Mike Jennings has worked at Pine Oaks Golf Course for more than half of its existence, and he’s heard just about everything from behind the counter throughout the years.
“Everybody’s got some kind of story about Pine Oaks,” says Jennings, the course’s professional. “I’ve told so many people I wish I had kept a journal throughout the years and written down some of the stories from the people out here.”
Pine Oaks turned 50 this year, and Jennings and the staff of the Johnson City municipal course are celebrating the milestone on Saturday. Golf, door prizes, scrapbooks and a birthday cake will be part of the festivities, scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“We’re just encouraging folks to drop by,” Jennings said. “We’re really just hoping folks who haven’t been around in a in a long time just come by and say hi and look at pictures and tell some stories.
“Hopefully some old employees and old members can come by. I am sure there will be some stories told. The cast of characters who have come through Pine Oaks ... I wish I had kept more of the memories as I went along. It’s amazing the number of folks who have come through here.”
One of the more funny stories from Pine Oaks actually comes from a couple of days before the course opened in 1963. The first shot ever played on the course allegedly was hit by Gary Scheuerman, who was playing basketball at East Tennessee State at the time.
Scheuerman snuck onto the course with L.T. Roberts, a coach at ETSU, before it opened.
“I am 95 percent sure I was the first one to ever hit a golf ball on that golf course,” Scheuerman said. “It was a day or two before they opened up. I think they might not be happy about that.”
Eventually, Scheuerman began paying for his golf. He even worked at the course.
“I think I had a membership that cost $20 or $30,” he said. “It was pretty cool. It was kind of neat to see that thing develop. Where the front side is now was nothing but houses. They tore the houses down to make the other nine.”
Saturday’s celebration will include golf. There is no formal tournament or outing, but golfers who want to play can call (423) 434-6250 for tee times.
Jennings says one of the more interesting parts of the celebration will be the opportunity to view scrapbooks donated by the family of the late Leon Capps, who was Pine Oaks’ first professional. Capps’ wife June kept meticulous scrapbooks, and their daughter Carolyn gave them to the course.
“It’s amazing all the stuff she kept,” Jennings said. “Pretty much everything related to golf, the Senior Center and Parks and Rec, all through the ’60s is in there. If it was in the newspaper then, it’s in the scrapbooks. It’s really cool. I think people will get a kick out of it.
“It’s really neat to see a lot of this stuff.”
Jennings has worked at the course for 26 years, but his relationship with it goes back even further.
“I’ve been playing there since the ’70,” he said. “I remember going over there when I was 11 or 12 and playing all day. I grew up right across the street.”
Don Helman of WXSM will do a remote broadcast for his Saturday morning radio show from Pine Oaks during the celebration. The drawing for the door prizes, which include a membership to the course and other free golf, will be held around 12:45 p.m., and the winners don’t have to be present to collect their prizes.
“So many people know Pine Oaks,” Jennings said. “It’s kind of a landmark. Everybody knows it as the golf course next to the college.”