The celebration was bittersweet as scores of golfers, longtime friends and co-workers filled The Links at Pine Hill clubhouse to honor retiring pro Charles Hudson.
For nearly three decades, the 74 year old has trained aspiring golfers, encouraged youngsters learning the game and nurtured a sense of community on the South Memphis golf course.
Hudson has been the facility manager since 1989. His first two summers, a junior golf tournament was held but he noticed African-American children could not keep up with their counterparts. That led to him forming the Mid-South Junior Golf Association (MSJGA) in 1991, a program designed to train kids to play for their high school teams and earn golf scholarships for college.
“I was just a boy when I started playing golf,” said Randy Wade, retired sheriff’s deputy and former assistant to U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen. “I will never forget Mr. Hudson’s service to all of the children.
“I have found him to be a great man and outstanding person. I hate to see him leave, but now he’ll have time, him and his wife, to travel with me and my wife.”
Hudson remarked that he wished he could say he accomplished everything by himself, but “that would be a lie.”
“I want to thank my director, Mickey, who made sure we had all the supplies we needed,” Hudson said. “Thank you for all the help you gave us over the years.” Hudson then walked over and shook Mickey Barker’s hand. Barker is the administrator of golf for the City of Memphis.
Pine Hill was established in 1932 as an all-white golf course in the Jim Crow South. When people of color started to come in, institutions all over the South were desegregating by law. However, in the 1990s, a higher number of African-Americans came in to learn golf under Hudson’s tutelage.
“No one has done more for golf in the city of Memphis,” said Memphis golf pro Loren Roberts, a veteran of the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.
“Mr. Hudson did so much for golf education and junior golf. He’s given so much of himself and his time.”
Hudson’s youth golf clinics and lessons for youngsters of all ages trained many over the years and helped land quite a few golf college scholarships.
“My children learned to play golf at Pine Hill,” said Charlotte Jackson, a Cordova resident. “That was in their middle school years when we lived in Memphis. And although they developed other interests and did not continue playing the sport, Mr. Hudson taught them great discipline and I remember how much they looked forward to going to the golf course on Saturdays.”
Pine Hill has long been the venue for many fundraising tournaments held by various churches and nonprofit organizations.
Many regulars remember that Hudson famously hosted Earl Woods and his son, Tiger Woods, in the early 1990s. When young Woods first joined the professional golf circuit, there were no endorsements or sponsors to support him financially.
“Yeah, we passed the hat around when Tiger first went on tour,” Hudson once remarked. “Tiger went on to win his first Masters in 1997, and he has never forgotten us.”
Penny Hardaway, now head basketball coach at the University of Memphis, frequented Pine Hill when he retired from his professional basketball career.
Hudson is credited with building a sense of family and community at Pine Hills, taking up donations for golfers and their families in times of crisis, illness and death. Under his direction, a full-service bar and concession stand were developed in the clubhouse. Regulars often still come to the course in rainy conditions to just “hang out with the guys.”
Hudson has also been instrumental in helping women learn the game, particularly African-American women.
The retirement gathering looked like a microcosm of the city, itself – age diverse and racially assorted – all who came to say “thank you” to a man they admire and respect.