hugh Wilson, Merion’s designer and another local amateur architect, completed them with the help of his brother, Alan.)

Tributes to Crump poured forth in the weeks following his death. “He discovered this wonderful tract of land when it was covered with trees,” wrote A. W. Tillinghast, the celebrated course architect, in The American Golfer, “and to many it seemed like folly to attempt transforming it to a golf course.” Crump’s close friend Simon Carr, a Roman Catholic priest as well as a competitive golfer, assured Pine Valley’s board of directors that the course would become an “enduring monument” to Crump and would “witness to future generations his energy, his generosity and his devotion to clean sport.”

Ninety years later, such accolades could easily have been conferred on John Mineck. Like Crump after his sale of the Colonnade, Mineck had done so well for himself by the time he and Ketterson met in 1996 that he’d essentially been able to retire as a single man in his forties. (He and his longtime companion, Nancy Skawinski, were to have been married in the natural amphitheater of Boston Golf Club’s eleventh tee.) With a background in chemistry as well as an MBA, Mineck had spent six years in new-product development with Gillette, helping to bring its popular Foamy Gel shaving cream to market. He also created Practice Management Systems, a company providing computer services to physicians. It came to dominate the business in New England, New York and New Jersey, and Mineck sold the thirteen-year-old operation in 1995, at a handsome profit.

Turning to golf, a passion that dated to his youth as a caddie at the Stanwich Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, Mineck dedicated himself to the game. He volunteered with the Massachusetts Golf Association and developed junior clinics across the state. “He had two precious commodities: time and money,” says Jim McCabe, longtime golf writer for the Boston Globe and a close friend of Mineck’s. “Most anyone else in such a position would have used those gifts to indulge themselves. Not John. His time and money were always used to do good.”

Once Mineck and Ketterson—a less extroverted type who had the responsibilities of a family and a full-time job as a managing partner at Fidelity Ventures—acquired the land in Hingham, Mineck immersed himself in the project. The first big challenge was to find a source of water sufficient for irrigation. After a costly initial round of drilling failed, Mineck, as part of a field team, spent the next eight months trudging through the woods until water was found. “Forget the scientists and the people who are at the computers in the office,” he told the engineer he’d hired to oversee the work. “I’m talking to the guy who’s drilling the holes.”

Although he and Ketterson gave Hanse’s team what amounted to a clean slate, urging them to make the most of the land without worrying about where the clubhouse and the roads would go, Mineck also engaged the architects on a daily basis. He hired two nongolf experts to bring different perspectives: Ron Byleckie, an arborist, and Hank Gilpin, a furniture maker Mineck got to know while studying woodworking as president of Boston’s Society of Arts and Crafts. These men played key roles in the conception of the clubhouse and the course and encouraged showcasing specimen trees, including a large, leaning white pine that was uprooted from an area that’s now a pond and replanted behind the eighth green.

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