Ridley Draws The Line On Distance? No 13th Hole Changes Until Distance Report Arrives

The predicted (second) lengthening of Augusta National’s 13th hole will not be happening in the summer of 2019 based on Chairman Fred Ridley’s prepared remarks delivered to the media Wednesday.

Read carefully and read between those lines…

It should come as no surprise to any of you that we continue to study other enhancements to the golf course.  That includes much‑talked‑about changes, potential changes, to the 13th hole. 

Admittedly, that hole does not play as it was intended to play by Jones and MacKenzie.  The momentous decision that I've spoken about and that Bobby Jones often spoke about, of going for the green in two, is to a large extent, no longer relevant. 

Although we now have options to increase the length of this hole, we intend to wait to see how distance may be addressed by the governing bodies before we take any action.

I think the former USGA president may have just suggested he senses action is coming.

I’m sorry, I interrupted…

In doing so, we fully recognize that the issue of distance presents difficult questions with no easy answers.  But please know this:  The USGA and The R&A do have the best interests of the game at heart.  They recognize the importance of their future actions.  You can be assured that we will continue to advocate for industry‑wide collaboration in support of the governing bodies as they resolve this very important topic. 

Of course, no resolution has been the stance of the PGA Tour, PGA of America and most major manufacturers, so the idea of a conclusion to the liking of Mr. Ridley and Augusta National would seem to include some form of new distance regulation. Or a new tee that they clearly do not want to add.

Players React To New Fifth: Long, Tough And The Driver Restored

I penned this piece for Golfweek rounding up player assessments of the remodeled 5th hole.

Jim McCabe at Masters.com looks at the changes and there is a fantastic flyover where the new left hole location resored is visible.

Fred Ridley spoke about the changes today:

As has been reported, last summer, the fifth tee was moved back and shifted away from the fourth green.  In doing so, the fairway landing area was regraded and the bunkers were repositioned.  While this hole now measures 40 yards longer, we believe this change maintains the original design philosophy of Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie, and not only continues our commitment to keep the course in step with the changing state of the game, but we believe it will have a positive impact on pace of play. 

As part of this renovation, we took the opportunity to rebuild and slightly enlarge the fifth green.  In doing so, we were able to make adjustments to the back left portion of the putting green in order to support new hole locations. 

But an exciting byproduct of this instruction is the improvements to our patron experience.  For the first time, we will route patrons down the right side of the fourth hole, as well as behind the green, providing an attractive vantage point for this challenging par 3. 

The new tee at No. 5 also provides for additional viewing areas, so we feel these holes have been much improved from a patron perspective. 

Here is the Masters Instagram post and flyover embed.

The bunkers are just a bit large off the tee and overwhelming in scale and difficulty given what both Bob Jones and Alister MacKenzie detailed (they were conflicted about those bunkers, with Jones adding them after the course opened and after having shot down their initial inclusion). A drive over those bunkers—314 carry—may not be rewarded with a clean look at the green from the fairway if there is any run to the ball.. It feels like the location of the old bunkers was not adequately filled in, so I suspect the tee shot will actually favor a left to right shape.

The green complex still looks intimidating and in firmer years may prompt a run-up, with the new left hole location an almost impossible birdie unless a player sinks a long putt.

Woods, Hanse To Design 36 And Maybe Help Put Oahu Golf On The Map?

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For Immediate Release on Pacific Links’ big plans for Mākaha Valley Resort, with one Tiger Woods and one Gil Hanse design:

Pacific Links Press Release – Wednesday 3rd April 2019

  • Pacific Links International (PLI) announces Tiger Woods and Gil Hanse as designers of two world-class golf courses on the island of Oahu, Hawaii

  • Mākaha North Course (TGR Design) and Mākaha South Course (Hanse Golf Course Design) will become the highlight of the Mākaha Valley Resort

  • PLI is working with community leaders, landowners, native Hawaiian cultural practitioners and regulatory agencies on the project’s long-term vision

Golfing icon Tiger Woods and his TGR Design company have today been unveiled as lead architects for one of two spectacular golfing layouts to be created at Mākaha Valley Resort, Hawaii, a project commissioned by Pacific Links International, the world’s premier golfing network. Inspired by the pristine setting on Oahu’s Leeward Coast, TGR Design will lead the development of the Mākaha North Course, while Gil Hanse, creator of the Olympic Course in Rio de Janeiro, will develop the Mākaha South Course. Together, these world-class, tournament-quality layouts will become the centre pieces of the Mākaha Valley Resort, a 644-acre mixed-use property developed in conjunction with community leaders and native cultural practitioners on Hawaii’s third-largest island.

WATCH: To view a video which celebrates the announcement of Tiger Woods and Gil Hanse as designers of Mākaha North and South

As Jason Scott Deegan notes for GolfAdvisor.com based on his time in Hawaii, this may finally be the project that puts Oahu golf on the map. To this point, the golf tourism side of things there has been pretty weak.

Patrick Koenig's Year-Long RV Golf Trip...

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Almost sounds like a movie, but instead it’s just the story many would love to live. Mercifully, Patrick Koenig also is a fantastic photographer and even a fundraiser.

Erik Matuszewski explains the story behind Koenig’s wonderful Instagram account and his RV journey playing in all but one state after quitting his job in software sales.

Koenig recently completed an epic golf journey, living in a 26-foot Coachman for 12 months while playing golf in all but one state in the continental U.S. (He missed out on Nebraska because of snow).

Koenig did all the driving himself—a total of 35,576 miles—took around 40,000 photos, made 689 birdies and lost in the neighborhood of 600 golf balls.  He also played with 793 different people, making new friends along the way, and raised $20,000 for the First Tee of Greater Seattle.

TPC Sawgrass' 12th Hole Has Gone From Not Drivable To A Long Par-3

12th hole scatter chart in 2019

12th hole scatter chart in 2019

And that’s not a good thing.

Astoundingly, no double bogey was made the entire tournament. While that is definitely not a barometer for architectural merit, the lack of a big number suggests that the cooks, wait staff, busboys, hostesses and even valet parkers in Ponte Vedra have overcooked architect Steve Wenzloff’s effort to inject life into the back nine.

As I explain here for Golfweek, the fine line between drama and just playing as a long par-3 can be remedied with a simple grass tweak and better mixing up of tees. Please pass along to the locker room attendants at TPC Sawgrass, they may get a say too. Actually, they have a much more informed view than most.

BTW, how amazing is all of this data from ShotLink for the cooks to ponder? An impressive 76% of the field took a go at the green, with 23% successfully hitting the green. It was just a couple of years ago that players and caddies were declaring how no one would bother to go for it, much less keep their ball on the green.

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Alice Dye's Greatest 17th Hole Contribution: Making The Top Shelf Functional

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The Forecaddie notes here that the late Alice Dye’s contribution to the 17th hole is greater and maybe a bit more refined architecturally than she gets credit for.

The 2019 tribute to Alice Dye:

Golf Architect Keith Foster Sentenced To 30 Days

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A sad chapter in the career of golf architect Keith Foster closed with his sentencing to 30 days in prison for importing and selling products made from endangered species.

Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post reports.

He has also paid a $275,000 fine. After pleading guilty, Foster lost contracts with Congressional Country Club in Bethesda and Olympia Fields Country Club near Chicago.

The antique business was supposed to be a relatively safe outlet for Foster’s extra energy, he told Golf Club Atlas in 2014, compared to his other hobby of mountaineering.

“I always tried to challenge myself,” Foster said. “My wife much prefers my Outpost venture to climbing.”

Southern Pines' Little Nine: "Fallow Ground & Fertile Memories"

The abandoned “LIttle Nine” is on the right

The abandoned “LIttle Nine” is on the right

Bill Fields takes an in-depth look at one of the more unusual battles over an abandoned golf course—the Little Nine of Southern Pines Golf Club, a still wonderful but defaced Donald Ross gem in greater Pinehurst run by the Elks Lodge. The course has sat dormant since 2004 with Ross ties and facing a possible sale by the Elks in the heart of Southern Pines.

But as Fields notes, a conservancy is trying to prevent redevelopment with an eye on green space or even golf returning some day. Given the quality of the land and the game’s popularity in the area, that shouldn’t be tough, right?

The Little Nine opened in time for the 1924 winter season, 18 years after the first holes were constructed at SPGC (then called Southern Pines Country Club) and a decade after Ross revamped the original 18 into the well-regarded layout that exists today. 

“I’m long on record on Golf Club Atlas saying the main 18 at the Elks occupies the best land in Moore County [for golf], and people parrot that back to me in agreement,” says Ran Morrissett, founder of the website for golf architecture aficionados, and a Southern Pines resident and Elks Club member since 2000. “The detail work, the bones of the Ross routing, the fact that you only see homes on a couple of holes — it’s such a compelling environment.”

The third nine, to accommodate a growing tourist business, was built south and east of the clubhouse. Before the 1920s were over, it had been joined by a fourth nine. In a 1930 promotional pamphlet, Ross noted 36 holes at Southern Pines. In accounts during the 1930s, local newspapers credited Ross’ engineer and draftsman, Walter Irving Johnson, with having drawn up the plans.

Just One Player Laid Up At Riviera's 10th Hole Sunday, Zero Yesterday

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Longtime readers know I’ve tracked the gradual shift of the ShotLink scatter chart at Riviera’s 10th toward the greensite.

The great risk-reward short par-4 is now officially a one-shot hole given that only one player appeared to intentionally lay up Sunday and only 40 over four days of Genesis Open play at Riviera. The rest—400 attempts—”went for the green”.

That, my friends, is a par-4 in name only.

The round 4 scatter chart:

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When the hole played shorter Saturday, no one laid up.

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And over four days, almost no one is even bothering to try to use the lay-up options once so revered before, you know, kale, high-fiber diets and agronomy conspired to shorten the hole.

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90 Years Later: How The 10th At Riviera Evolved

The 10th hole as bunkers are added around the green in 1928. The left “lay-up” bunker had also been recently installed. The two foreground bunkers and far right bunker were part of the original design.

The 10th hole as bunkers are added around the green in 1928. The left “lay-up” bunker had also been recently installed. The two foreground bunkers and far right bunker were part of the original design.

A few things to remember about Riviera when it hosted its first Los Angeles Open 90 years ago.

—The course was in the “countryside” and a bit of a gamble as a location so far from the city center downtown.

—Riviera was just a year-and-half old with a reputation for extreme difficulty (“Where do the members play?”-Bobby Jones).

—The course underwent modifications prior to the tournament by George Thomas and Billy Bell despite concerns about the difficulty.

When I wrote The Captain in 1996, a year after The Riviera Country Club : A Definitive History, we only knew from mentions in the tournament program that modifications were made to the 5th and 9th holes (greenside bunkers added). A huge bunker on the 7th fairway could also be seen in aerial photos, as could the most significant of all: new bunkering at the world famous short par-4 10th.

After the books were published, I traveled to Golf House and with the help of USGA researcher Patty Moran, found many wonderful articles including this Country Club Magazine piece below by Scotty Chisholm, co-founder of the L.A. Open and friend to Thomas, Bell and many other luminaries.

In it he details why the bunkers were added by Captain Thomas throughout the course under Billy Bell’s supervision—a right he and Bell retained when taking the commission in 1926.

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The remainder of the story. Also note the “Boles McCrackan’s Bletherings” by Chisholm explains Riviera’s 6th hole design by Thomas and when the hole was a 145-yarder, not as played from the silly back tee since added.

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The explanation of 10th hole changes suggests the original bunkerless green was not challenging enough.

“This hole has been too easy to score on even for the so-called dubs. It measures 320 yards and it is a well known fact that the golf architect of today experiences more difficulty in designing a hole of this length than any other. Although the green lies at almost right angles to the tee and difficult to hold with a pitched shot, Thomas has decided to trap it heavily to the right and cut down the putting surface.”

That decision proved a brilliant one, though as the bunkers have become deeper, the green smaller and more pitched with modern speeds pushing 13, the 10th has teetered on the edge of silliness.

Playing now as a long par-3 due to modern driving distances, some of the lay-up strategy is gone as well and silly bottlebrush bushes are needed to defend the hole from even more tee shots driving near the green without regard for accuracy.

Rain this year may take some of the fire out of the 10th green, and that’s not all bad given how it has teetered on the edge of sanity in recent playings. Regardless, the changes made 90 years ago have held up well and are a credit to the original architect’s willingness to make adjustments. And, contrary to an attempted scam designed to reduce the role of Thomas and Bell, the changes were very much made by the original designers as documented at the time.

In the 1929 L.A. Open program after bunkers were added around the green.

In the 1929 L.A. Open program after bunkers were added around the green.

NY Times Obituary: Alice Dye And Her Impact On The Sport

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Alice Dye’s passing has left many in the golf world to reflect on her impact and while the obvious go-to’s are TPC Sawgrass’s 17th or keeping Pete from doing something really dumb, I keep coming back to tees.

Not sexy, but if you ever talked to her you know how passionate she was about better tee design for all, and in particular women and beginners. She penned an essay on the topic for my Masters of the Links (1997, Sleeping Bear Press) and did more than any architect in golf history for tee design.

So it was nice to see her passion and the positive influence Mrs. Dye had on player enjoyment highlighted in substantial New York Times obituary by Richard Goldstein:

Ms. Dye championed forward tees that make formidable courses more playable for most women as well as for male players outside the pro ranks.

“I worked very hard on trying to get the two-tee system for women,” she told the PGA of America. “I was successful in getting the yardage down between 5,000 and 5,200 yards.”

Prior to Alice, forward tees were not close to properly designed for women. By expanding the number of sets, she also quietly made more men comfortable playing shorter sets of tees while allowing women to enjoy the strategies intended by architects. Couple those factors together, and Alice Dye was instrumental in more enjoyment tied to millions of rounds played. For that alone she should be enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

We discussed the mark she left Monday on Morning Drive:

"It’s no insult to Pete Dye to say that Alice was literally his better half."

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Ron Whitten on the passing of his friend and one of golf’s great characters, not to mention wildly influential figures, Alice Dye:

Alice Dye was always in charge, from the day she told Pete it was time to get married to many times she walked a construction site with Pete and told him he was doing it all wrong. Alice was in charge of their family, of their business, of their image, their reputation and massive influence on the game of golf. If you consider Pete Dye a genius, as I do, then you absolutely must concur that Alice Dye was the genius behind the genius.

First (At Least, Graphically Depicted) Look At Augusta National's Extended 5th Hole

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With no Instagram posts from Augusta National—not even a random post-Daniel Field takeoff photo—the Masters Media Guide provides our first look at the extended 5th hole. The addition of 40 yards will get most of the attention, but the question fans of Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie’s design most want to know: has the original Road hole-inspired strategy been restored?

To recap: Bobby Jones described the hole as a reverse of the Road with a carry over the left bunkers and flirtation with the lefthand forest shortening the hole and opening up an ideal angle to most hole locations. The fairway bunkers Jones-MacKenzie answer to the Roads’ Station Master’s Garden. (Here’s an old Golf World piece I wrote on the ties to St. Andrews and in particular, this hole.)

So as today’s modern heptathletes finally stopped downing Jagermeister shots and moved to Cauliflower smoothies, the club pushed forward the fairway bunkers in response. They also planted pines and essentially created a pinched landing area to offset the surge of athleticism. The left risk/reward option of Jones’s day was erased in an attempt to maintain certain distances for the approach.

Going from 455 to 495 in 2019 and our first look at the depiction suggests fairway bunkers have been repositioned. That’s backed by the description of a 315 yard carry in 2018 and a 313 yard carry in 2019. This is very exciting news, though until we see what kind of tree planting and earthwork took place, we should reserve judgement about the potential for a strategic revival.

The 2019 vs. 2018 depictions:

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Sigh: Torrey Pines Set For $14 Million In New Irrigation, New Bunker Floor Work

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Seeing Torrey Pines so immaculately groomed for this week’s Farmers Insurance Open makes the prospect of even more gratuitous spending tougher to swallow given the projected $14 million cost. What will they get> A new South Course irrigation system, modern bunker floor capping and tweaks to two holes. All as the architecture continues to age so poorly, the facility works out of the same 2008 U.S. Open maintenance tent—TENT— and the property continues to have way too much water-wasting turf in out of play areas.

The horrendous 4th green is also now off the table in the latest round of work, but the project will still include fairway bunker shifting on the 4th and 17th holes.

The bunkers need better drainage and their shape returned to the original work after years of sand building up on the edges, Marney said. The greens will not be altered.

There will be several strategic changes with bunkers. Most notably, the fairway bunkers to the right at the par-4 fourth and 17th will be shifted to the left and closer to the cliffs. The fairway also will move left to create more of a driving challenge, especially for the pros.

You may recall that in firmer but hardly fast U.S. Open conditions, balls were not staying on the 4th fairway. Presumably with shifted bunkers and grading work, it’ll become an automatic layup shot and even more of a missed-opportunity than the current version.

Note To Golf Clubs : Google Alerts Are Your Friends

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The news reported by Andy Johnson of Keith Foster’s ouster as consulting architect at Congressional and Olympia Fields following a guilty plea on charges of smuggling goods made from endangered species, is a dark chapter in what has been an excellent and widely-respected career of faithful restoration work.

Still, I couldn’t help but notice this line in Ryan Herrington’s Golf World report confirming the news based on a letter from Congressional president Bev Lane to the members claiming the club’s board was not aware of the case.

In the letter, first reported by the Fried Egg and a copy of which has been obtained by Golf Digest, Lane stated that the club had no prior knowledge of Foster’s legal issues. In addition to his work as an architect, Foster owned a family antiques business in Virginia that specialized in selling foreign-sourced merchandise, a portion of which included wildlife products made from endangered species such as crocodiles, sea turtles and sawfish.

A simple Google news alert would have turned up this report a year ago when the Foster’s shop was raided about 50 minutes away from Congressional.

As for Olympia Fields, Tim Cronin offers a few details on the club moving in a new direction following Foster’s guilty plea.

Golf Architect Keith Foster Facing Five Years In Prison After Guilty Plea For Smuggling Endangered Wildlife Goods

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A.W. Tillinghast got into the rare antique business late in life, so there was a nice parallel of sorts for Keith Foster in opening The Outpost, a Middleburg, Virginia store devoted to “authentic finds.”

Turns out, a little too authentic.

According to Len Shapiro writing for the Fauquier Times, the golf architect currently handling Congressional’s renovation and known for work at Colonial, Southern Hills and Eastward Ho! faces up to five years in prison for illegally transporting up to $500,000 worth of items made from endangered species.

With good behavior should be out in time for the Senior PGA Championship on the freshly renovated course!

According to court documents, to evade enforcement by Fish and Wildlife, Foster relied on a shipping company to falsify import records in order to hide wildlife items and avoid inspection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other law enforcement officials.

Wonder if he ever ran into Big Leo?

Those documents indicated that starting in December 2016,  on numerous occasions Foster discussed with a customer, later revealed to be an undercover agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the unlawful nature of his conduct. He also told the undercover agent that it was illegal to import sawfish blades but that he intended to smuggle them, according to the Justice Department news release.

Foster told the agent, “Rest assured, I’m gonna bring more in ‘cause I’m the only fool in the States that probably wants to risk it,” the news release said.

Anything for his customers!

Rare Win For Property Owners: Court Orders Dye's Amelia Island Design Restored

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As many golf course real estate developments have seen courses closed and property values implode, it’s nice to see a circuit court judge recognizing the rogue work by the Omni resort to close a historic early Pete Dye design.

They have until October 31, 2019 to reopen the course in what will be a much costlier than had it been kept open. Garry Smits does a super job recounting the entire escapade for the Florida Times-Union.

This was particularly charming:

Omni Amelia closed Ocean Links one day after it was still booking local tee times. The club moved in bulldozers under police protection and began tearing down the greens on the three oceanside holes with the intention of converting the property into “green space,” for parks, bicycle trails and nature trails.

The resort did not notify property owners that it had begun the demolition until that day, in an email time-dated 5 p.m. By that time, the heavy construction equipment had already been at work a full day. The Equity Club filed for an emergency injunction halting the demolition, which was granted two days later.

Dr. Alister MacKenzie "Shall Not Grow Old"

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Maybe you’ve heard: acclaimed director Peter Jackson and his team of digital wizards have created a stunning new form of digitization that takes old films and brings them to life in ways we’ve never imagined: colorization, optimization and incredible sound.

Well, golf architecture aficionado Martin Bonnar watched the film during its recent BBC premiere and spotted someone who looks very much like Dr. Alister MacKenzie. Given that the doctor wrote of his many encounters with battle matters as a military physician and the timing fitting with what we know if his life’s work, there is a very high likelihood that the architect of Cypress Point and Augusta National makes a cameo in this groundbreaking film.

Here’s our discussion on Morning Drive today, with some keen technical analysis from Charlie Rymer.

The documentary trailer is below. The film is only in U.S. theaters two days: December 17 and 27th before presumably another form of release.

Go see Dr. MacKenzie and many other brave soldiers who shall not grow old!

Presidential Order: Trump Orders Tweaks To Turnberry's New Lighthouse Par-3's

Rear view of the par-3 11th.

Rear view of the par-3 11th.

The MacKenzie and Ebert-revamped Turnberry Ailsa course is spectacular in many ways, with the three-hole stretch at the 9th to the 11th able to stand with any three-hole stretch in the game.

Well it seems President Donald Trump’s July visit—his first since the revamp—prompted some notes. Specifically, making the 9th and 11th greens more receptive. The Daily Record’s Stuart Wilson reports on the Presidential tweaks at 9 and 11:

Turnberry members have been told the 11th, where the most extensive work will take place, could be out of action for up to three months.

The President’s son, Eric, told the Ayrshire Post this week: “We will always look to tweak and make things better where we can.

“This is part of the natural bedding -in process of a new course and we’re making the changes in line with the R&A.

“We want every hole to be perfect and if that means making a few changes like this, we’ll do it.”

I’m curious how much input the R&A has had on any post-reconstruction tweaks. Turnberry is not scheduled to host any R&A events at present.

"Pete Dye's Last Chapter"

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While Ron Whitten dwells on the horror of seeing the Pete Dye he’d long known no longer able to recognize him or share stories, he uses the opportunity of a recent visit to recount Dye’s career and legacy in golf architecture in a lengthy Golf Digest story.

To me, Pete was always a combination of Will Rogers, Walt Disney and Rod Serling. Now he's barely Pete. It is heartbreaking.

I ask Alice if Pete is aware of who we are, or, more important, who he is anymore.

"I don't know what he knows," she says. "It's very strange. He doesn't communicate back much. But I think he understands more about what's going on than we think."

I guess I'd seen it coming but didn't recognize it for what it was at first, or maybe I was in a state of denial. During a round of golf in 2015 with Pete and Alice at Gulf Stream Golf Club, just down the street from their house, Pete had asked me a question, then five minutes later asked me the same question again. And he kept calling me by the wrong name. I dismissed that as the usual forgetfulness that comes with old age.

From there Whitten briefly details coming to grips with the emotions of seeing a longtime subject essentially gone. But mercifully Alice is as sharp as ever and there is a long documented record, much of which Whitten reviews in this remembrance.