SHAWNEE ON DELAWARE, Pa. — Joey Hines’ journey concluded on a rise above the Delaware River where, like some spiritual pilgrim at a mountaintop moment of awakening, he paused to contemplate the completion of a nearly 30-year journey.
After two-putting from 18 feet for par at the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort’s 230-yard, par-3 18th hole, the North Carolina club professional looked up at the blue skies that had pushed aside the last afternoon clouds, then toward a verdant Pocono hillside, and finally down at the river that bisects this historic course about 100 miles north of Philadelphia.
At that moment, Shawnee, where Paul Runyan won his second PGA Championship in 1938 by defeating Sam Snead in the match-play final, had added another distinction. The first design of famed golf architect A.W. Tillinghast, it was now also the endpoint in a daunting project that consumed nearly half of Hines’s 60 years.
When he lifted his ball from that hole Friday afternoon, in view of the family members who golfed along with him and the old white clubhouse where Arnold Palmer met his first wife in 1954, Hines had played all 118 courses to have hosted the sport’s four majors.
“It was a dream I never planned on having,” he said afterward. “And I finished it on a perfect blue-sky day, surrounded by family. It doesn’t get better than that.”
Geographically, his golfing odyssey stretched from Pebble Beach in California to Carnoustie in Scotland. Chronologically, it began in 1990 at Northwood in Dallas (site of the 1952 U.S. Open) and finished on Friday, at Shawnee. Hines’ scores over the 29 years ranged from a 66 at Northwood to an 87 at Hazeltine and included impressive 70s at Pinehurst No. 2 and Medinah.
“Sooner or later, my body’s not going to let me do this,” he said.
Shawnee marked the first time Hines had been joined by his entire family: his wife, two daughters and son-in-law. That wasn’t because the round had added significance, but rather because Father’s Day was approaching and his older daughter, Annie, lives in New York City.
Along the way, he’d played with course-maintenance workers, club pros, and members from his home course at Cape Fear, N.C. He had to overcome hurricanes, club restrictions, countless travel snafus and, just last year, throat cancer.
“The cancer kind of scared me to the point that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish this quest,” said Hines. “I’d set up a trip a year in advance to go to Scotland. Then I got a call from my doctor telling me I had throat cancer. You hear those words, and everything else becomes secondary.”
Though doctors advised against it, Hines insisted on making the overseas excursion. When treatments made him so weak he couldn’t hit a golf ball for four months, he arranged for carts at the Scottish courses.
“But I got there, the adrenaline took over,” he said. “I played 8½ courses — one was just nine holes — and walked all of them, made it through. I collapsed afterward, but there was something about it that got me through.
"Now I’m feeling great. My throat is clear. My doctor told me, `Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t want to see you for six months.’ And I said, `Don’t take this the wrong way, Doc, but I don’t even want to see you then.’ ”
Hines’ obsession has evolved through the decades. At first, he simply was playing quality courses. But when he realized how many had hosted U.S. Opens, he determined to play them all (50 at this point). When that goal was met in 2011, he decided to supplement it with all the other major venues.
That wasn’t so difficult for the Masters, contested only at Augusta, or even the British Open, played on just 14 United Kingdom sites. But the PGA? There have been 70 locales, and at that point, he had 50 to go.
One he got to recently was Llanerch in Havertown, which hosted the 1958 PGA Championship. The fast greens there gave Hines fits. Another was the Park Country Club in Buffalo, where he tried unsuccessfully three times to play the 18 that also yielded Runyan a PGA title (in 1934).
“Each time, something happened,” he said. “A mechanical failure the first time, a hurricane the second time, severe storms the third. When I finally played it last week, it was fantastic.”
Now that’s it’s over, Hines hasn’t stopped. He’s already played Harding Park in San Francisco, where next year’s PGA will take place, and Royal Portrush, the Northern Ireland links hosting next month’s British Open. He’ll keep playing new venues as they emerge.
And if the golf powers ever add such well-respected but so-far major-less sites as Pine Valley, Cypress Point or Seminole, he’s played them, too.
“If the good Lord is willing, maybe I’ll try to do the Ryder Cup courses next,” he said. “That could be a little more challenging. I don’t think I’ve missed more than four or five of the U.S. courses, but I’d have to go to Ireland, England, Spain, Italy, France.”
A few of the major venues have disappeared. Most are private, and if Hines didn’t know anyone at the most restrictive clubs, he relied on friends or Cape Fear members.
“They’re all very private and very different in their rules and regulations about who gets to play,” he said of those clubs. “Some were easy to get on, and some were pretty daggone challenging. Getting on Baltusrol, Riviera, Chicago Golf Club was brutal. Sometimes you had to beg, borrow and cry. But more and more, as time went on, it was, `Well, so-and-so knows a member. You could play there.’ ”
Has anyone else ever done what Hines has? Wherever he goes, he asks that question. To this point, as far as anyone knows, he’s the only one.
“When I ask pros,” Hines said, “they say, `You’ve got to be kidding me.’ Who’s coming to Shawnee? Who’s going to the Park Club in Buffalo? It’s a lot of traveling, and it’s not an inexpensive habit.”
Hines played all 27 holes at Shawnee — a new nine now intertwines with Tillinghast’s original design — and shot 40-37-38. Before he left, he purchased a golf ball with a logo to add to the memorabilia he’s collected on his long journey, all of which is displayed at his home course.
After his daughter picked him up Friday at Newark Airport and drove him to the Poconos course, Hines noticed that Trump National in Bedminster, N.J., which will host the 2022 PGA, was nearby. The wheels started to turn.