Arts & Culture

Meet Larry Goins, the Friendliest Face of Pinehurst

The longtime golf greeter shares his favorite pro stories, plus his predictions for the U.S. Open

A man stands smiling under a golf tent

Photo: courtesy of pinehurst

Larry Goins at Pinehurst.

If you arrive at North Carolina’s Pinehurst Resort clubhouse on any day save Wednesday, his one day off, you’ll likely meet the charming Larry Goins. He makes us golfers, whether our names are Rory, Tiger, or Crai, feel right at home. “Welcome back to Pinehurst, sir,” he recently said to me, while taking my clubs. “Don’t worry about a thing here, and have a wonderful round and day.” 

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A legendary bag drop greeter, Goins celebrates his fortieth anniversary at Pinehurst this year. It’s a big year for the golf destination, too. The “Cradle of American Golf” is home to ten golf courses, including the famous Donald Ross No. 2, which will play host to the 124th U.S. Open this June. Ahead of the tournament, I chatted with Goins about his life’s work as the most familiar face at Pinehurst.

photo: Courtesy of Pinehurst Resort
Players on the eighteenth fairway on Pinehurst No. 2.

First, I have to ask, how did you know I’d played here before?

Remembering people comes naturally to me. It doesn’t matter who you are; I consider it part of my job as a greeter to know if you are a new or returning guest. 

How did you come to work at Pinehurst Resort?

I grew up in West End, about ten minutes away, and used to play in the village as a child. In 1965, when I was fourteen years old, I started working for the Tufts family on weekends in the dining room of the old clubhouse. I then worked in the Holly Inn and the Carolina Hotel dining rooms. In 1984, Mr. Dedman, the new owner, asked me and my late partner, Frolin Hatcher, to be the bag drop greeters. I’ve been here ever since. 

photo: Matt Gibson
Larry Goins at Pinehurst.

You and Frolin are considered the “dynamic duo of Pinehurst.”

It was great working with Frolin [who died in 2022 after working at Pinehurst for more than fifty-five years]. He knew how I worked, and I knew how he worked. Frolin was quieter and would never holler at anyone. Once, Rory McIlroy told everyone how Frolin had shouted his name as he approached the bag drop. What Rory didn’t know was I was standing right behind Frolin. I had shouted “Mr. Rory McIlroy!” from where he couldn’t see me. 

You must have many stories involving PGA players.

You get to know some of them pretty well, like Fuzzy Zoeller, who always made us laugh by saying funny little things. Jack Nicklaus was nice, too, but you could tell he was all business when he got to the course. Phil [Mickelson] and Tiger [Woods] both attended the kids’ camp and won U.S.G.A. Kids tournaments here, so it was fun to see them come back as superstars.

photo: Matt Gibson

Any memories from the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst?

I remember saying to Frolin, “I think Payne Stewart is going to win because he plays here all the time.” [Stewart won.] Today’s players kind of sneak onto the course to practice, but Payne would just make a tee time and come play. He was such a gentleman; it really shook me up when he passed away. 

What is your 2024 U.S. Open prediction?

I have this feeling Scottie Scheffler is going to win. He’s laid-back and doesn’t get too excited when he makes a mistake. You must be mighty patient if you want to succeed when you’re playing No. 2.

You’re seventy-three years old but still work six days a week!

I left school as a teenager to support my seven siblings so they could finish their schooling. I’ve always worked hard so that my five children and my five grandchildren could succeed in school. My family’s educational accomplishments are what make me most proud.