gmhTODAY 08 gmhToday May June 2016 - Page 86

it’s YOUR swing with Don DeLorenzo GILROY GOLF COURSE The Best (and Oldest) 11-Hole Course in the U.S. — maybe the World” D id you know that Gilroy Golf Course is the oldest public course in Santa Clara County? Gilroy heiress Electa Ousley donated the land adjacent to the City of Gilroy water reservoir for use as a golf course and it has remained a golfer’s playground ever since. Built in 1923 by local farmers and businessmen on the water works and Ousley property, the course’s early founders are a who’s who of Gilroy royalty. Names like Princevalle, Hersman, Wentz, Howson, Gubser and Brownell just to name a few. These and many other golf enthusiasts used their own equipment to move dirt and help build the golf course. Goats and sheep were used as mowers and the greens were made of sand. The scorecard from that era allowed you to move your ball if it landed in “a hoof print or wagon track.” The cost to play a round of golf in those days was 50 cents! Sunday play was permitted at Gilroy Golf Course but back then that wasn’t the case on all courses’. There was a Chinese cemetery on the property that ran adjacent to the current seven green. Gilroy Golf Course historians used to say that if your approach shot to that green strayed a bit to the right you would need to hop the iron fence around the cemetery to get your ball. The cemetery was located where the current Gilroy Elks drive- way is now. If you look closely on your way up to the Elks Club, a granite base of an old headstone is still visible. A monument to the cemetery exists just off the seventh fairway. When the legendary Gilroy Gymkhana grounds were torn down in the 1950’s, then Pro Vern Brown and avid golfer Bill Blaettler hauled lumber from that sight to the golf course to construct the BBQ area that is still in use today and hosts many after-tournament dinners and charity fundraisers. Two additional holes were added to the original nine- hole layout in the mid 50’s to appeal to those wanting to play 18 holes. This “back nine” option routes golfers “around the hill” on the second nine instead of “over the hill” and through the Elks parking lot on the front nine. 86 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN What awaits the golfer upon reaching the courses’ signature eighth hole is nothing short of spectacular with a vista to the east stretching all the way into San Benito County. Gilroy Golf Course has seen several operators come and go through the years but the City of Gilroy has always owned the golf course. Most of the improvements came during the tenure of Parks and Recreation Director Bill Ayer, an avid golfer and a proponent the golf course as a source of value to the community. There have been two separate attempts to expand the course from the “11 hole gem” that it is to a full 18 hole course. But both attempts came up short in the political sphere. Gilroy Golf Course is a true “community” golf course in every sense of the word. It hosts to countless fundraising golf events from groups based in both Gilroy and Morgan Hill. Organizations including St. Joseph’s Family Center, Air for Paws, Gilroy Therapeutic Recreation, Relay for Life and Live Oak High School have used the golf course as a site for golf tournament fundraisers. The boys and girls golf teams of both Gilroy High School and Christopher High School call Gilroy home as do the courses’ men’s and women’s clubs. Gilroy has had many “famous” patrons but none more renown than the “Gilroy Cowboy,” George Archer. George participated on the PGA tour from 1964-1988 and the Senior PGA tour from 1989-2000. He won 14 times but none more famous than his win at the 1969 Masters. George spent many days fine tuning his short game skills on the small undulating greens that are a trademark of the course. A sign proclaiming “Gilroy Golf Course, Home Course of Master Champion George Archer” hung at the entry for many years. So if you want to take a break from the norm and experience a golf course that is rich in history and fun for all skill levels, come out to Gilroy Golf Course and play a quick 9 or 11 or 18…..don’t worry, we’ll explain it when you get here. Remember, we’ve been around since 1923 and we haven’t lost a golfer yet. MAY/JUNE 2016 gmhtoday.com