Asheville Municipal Golf Course Hosts 64th Skyview Golf Tournament

Matthew Bacoate was 30 years old in 1960 when he was recruited to help the organizers of a new tournament for African American golfers to be played at the Asheville Municipal Golf Course.

Now, at 94 years old, he still serves as manager, promoter, and administrator preparing to host the 64th playing of the Skyview Golf Tournament this summer, July 9-11.

The Skyview Golf Association was formed in 1959 by seven golfers who enjoyed the game on the 1927 Donald Ross-designed course. During this period, Asheville Municipal was still the only facility in Asheville open to African Americans and the Association set out to create an event that would offer competition along with an opportunity for a memorable social gathering for friends and family.


“My job was to make signs and post them in the Negro neighborhoods,” says Bacoate. “I went to a grocery store, got some cardboard boxes and used Crayons to make the signs. We had about 50 golfers and about 200 spectators show up. Most people knew nothing about golf, but this gave them an opportunity to go somewhere they had never been before. It was just amazing the number of people that came out for the first tournament and covered the patio around the clubhouse.”

Bacoate pauses and smiles thinking back.

“We had to do a lot of monitoring of the gallery,” he says. “They didn’t know you were supposed to be quiet. They were just there to have fun.”

Beyond helping promote the event, Bacoate took on another important job once the tournament began. Charles Collette, the president of the Skyview Golf Association, held a meeting with assorted tournament volunteers the first day of the tournament.

“There were probably nine people, me included,” Bacoate says. “Charles said, ‘Okay, we need someone to keep scores.’ Everyone started looking at each other and some dropped their heads. No one wanted to take that on. It was evident that most of those present felt challenged with their adding and subtracting. In school math was my favorite subject, so I kept the scores.”

Bacoate and the Skyview Golf Tournament have been joined at the proverbial hip ever since. Two Caucasian golfers participated the following year, and the Skyview has been played every July, with noted African American golf professionals like Jim Dent, who would stop by the tournament annually to support it. Other prominent professionals included Lee Elder, Jim Thorpe, James Black and Harold Varner III, who competed in 2015.

Bacoate also remembers his close friend Billy Gardenhight, who was past president of the Skyview Golf Association from 1972 to 2009. During his long tenure as president, he was very instrumental in the development and growth of the association.

“I knew Billy all my life. We would caddie together at Asheville Municipal Golf Course then sneak back out on the course to play until someone ran us off,” said Bacoate. “He loved golf so much and had such an impact that they started a scholarship in his honor back in 1991, awarding over $180,000 to deserving high school graduates up until 2005. We are in the process of resuming the scholarship program in 2024.”

This year’s Skyview Golf Tournament is expected to have more than 160 players with 60-65 professionals competing for a $40,000 purse and $6,500 first place prize. It will be the second tournament played since the course has been under new management and has been undergoing a $3.2 million capital improvement project funded by the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, the City of Asheville, user fees and grants.

The first phase of the project started in October 2022 and will run through the fall and winter of 2024. A major component of the project concerns stormwater and irrigation management and repairing infrastructure that has deteriorated over a century.

Tees, greens, and bunkers are also being improved, and the pro shop has been renovated. Architect Kris Spence, a specialist in restoring and upfitting Ross courses, was retained through The Donald Ross Society to provide a masterplan for the course.

“It’s like a brand-new day,” Bacoate says. “We are already noted for our history, and now we have a golf course that is fantastic in the eyes of those who play here every day and visit from other towns. Some of the guys have said their game is better because they have a better course to play on. The changes and improvements that have been made in just one year are very noticeable.”

Michael Bennett, who with Peter Dejak form the Commonwealth Golf Partners management firm that has directed the renaissance of the facility, notes that is not an insignificant purse for the world of golf mini tours. “Matthew is really humble and doesn’t like to brag or take a lot of bows, but what he has done to maintain and grow the Skyview is remarkable,” Bennett says. “A $40,000 purse is quite significant and will make for a nice payday for someone. The Skyview is a great opportunity for a lot of good golfers out there.”

Bacoate and tournament organizers have counted 29 African American golfers who have advanced to the PGA Tour having made at least one appearance in Asheville for the Skyview Golf Tournament. The event and venue are significant because Asheville Muni was the one course in the city where citizens and visitors of all races, creed and color could play and enjoy the game and was the first course in North Carolina to racially integrate. The Skyview Golf Association was created according to the group’s website “to promote golf competition among African American golfers throughout the United States.”

Bacoate has seen all the great African American golfers come through.

“Lee Elder won the tournament four times before he joined the PGA Tour,” Bacoate says. “I admired his mannerisms; I admired the skills he had in golf. Jim Dent was very memorable. I loved the way he carried himself on the golf course and the fact that he could just overpower the golf ball. Harold Varner III also played in the junior division.”

He’s gratified to know what an impact the Skyview Golf Tournament and Asheville Municipal have had on the sport and in the African American community. It’s quite a contrast from his youth when young Blacks were only allowed on most courses as caddies.

“We could slip back on the golf course sometimes in the evenings, but most of the time, we had to play golf in our neighborhoods if there was a park or a flat space,” he says. “The Skyview gave a platform to Negroes across the country.”

For more information about the Skyview Golf Tournament visit

Check out the documentary “MUNI – Stories from a Public Golf Course”, which has been featured on PBS and Golf Channel.

Written by Kevin Frisch PR.