Local Golf: Pierce back on his game 40 years later

He’s the most recent in a long line of names that have shown folks far and wide that little old Putnam County produces more than its share of top-shelf golfing talent.

But Ed Pierce’s story goes much farther than a homegrown product who simply can handle himself on a golf course.

Pierce is proof that there’s no substitute for natural talent.

A native of Palatka and 1967 graduate of Central Academy High School, Pierce recently finished in a second-place tie at the Georgia Super Senior. Played at Stockbridge’s Eagles Landing Country Club, Pierce fired 71-69-78, putting him and fellow runner-up Don Marsh five shots behind winner Rob Hess. 

If Hess’s name rings a bell, it should, as he was the Super Senior Division champ at this year’s Senior Azalea Tournament.

For the 66-year-old Pierce, the strong showing serves as validation that he still has plenty in the tank, despite a near 40-year hiatus from the game. 

“The first tournament I played in 40 years was the 2013 Senior Azalea,” says Pierce, who moved last September back to Palatka from West Florida to care of his elderly mother, who still lives at the Edgemoor Avenue home where Ed and his family grew up.

Convincing Pierce to pick up the sticks and play in the 2013 Senior Azalea was his old buddy and former St. Johns River Junior College teammate, Ronnie Tumlin. Tumlin, of course, is the originator of the Senior Azalea and one of Palatka most accomplished players. Joining Pierce and Tumlin in the Senior Azalea field then and since are former Viking mates, Warren Wilhite, Bob Porch and Ronnie Ferguson.

Raised in the pre-intergration 1950s and 60s, Pierce’s home being a just a few blocks from the Municipal Course proved to be a path to golf that virtually no other African American boy in Palatka could ever dream of taking.

“Growing up, my brothers, cousins and I worked at the golf course cutting grass, being caddies, raking the traps, you name it,” says Pierce. “I didn’t ever actually play until I was around 13, and that was with clubs that I picked up from wherever I could find them. When we did play, it was in the evenings when everybody was gone from the course.”

Nevertheless, without any lessons and virtually zero on-the-course experience, Pierce after graduation from Central Academy enrolled at St. Johns, where he promptly tried out and made the roster on coach Bill Tuten’s squad, an accomplishment totally unheard of at that time for a young black man, not only in Palatka, Florida, but anywhere else for that matter .

That same year, despite a non-starter at the beginning of the season, Pierce quickly vaulted to the No. 1 slot on a squad that went 28-0, was third in the state juco tournament and finished third at the national tournament in Roswell, N.M.

Pierce led the way for that talented bunch, earning team All-State, runner-up in the national tournament to Miami Dade’s Bruce Fleischer and ultimately, first team All-American status.

Family and job obligations took priority in Pierce’s life after St. Johns, as he moved to Tallahassee, where he opened a masonry contracting business. As a sign of the times, he received no scholarship offers except from Florida A&M.

“I just never played much for about 40 years after I left Palatka,” says Pierce.

Today, it’s a different story. Fresh off his showing at the Georgia Super Senior, Pierce says he plans to compete in the Miller Lite Scratch Tour, beginning with an upcoming event at Panama City’s Bay Point Golf Club.

“It’s taken a while, but I feel like my game’s starting to come together,” says Pierce….

Ladies Day results. A scramble was the format for the Palatka Women’s Golf Association’s final play day last Thursday. Winning was the team of Sandy Smith, Terri Anderson, Joy Langston and Joyce Oliver. Oliver also was CTP on No. 18.

The PWGA will continue to play informally during the summer. Players are urged to come on out and have a partner arranged before playing…

South Putnam news. Judy Reddick, Larry McKenzie and Ben Baar shot 31 to win the May 25 scramble at Fruitland’s The Oak Golf Club.