Carolinas Golf Magazine

SPR 2019

golf, CGA, carolinas, junior, equipment, sport, PGA, LPGA, association, magazine

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the club hosted its first Pre- and Monday Qualifier for the Charlotte- based Wells Fargo Championship, an honor that continues this year. GCC may be best known by golf historians as the home club of Charles and Dave Smith. The fabled Smith bothers were two of the finest amateur players in the country dur- ing the '60's. Charles' trophies include cham- pionships at North South Amateur, Southern Amateur, Eastern Open, N.C. Amateur and Carolina's Open. He played on three U.S. Walker Cup teams and played in the Masters Tournament four years running, from 1962 to 1965. Dave won the N.C. Amateur and notably took Jack Nicklaus to 18 holes before succumbing to the Golden Bear in the fifth round of the 1959 U.S. Amateur Championship. More recent GCC ties to golfing elite feature local prodigy, Harold Varner III who once worked in GCC's bag room. Now on the PGA Tour, Varner played many rounds here while attending Gastonia's Forestview High School, a 3-A N.C. golf powerhouse. GCC is also home track for Gaston Day High, Gaston Christian High, and nearby Belmont Abbey College. "Our club touches the community in many ways," says Gray. "From charity- fundraising tournaments to hosting the local chamber meetings, to holding wed- dings and community events. We cherish our role as a community gathering place and home to multiple generations of area families." A year-long celebration of the club's hundredth anniversary is underway. Mem- bers are excited about the Centennial Hickory Golf Tournament, a men's and women's scramble where pairings will play with hickory-shafted clubs and gutta per- cha balls. Formal and more casual galas are planned as are charitable and community outreach events, and a commemorative book. One tale certain to be told in the tome is that of Gray's older brother, Jim. Over the course of playing more than 6,000 rounds at GCC between 1959 and 2002, Jim "Eagle Eye" Gray, recorded an eagle on every single hole on the course, a feat memorialized by Golf Digest in 2004. "Jim was a terrific golfer," says Walter Gray, who noted his brother has since retired from the game. "He holed the first hole-in-one recorded on the course in 1959, at the par-3 14th, and completed the circuit with a deuce on the par-4 4th hole in 2002." As Gaston Country Club begins its second century of golf in the Carolinas, it's evident that more great stories are just waiting to be born. ■ Michael J. Solender is a Charlotte-based writer who covers golf, luxury travel, pop culture and business. S P R I N G 2 0 1 9 | | 41 Harold Varner III Shares Gaston Country Club Memories P GA Tour Professional Harold Varner III grew up in Gastonia, N.C., just a chip shot from Gaston Country Club. Varner began working at the club at age 16, tending clubs in the bag room, through high school and into his sophomore year at East Carolina University. He estimated he's played more than 1,000 rounds on the course. Varner shares a few thoughts on GCC: The key to going low: "It's a ball striker's course, especially on the approach shots. You don't ever want to be past the hole. Pin high is where you want to be on these greens." Favorite memory: "I remember after I first started working there, I asked (former PGA Head Professional) Bruce Sudderth if he would work with me one afternoon. I was nervous, but he just said, 'I'll see you tomorrow at 10.' Up until just a few months ago, he was the only person I'd ever taken lessons from. He taught me how to play golf. I would not be where I am today without him." His best shot: "I had a double eagle on the par-5 13th while playing with some buddies for a small wager. I hit a 5-iron from 203, a left- to-righter that fell in. I had just pressed, so the $25 bet was doubled to $50. It was a lot of money then and still is today." STAN BADZ/PGA TOUR

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