An institution immortalized
SPRUCE PINE – During a visit to Grassy Creek Golf and Country Club, you’re likely to find Carl Baker.
Baker, a 92-year-old Mitchell County resident, has been involved with the country club since its inception in 1956. He has served as the course’s starter for more than 40 years. As a starter, he directs golfers to the first tee at appropriate times.
Baker also assists Grassy Creek General Manager Bruce Leverette with various course duties.
“He comes here every day,” Leverette said about Baker. “If I need him to move a cart or do something, he’ll do it. Otherwise, he goes out and plays golf.”
Baker arrives at the course before 9 a.m. daily. If the weather holds up and he’s free of course duties, he takes his clubs out and plays a round.
His favorite part of golf?
“He likes the money, too,” Leverette joked. “He beats everybody for their dollars and their quarters.”
Baker sat back in his chair inside the club’s pro shop and laughed.
“I don’t know about all that,” he said smiling.
Baker’s athleticism at 92 impresses most people, but especially Leverette, who gets to see him play often.
“He breaks his age every time he plays,” Leverette said. “It’s amazing. He’s done it so much it’s just old habit.”
Baker, who drove to Morganton to play golf before Grassy Creek opened, started playing golf in his 20s.
“It’s somewhere to go,” Baker said about the course. “It’s good exercise. I think I’ve gotten better over the years. Now, I’m getting worse, but I’m still here.”
Baker owned and operated a clothing store on Lower Street in downtown Spruce Pine for 50 years. The doors shut for the final time about 10 years ago.
Those who didn’t know Baker from his time as an entrepreneur have learned about him through his steady golf game.
“Carl is an institution out here,” Leverette said. “He’s amazing.”
Baker’s golf game is so strong, he is now permanently memorialized on hole No. 9 at Grassy Creek.
Baker has a particularly skilled way of playing hole No. 9, which is a 165-yard par 3 for regular players and a 191-yard par 3 for championship-level golfers.
The hole features a trio of bunkers around the green. There is a small separation on the left side of the greens that Baker uses to guide the ball between the hazards and skillfully onto the green.
“Carl is such an accurate player he can hit his ball through that little alley and knock it right on the green,” Leverette explained.
That “little alley” became affectionately known around the course as “Bakers Alley.”
At the club’s Welcome Back Tournament this past April, Leverette and other friends of Grassy Creek displayed a commemorative plaque for Baker on the tee on hole No. 9.
“Baker’s Alley,” the plaque reads.
All of the precise shots that led to the honor were merely business as usual for Baker.
“I was surprised,” Baker said. “It is special. I didn’t think I deserved anything. I’m just here, and I never thought anything about it."