PALM HARBOR — Larry Packard, a World War II veteran and architect of the Innisbrook’s Cooperhead Course which is home to the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship in March, passed away at his home Tuesday. He was 101.
Packard worked on more than 600 golf courses around the world, was a former president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, and had become a fixture at the PGA Tour events held at Innisbrook. The resort and spa even dedicated its restaurant, Packard’s Steakhouse, to him.
“We are saddened to lose a titan of the golf industry and a cornerstone of the Innisbrook community,” Sheila C. Johnson, founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, said in a statement. “Larry was a truly wonderful and exceptionally accomplished person. He was, and still is, an inspiration to us all, and our thoughts are with his family at this time.”
In the early 1970s, Packard designed all four courses at Innisbrook Resort: the Island, North and South courses, and the Copperhead course, home to the PGA event since 2000. Packard oversaw the course going from one tee to three tees per hole, plus the pulling back of greenside bunkers. His biggest focus, when he worked on Copperhead, was the greens, which have side slopes to keep the players, and usually the professionals, from making every putt.
Packard was still playing golf until age 97 and made his home at Innisbrook after spending so much time on the resort’s 900 acres.
A Northampton, Mass., native, Packard became interested in landscape architecture in the 1930s and worked on the Westover Field Air Base in his home state and runaways at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. After the war, Packard would meet famous golf course architect Robert Trent Jones and go on to design more than 300 courses and to redesign another 250 all over the world, including the United States, Egypt, Japan, China, South Korea, Guatemala and Costa Rica.
Packard’s signature on his courses became the double-dogleg hole, which is featured on the Cooperhead Course.
“It’s the only game in the world where someone else can’t touch your ball,” Packard told the Tribune in March. “If you said 50 years ago this many people would come watch you hit a small ball, they’d say you were crazy. Golf is a great game.”
Packard leaves behind two children: Pamela Sharkey and Roger Packard, who followed in his father’s footsteps and became a golf course designer.