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April 2021

History Made One Range Ball at a Time at Charlie Yates Golf Course

By Steve Eubanks

For 25 years the story of the East Lake Golf Club and the East Lake Foundation has been retold countless times, especially in the late summer when the PGA Tour holds the Tour Championship at the Atlanta course. But the neighborhood revitalization story bears repeating. The neighborhood surrounding East Lake Golf Club – the place where Bobby Jones played his first and last rounds of golf – was, for decades, a model of social failure. The four blocks in and around the East Lake Meadows housing projects led the nation in gun crimes. Black males in that neighborhood were nine times more likely to go to prison than graduate from high school. At its worst, the average age of a first-time grandmother in the projects was 36. 

Today, the neighborhood is filled with mixed-use townhomes, clean and safe commercial areas, golf and one of the most successful charter schools in the Southeast.

Less famous than East Lake is its cousin, the Charlie Yates Golf Course, just across the street from the 13th fairway where Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy marched toward $10 million paydays. The Yates Course is smaller, quieter and far more important. It is where the locals play. And it is where the Drew Charter School made history. 

“We have always maintained a great relationship with the Drew Charter School,” said Cameron Lilly, the head professional and manager of the Charlie Yates Golf Course. “The Drew kids have their own areas out here. We have a grass range and a chipping and putting green. Throughout the year, kids from Drew Charter or The First Tee can come out here at no cost and practice. We also have club storage for them in their own dedicated building.”

Those facilities made a world of difference when Drew Charter fielded the first all-Black high school golf team in America to win a high school state championship. 

“It’s really cool to be part of something that special,” Lilly said. “Seeing how good they are and how they’re looked up to in the area, it’s really exciting.

“People don’t realize. What (East Lake re-developer) Tom Cousins did here was almost impossible. We see kids all the time who come out here with their parents who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to come out and practice and be engaged in the game. I hand them a bucket of balls and say, ‘Here you go.’ And you can see it in their faces. It’s having a real impact. 

“The great thing about this is helping these kids learn the game and continue to compete. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure they continue on that path.” 

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