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Skyview Golf Tournament celebrates 64 years on the green

Back in 1960, seven golfers created an event that would offer competition and community to African American players in Asheville.

Billy Gardenhight and two other golfers mark score cards during the Skyview Golf Tournament

From 1991 to 2005, a scholarship was awarded in Billy Gardenhight’s (left) name; the association wants to bring it back in 2024.

Photo via Asheville Municipal Golf Course

When the Skyview Golf Association was founded in 1959, the Asheville Municipal Golf Course was the only facility in the area open to African Americans. But regardless of the limitation, the love of the green was fierce, and a small group of golfers, led by Charles Collette, set out determinedly to encourage competition among African American golfers across the county — and to drive forward an ambitious golfing community.

So they founded the association and, in 1960, hosted the inaugural Skyview Golf Tournament.

About 50 players and 200 spectators showed up for the first competition. “Most people knew nothing about golf,” said 94-year-old Matthew Bacoate in a press release, “but this gave them an opportunity to go somewhere they had never been before.”

Lee Elder and two other golfers stand on a golf course

Professional golfer Lee Elder (left) won the tournament four times.

Photo via Asheville Municipal Golf Course

Bacoate made cardboard-and-crayon promotional signs that first year and kept the scores — now, decades later, he is the tournament manager, promoter, and administrator. Collette served as director until 1972; Billy Gardenhight was director from 1972 to 2009.

Skyview welcomed its first two Caucasian players in its second year and continued to grow and thrive. Over the years, it has hosted golf pros like Jim Dent, Lee Elder, Jim Thorpe, James Black, and Harold Varner III. Twenty-nine African American golfers who have joined the PGA Tour have attended Skyview at least once.

More than 60 years later, the tournament is still held at the Donald Ross-designed Asheville Municipal Golf Course and is one of the largest in the Southeast. This year’s competition is expected to host more than 160 players, 60-65 of which are pros competing for a $40,000 purse.

The 2024 Skyview Golf Tournament will be held Tuesday, July 9 to Thursday, July 11. Pro and amateur golfers can register to compete, and spectators can join for free.

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