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Tallahassee man remembers opening day at Jake Gaither Golf Course as 65th anniversary passes

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 10:26 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2022 at 10:28 AM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Jake Gaither Golf Course in Tallahassee marked its 65th anniversary at the end of 2021. The course has come a long way since it was first built as a place for the black community to hit the links.

Tallahassee resident Leroy Kilpatrick teed off on the course’s opening day in Dec. 1956.

“This hole here will eat your lunch,” Kilpatrick said. “The very first shot I hit here was on this tee here.”

Despite all the changes over the years, Kilpatrick said he remembers it like it was yesterday.

“Two clubs with seven guys and we had to pass them around,” he said. “We had a 5-iron and a 7-iron.”

The course underwent a transformation since it first opened in a flood-prone area just down the road from Florida A&M University.

“We used to have something they called postage stamp greens, which are so small, and today we have the whole park,” Kilpatrick said.

Scott Edwards, a historic preservation planner for the Department of State, is working on getting the course on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It was for the Black community. It was built as not just a golf course, but a whole park,” Edwards said. “It’s a process of recognizing the historical significance of this property.”

It could take a couple of years to get that recognition, but it would further cement how far it has come.

“It’s evolved from there to people really caring and wanting to be inclusive,” said Jan Auger, the City of Tallahassee’s manager of golf.

The public, nine-hole course has renovated greens, fairways and cart paths. It’s now a source of pride for those who have watched it grow.

“Looking at then and now, it’s like a 1000% turnaround,” Kilpatrick said. “It is so beautiful. It’s so breathtaking to come on and look at it.”

The pro shop at the golf course is currently undergoing renovations. The next step in keeping history is moving forward.

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