STAR reader shares thoughts on Elizabethton Golf Course

Published 8:31 am Thursday, May 16, 2019


I stood on the second-story balcony of the Elizabethton Golf Course overlooking the putting green, the 18th green, and the 10th tee box and felt supremely happy.

It was a gorgeous spring evening, made more beautiful in light of the cold, wet, long, nasty winter we had just survived. The course was looking great.

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This is the course, as it has been told to me, that my Grandfather Jerry M. Thomas built in 1936 as a Supervisor with the WPA, the public works agency established by Franklin Roosevelt to provide infrastructure jobs towards the end of The Great Depression.

The back nine today was the first nine holes built and the clubhouse was just across the drive from Station 3 Firehouse.

My great uncle, Dr. Elmer Pearson, had purchased the land which he then donated to the city with an agreement they would petition the WPA to build a municipal golf course there.

The back nine, now the front, was added in the Fifties.

I was happy not just because of the beautiful spring day or because of reflecting on the history but because I was chatting with the new manager Chad Odom and thrilled at what he has done for the course and its members.

Change is not easy for anyone and I’m sure he had some significant opposition in the beginning but I had watched him graciously deal with the criticism and observed him interact with the disgruntled with aplomb.

The course with all the improvements, aided by ample rain, is simply gorgeous.

Now, as the membership sees the improvements and anticipates the future, there is new excitement in the air. The club has added 20 new members since March.

The youth program is taking off like gangbusters with students and enthusiastic parents. There are 25 kids in the program who are active 12 months a year.

Also, the course is the home for Elizabethton, Happy Valley, and Hampton High School golf teams as well as the nationally-competitive Milligan Golf Teams. Walking the course to observe one of their tournaments is a real treat.

There will be new lockers and other amenities that didn’t seem possible only a year ago. Also, there will once again be a full-service restaurant and bar upstairs to open sometime in July.

I can’t wait to relax there and wait to enjoy the view and the company.

With the restaurant and pavilion, the club can host up to 175 people, and that’s about how many they are expecting at a reunion next year. It’s great to have a new place that can host large events.

The young people now staffing the course are doing a great job.

Who would have guessed two years ago that in 2019 the course would be fully booked through October and further out each day?

We are truly blessed to have this gem in our backyard.

The rest of the story, historically, as recounted by her son Mike Thomas: Dr. Hugo Hoffman, the CEO of Bemberg the rayon plant, was an avid golfer and his daughter Lori Hoffman an accomplished amateur who in her teens won two championships in Elizabethton and one at the Johnson City Country Club.

There was the talk of her going pro. However, she married my father’s brother, J. Allen Thomas, when she was twenty and gave up golf.

She was not that keen on the sport but had played to please her father. Sixteen years later, when Mike was a teenager, she went out to play the course one day having not picked up a club since being married.

She played so well that friends talked her into playing in the Lady’s Tournament and she won the championship – it was 1966. She never picked up a club again.

Oh, and back in her prime, she pared what is now hole 14, the par five hole in the valley, with a mallet-head putter.

Yep, from tee to green.