Standing up for quirky golfers


Years ago my wife and I were in D.C. and we went to Jack’s Boathouse on the Potomac to rent a canoe. Jack’s is in Georgetown and a short walk from a very hip and expensive world. No double lattes at Jack’s.

Unadorned, just kind of down home. It was a refreshing throw back and I marveled that it still existed. Out of curiosity, we once stopped by in the winter and there were some folks huddled around a fire. It was a year-round hangout.

I bring up Jack’s because it reminds me of our own People’s golf course in McIntire Park. It is probably one of the quirkier golf courses around. Dirt greens and a hilly terrain. From my observations, the people who use this course are not your country club crowd. For years, there was a group that met every Sunday morning. A very affable, marching-to-different-drummers group. All UVA grads, but unlikely to appear in the alumni notes. They set my standard for the McIntire golf course.

One of the above was Sandy Gray, Charlottesville’s "legendary" guitarist. He has played a prominent role with the course. He has been its ombudsman and a hands-on presence. I have seen him picking up the fireworks debris after the Fourth. I loved the idea of Sandy being on a committee and going toe-to-toe with some lofty non-appreciators of the course. He now faces his Alamo. Plans are afoot to reinvent the Park.

Of course, McIntire Park is very underused. It should have picnickers, kids flying kites, etc. The nine-hole golf course takes upall the space. But, I hope that somehow there will be some land for our off the beaten path golfers. A few holes? A driving range? In Charlottesville’s evolution from a "sleepy university town" to a very sophisticated place much down-home intimacy has been lost—e.g. The Downtown Mall no longer has Victory Shoes, Bibb’s Fish Market and Woolworth’s.

A professional design has been presented to create a botanical garden that would use up much of the space. Nothing against such gardens—Frederick Law Olmsted is a hero of mine, but wouldn’t that be more of the same exclusive, upscale trend? (I would suggest that the recently cleared, walled area behind MACAA headquarters be used for a garden.)

For many people, a botanical garden would offer little recreational value. It’s not likely that these golfers will band together and hire a golf course architect. Sandy Gray is the head and solo lobbyist. This reminds me of the proposal to remove the softball fields. Easy to mobilize soccer parents, but softballers?

Perhaps it’s a quixotic folly to try to preserve, in part, a place that’s remained so simple and honest, but as Sandy will testify, it is definitely worth the tilt.