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JBLM Centennial

Eagles Pride, Whispering Firs have history of golf champions

Published: 02:18PM April 20th, 2017

Joint Base Lewis-McChord has two golf courses — one on Lewis Main, Eagles Pride Golf Course; and one on McChord Field, Whispering Firs Golf Course. Both have earned recognition for their sustainability efforts as “green” golf courses.

Through the years, JBLM has seen a number of talented golfers come through the installation. Lee Elder, the first African-American to play in the Masters Tournament in 1975, was drafted and assigned to Fort Lewis in 1959. Bob Hamilton, who won the 1944 PGA Championship, also served at Fort Lewis during the final years of World War II.

Golf is a big part of the Pacific Northwest and it makes sense that the local military installations would provide those opportunities for their service members; however, there were some bumps in the road in early JBLM history.

Duane Denfeld, historian at JBLM’s Directorate of Public Works, has found that there was a push to build a golf course at Camp Lewis shortly after the installation opened in 1917. Due to a focus on training, service members who wanted to play golf had to go off base.

“Tacoma Country Club allowed officers to play there,” Denfeld said. “Other enlistees played at another local club that no longer exists.”

The idea of a golf course on Camp Lewis was finally realized in 1922, but it was quickly abandoned.

“By 1922, the population of the camp was down to 1,000 troops,” Denfeld said. “There wasn’t enough population to sustain a golf course.”

Another golf course was built in 1929 near the old Liberty Gate across from where the Lewis Army Museum stands. Unfortunately, that course did not last long.

Part of it had to do with concerns for service members having to cross Clark Drive multiple times as they played through a round.

A permanent golf course was finally finished in 1930 on Fort Lewis — now the Eagles Pride Golf Course near the outskirts of Lewis Main. Although it now stands with 27 holes, it was a lot smaller when it was first established.

Eagles Pride Golf Course first opened up with nine holes and then added another nine holes by 1940. In 1978, another set of nine holes was added.

Denfeld said a lot of the original layout still remains with some of the original holes being renumbered, but in its early years, it was a lot rougher and not as finished as it is today.

“(Construction of Eagles Pride) was done largely by hand,” Denfeld said. “There wasn’t a lot of heavy construction (equipment). Building it was more labor intensive than it would be today.”

Whispering Firs Golf Course on McChord Field was built in 1961 and has also seen several changes like Eagles Pride. Both courses have been certified as environmentally-friendly by the Audubon Society Wildlife Sanctuary and host a variety of tournaments.

Dean Siemon: 253-477-0235, @deansiemon