Carolinas Golf Magazine

SPR 2019

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M ost every golf club with a 100-year-old history has more than a few golf yarns that garner quizzical head-shaking and a dose of healthy skepticism upon hearing. W hat sets Gaston Country Club in Gastonia, N.C., apart from other centenarians, however, is its members' ability to provide first-hand witness to so many of the club's most outrageous tales. Such is the case of an account involving Jim Belton Jr., a three-time men's club championship winner from the late 1960s. "During a post-round poker game in the club's card room overlooking the ninth hole," says Walter Gray, longtime member, past president, and unoffi- cial club historian, "Jimmy was chiding a playing part- ner about his inability to par the first hole, a five-par he deemed quite tame. Jimmy said the hole was so easy, he could score no more than bogey playing it from right there in the card room." "Money got to flying as bets were made. The guys opened the window while Jimmy, one-iron in hand, stood upon the table, lashed a bullet onto the ninth fairway, hit his next shot onto the practice area, followed with a shot to number one green, where he two-putted for par." Stories like this are woven into the fabric of club, founded in 1919 in the backyard of the textile mills that once framed the area, 35 miles from Charlotte. It was Gray's great uncle, Charles Gray, who – after falling in love with the game of golf in the mountain community of Linville, N.C. – convinced the superin- tendent and golf professional at the club there to follow him to Gastonia. Once there, a tract of land was acquired, and a nine-hole course built. GCC expanded to its present location in 1958 after purchasing a 200-acre dairy farm and retaining renowned architect Ellis Maples to design the course. "We interviewed both George Cobb and Maples," says Gray, "Cobb put some concept drawings together that were later 'borrowed' by Mr. Maples. Most notable is the par-3 8th that replicates a pencil drawing we have from a Cobb proposal." Almost immediately upon opening, the course caught the attention and earned the respect of the N.C. golfing scene, hosting the Carolinas Amateur in 1961 and the N.C. Amateur Championship four years later. Subsequently, Gaston has hosted nearly every high-level amateur Carolinas golf event over the past six decades. "Ours is a course that challenges players of every skill level," says Thomas Troncoso, Gaston's PGA Head Professional, in describing this classic, old- school design. "Everything is right there in front of you. You know exactly where you need to land the ball, taking risks that reward if successful, but penal- izing those coming up short." Many of the region's top amateur and professional golfers have been tested here, as GCC has held qual- ifiers for U.S. Amateur, Mid- and Senior Amateurs, and U.S. Open Qualifying in 2005 and 2008. In 2016, Gaston Country Club has been at its present location since 1958, and has been home to top players such as Dave and Charles Smith (opposite page) and Harold Varner III. 40 | | S P R I N G 2 0 1 9 M E M B E R C L U B P RO F I L E A Century of Golf at Gaston Country Club Historic Carolina club celebrates 100-year history building on legacy of great golf, fellowship, and community. BY MICHAEL J. SOLENDER Gaston Country Club 3700 Country Club Drive, Gastonia, NC 28056 Opened: 1919 Architect: Ellis Maples Fast Fact: Home to PGA Tour Professional Harold Varner III Inside Gaston CC: The club has approximately 600 members and hosts more than 16,000 rounds of golf in an average year 2019 CGA Championships at Gaston CC: 59th N.C. Amateur – June 13-16 21st Carolinas Senior Women's Amateur – Oct 1-2

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