The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

May 25, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU honoree had key role with Pete Dye

MORGANTOWN — Jack Krak is the forgotten athlete from the forgotten sport no more.

Perhaps the greatest golfer ever to play for West Virginia University, Krak today joins football’s Mike Logan and Gene Lathey, men’s basketball’s Lester Rowe, basketball coach and administrator George King, baseball’s Chris Enoch, rifle’s Michael Anti and tennis player Jo Marie (Cinco) Bohn in the 2014 induction class for the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.

He goes into the Hall of Fame just as the sport he played, golf, is being reinstated at the school, ready to begin play in 2015.

Krak’s greatest contributions to the area came, however, after he finished leading WVU to a 12-0 match-play record in 1947, spending time flying jets in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, playing a couple of years on the PGA Tour and becoming a well-recognized club professional.

It was while he had been the head professional at Wee Burn Country Club, one of New England’s most prestigious clubs in Darien, Connecticut, for 11 years when he was invited back to help the LaRosas build the Pete Dye Golf Course and, in many ways, you can say he was responsible for the final product.

This is the way he tells the story.

“Jimmy LaRosa and I were very dear friends. Young Jimmy was taking lessons from me. He came up and spent the summer at Wee Burn a couple of times just for me to work with him,” Krak began. “Well, Jim Sr. made me a hell of an offer to come to Bridgeport. He wanted to build a golf course. I took the offer and moved to Bridgeport in 1976.

“He had the golf course all planned. He had an architect who had already laid out the golf course, but it was the worst piece of land I have ever seen.”

He knew he couldn’t let him build it there.

“‘Jim,’ I said, ‘to be a success – and you don’t realize it because you live here – but Clarksburg and Bridgeport are in the middle of no place. Nobody is going to come here if Joe Blow builds this golf course. You have to have Jack Nicklaus or Pete Dye.’”

Nicklaus, of course, was the best-known name.

“Can you get him?” LaRosa asked.

 Krak had little doubt he could, being a close friend with Nicklaus. So he called him.

“He was too busy but was willing to send up his second team,” Krak recalled. “I said, ‘Jack, that won’t work. We need to have pictures of you getting off the airplane in Bridgeport.’ Well, he turned it down.”

Turned down by Nicklaus, Krak went to Pete Dye, who was also a good friend. Dye had just started the TPC Course in Jacksonville where they play The Players Championship.

As a favor to Krak, Dye flew up to Bridgeport, went up with LaRosa to the place he had picked out for the course, toured the property and said, “Jim, I’ve never been associated with a failure and this will not be my first. I don’t want the job.”

That got the message to LaRosa, who replied, “If we find another piece of land, will you build me a golf course?”

They went out looking and found the land on which Pete Dye now sits.

The rest, as they say, is history.

 “You could say I’m responsible for Pete Dye coming there and building that golf course,” Krak said.

But that was only part of it. Next they had to decide on a name for the course.

“Jim hired a gal to find a name for the course that was affiliated with coal,” Krak recalled. “She came up with about 20 different names, and after they went through them Jim said, ‘Oh, no, I want it to be called the Pete Dye Golf Club.’ Pete finally gave in and said, ‘OK, go ahead.’”

And that’s what it became.

“It’s a great layout,” Krak now says. “You know, Pete told Jim before he started building it – and these are his exact words – ‘If you don’t run out of money I will build you the greatest inland golf course in America.’ It turned out pretty much that way.”

Everything, of course, did not go smoothly in the construction.

“There was an old bridge there that the coal trucks used to come across to dump the coal after they took it out of the mine, and somebody set it afire,” Krak recalled. “We had to build another bridge across the creek, but it was one of those old-fashioned bridges like you see in the movies and the westerns. It was just beautiful … I don’t know who set it on fire but it destroyed a real piece of that property.”

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