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Golf Architect Celebrates 100th Birthday
On Thursday one of golf's legendary course designers is breaking 100, and not by scrambling for par on the 18th hole. Larry Packard is best known for designing and working on over 600 golf courses, including the famed Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Florida. Now, he's reached another milestone - 100 years of age.
A longtime resident of Innisbrook and designer of all four of the resort's courses, Packard will celebrate his birthday Thursday evening with a party at the resort's namesake restaurant, Packard's Steakhouse. And he has a few simple words of advice for those who ask about the secret to his longevity:
"It's all about what you eat and what you put into your body," he says. "No salt; don't eat a lot of butter and fats. You also have to be happy, and make sure you like what you do every day."
For the past 80 years, "liking what he does" has been Packard's motto. Born in Northampton, Mass., on November 15, 1912, Packard became interested in landscape architecture in the 1930s when the United States was in the grip of the Great Depression. One particular job at Westover Field Air Base in his home state involved planting grass beside two runways, each two miles long. This was an enormous undertaking before the days of motorized seeding equipment. Already the consummate perfectionist, Packard's work drew attention from the government, which sent an informant to find out how he did it with such precision.
Another of Packard's assignments as a wartime architect was to devise a camouflage scheme for the airbase to prevent an enemy attack. Packard found what he describes as "an easy solution," based on childhood memories. He did such a good job that even some of the U.S. fighter pilots couldn't find the runways to land. This skill was later sought out to design an airport in Chicago, which is known today as O'Hare - the world's fourth-busiest. However, soon Packard's work would lead from runways to fairways.
After World War II ended, Packard began his career in golf course architecture with an entry-level position at the firm of architect Robert Bruce Harris, where he also got to know the renowned Robert Trent Jones Sr. Over the next 50 years Packard designed over 350 new golf courses and redesigned another 250. His work spanned the United States, Egypt, Japan, China, South Korea, Guatemala and Costa Rica.
By 1970, Packard was president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, where he made significant expansions to the membership and was instrumental in changing the face of the organization. That same year, Innisbrook Resort opened its gates, with Packard designing the first layout: the Island Course, which recently hosted the Legends Tour Open Championship won by Laura Davies.
Packard subsequently designed the resort's three other courses: North, South and the acclaimed Copperhead, which annually hosts the PGA Tour's Tampa Bay Championship, won in 2012 by Luke Donald. The time spent at Innisbrook's 900 acres led Packard to choosing to make his home among this topographically different area of Florida.
"I thought this was the perfect piece of land to create a great golf course like Copperhead," says Packard. "It had everything you could hope for, and the natural roll of the land was beautiful. I could immediately see the holes in my head and how the water would come into play. There was so much variety in one piece of land that I knew this would be a special place, and that is why I live here. It's why people fall in love with this resort."
Packard lives with his wife, Ann, and he has two children: Pamela Sharkey and Roger Packard, who followed in his father's footsteps to also become a well-known golf course designer.
For more information about Innisbrook Resort, visit www.VisitInnisbrook.com or call 727/942-2000.