We were set up for a remote broadcast on a stage in front of the Quail Hollow Clubhouse. The sun came up at 6:30 a.m., and we were on the air at 7.
Filling three hours of airtime with lively programming was invariably a challenge, but that wasn’t the case during Charlotte’s PGA Tour stop. PGA professional Del Ratcliffe (left), operator of five public golf facilities in Charlotte and an entrepreneur extraordinaire, sat in for the entire show, which picked up a huge head of steam in the final two hours with the introduction of a contest.
The premise evolved from research conducted by Metro Golf Magazines editor Reid Nelson, who had done a comparison study of finishing holes on the PGA Tour. In the rather limited history of the Wells Fargo Championship (seven rounds), it turned out, the final three holes at Quail Hollow collectively made up the toughest finishing stretch on Tour.
It struck us that morning that those three holes needed a name, like “Amen Corner” at Augusta National, the “Horrible Horseshoe” at Colonial or the “Bear Trap” at PGA National. For the caller who could come up with the best name, Del offered a free foursome of golf at one of the properties he operated under the aegis of Ratcliffe Golf Services.
For 90 minutes, the phone didn’t stop ringing. We took 120 calls that morning and got suggestions ranging from lame to outrageous. Some were ominous, like “Devil’s Triangle” or “Three Levels of Hell.” Some had local motifs, like “Charlotte’s Web” or “Hornets’ Nest.”
Halfway through the final hour, a caller offered “Green Mile.” We continued to take calls for the remainder of the show—70 in the last hour alone—but we knew we had a winner. Even though the aggregate yardages of the three holes added up to around two-thirds of a mile, the moniker was perfect.
In harkening to the film version of the Stephen King novel by the same name, the “Green Mile” carried the Death Row connotation of the story. The lake on No. 17 was where good rounds go to die. Just ask Phil Mickelson.
At the end of the show, we declared “Green Mile” the winner. Del conveyed the news to tournament director Kym Hougham, who was delighted with the choice. Thenceforth, the Green Mile became an integral part of the course’s and the tournament’s lore.
I don’t remember the name of the winning caller. Neither does Del, who for months kept a gift certificate for the gentleman in his golf shop at Sunset Hills. The certificate was never claimed.
But the anonymous caller forever will be a part of Quail Hollow history, having suggested a soubriquet that stuck.
And that’s the real story of how the Green Mile at Quail Hollow got its name.