Come Out and Play!

Left to Right: Greg Owens, Billy Gardenhight, Sr.,  Willie “Gee-Gee” Robinson, and Owen’s grandsons  Rhyland and Jackson.  Photo: Urban News

Left to Right: Greg Owens, Billy Gardenhight, Sr.,
Willie “Gee-Gee” Robinson, and Owen’s grandsons
Rhyland and Jackson. Photo: Urban News

Skyview Golfers Hold 56th Annual Pro-Am and Junior Tournament

The Skyview Golfers Association’s Pro-Am and Junior Tournament will take place July 14-16, 2015 at the famous Donald Ross-designed Municipal Golf Course of Asheville.

This PGA-sanctioned event, founded in 1959, is one of the largest and oldest tournaments in the Southeast. The first Skyview Golfer’s Tournament was an all-African-American event with 50 participants, intended to prepare African American golfers for the Professional Golf Association’s PGA tour.

Founding members were Raymond Bland, Sam Chavis, Charles Collette, John “Brooks” Dendy, Boyce Layton, James Garrett Mays, Tommy Lee Nance, Sam Quick, and Dewey Rutherfordton. Colette served as tournament director from 1960 through 1972; after his death he was succeeded by Billy Gardenheight, Sr., who has continued in that capacity for the past 42 years.

For more than half a century some of the best golfers in the United States have come to play in this annual tournament. Their mission is to encourage youth participation and promote the game of golf, especially to young people who are not traditionally exposed to the game.

For locals, it’s more than a golfing tournament: it’s a homecoming where a diverse crowd of people (from youth to seniors) gather to reunite with old friends and make new acquaintances among participants and their families. Adding flavor and fun is the fellowship of golfers sharing tall tales, jokes, and other stories after games are completed. For all, the tournament embodies an on-going love affair with golf.

Before a 1954 United States Supreme Court ruling, African Americans were not allowed to frequent public parks or play golf in most southern states. Young people interested in the game honed their skills by working as caddies or setting up makeshift links around their neighborhoods. It wasn’t until the early 1960s, and under much duress, that local African Americans were able to play the greens at Asheville’s Municipal (Muni) golf course.

Following that desegregation, two white men, pediatrician Dr. Robert McDuffie and Mr. Walt Gossett, played with African American players in a number of Skyview Pro-Am Tournaments as well as regular games, and they encouraged the integration of the city’s public golf course. The camaraderie and love of the game shared by men of both races helped open the door for golfers of all ethnicities to participate in this historic tournament.

Since those early days the Skyview Tournament has grown each year. Participants have traveled from across the eastern and southern U.S., from Florida, Georgia, and S.C. to Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas; and from as far north as NY, Pennsylvania, and N.J. and Midwestern states such as Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan.

Western golfers from Arizona, Nevada, and California, and even Hawaii, have joined others from Bermuda and Canada to participate in Skyview’s Annual Pro-Am Tournament.

For more information on participating, contact president Lee Shepard at: (828) 335-6377 or program director Billy Gardenhight at (828) 231-0860.

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