ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — Since 1960, the Skyview Pro-Amateur Benefit Golf Tournament has been a fixture on the local sports scene.
A 54-hole stroke-play event at Asheville Golf Course, the Skyview will be contested for the 59th straight year on July 10-12.
It began as a tournament for African-Americans only, named the Skyview All-Negro Open, with a small field and a $300 purse in the year John Kennedy was elected president.
Two years later, tournament founder and director Charles Collette and others in the Skyview Golf Association decided to admit Caucasians, and the tournament has been a blend of races ever since.
In its heyday, black golfers of national and international fame like Lee Elder and Charles Sifford Jr. played in the Skyview, along with celebrities like world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis.
Elder, a PGA Tour player who was the first African-American to play in the Masters, won the Skyview three straight years in the 1960s.
At the height of its popularity 20 to 30 years ago, the Skyview was part of the black North American Golf Association tour, and more than 200 local and national players would compete at the Asheville course, a Donald Ross design that opened in 1927.
After Collette died in the early 1970s, Billy Gardenhight took over as tourney director, and more than 40 years later he is still part of the leadership group that conducts the event each year.
Gardenhight remembers a time in his youth when he caddied at AGC and black golfers were only allowed to play on Mondays.
“We’ve come along way, with the culture and with the tournament,” said Gardenhight, a member of the Black Golfers Hall of Fame.
“We want to keep this tradition going and make it bigger and better.”
Fees for this year’s event are $275 for pros and senior pros and $160 for amateurs. Players who register early will save $15 off the entry fee. Saturday is the deadline to register early.
The pros and senior pros will compete for a purse that will be as much as $13,000 if there is a full field.
The amateurs tee off at 8 a.m. each day and the pros and senior pros begin at 2 p.m. all three days, both with shotgun starts.
Interest in the Skyview has waned in recent years, with the total field dipping into two digits, so tourney officials and AGC employees are working together to create more support and participation in the event.
Local businesses like Ingles and Postnet have made contributions, and the tourney will feature tee signs with other local businesses and individuals signed up as sponsors.
Veteran local player Phil Nickell won last year’s pro division, shooting 11-under par in the 36-hole event. Candler Rice (-4) won the amateur division.
Local pro Noah Ratner won the pro division in 2015 and ’16.
Registration forms for the tourney are available at the AGC pro shop. For more information or to register, call Lee Shephard (335-6377), Fred Woods (423-8485), Ivory Walker (774-5534) or Gardenhight (231-0860). Care to comment? Contact at email@example.com