Mark Twain once described the game of golf as “a good walk spoiled.” However, for Harry A. “Cotton” Berrier, that walk led him straight into the Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame. After 44 years as the founding professional of the Gatlinburg Municipal Golf Course, 2004’s sole inductee was honored for a lifetime dedicated to advancing the status of the sport throughout East Tennessee.
We know that golf has existed for at least 550 years, since James II of Scotland, through an Act of Parliament dated March 6, 1457, had the game banned in his country because he felt the activity was interfering with the much needed practice of his archers. Fortunately for golfers everywhere, the Scots ignored the ban.
Born in Knoxville on July 5, 1929, Berrier got his nickname from his father, because when he was a small boy his hair was almost white. Before long, young Cotton began to work as a caddie for Whittle Springs Golf Course. He must have also had a chance to play a little, as for three years before he graduated from Central High School in 1949, Cotton and some of his classmates organized and performed well on the school’s first golf team.
Although Berrier was young enough to miss WWII, that would not be the case when the Korean War began. About to be drafted, Cotton joined the Air Force in 1950. Three years later, 33 months of which he spent in Japan, Staff Sergeant Berrier arrived home with his sights on the University of Tennessee. But, after a few months of college life, the veteran student returned to the game he loved when he accepted a position as assistant pro at Oak Ridge Country Club.
Shortly after he married his wife Sarah in 1954, Cotton learned that Gatlinburg was building a new golf course in the mountains and interviewing for a pro. In the early 1950’s, there were very few golfers living in the Smoky Mountains, but Gatlinburg was also building a new convention center and the golf course was being built in conjunction to help attract business for the city. Judd Mynatt, Gatlinburg City Manager at the time, personally hired Berrier and the stunning 18 hole course, designed by the renowned golf course architect William Langford opened on the last day of July in 1955.
The Gatlinburg Municipal Golf Course still features some of the most dramatic mountainous holes and views found anywhere on Earth. These unique links have elevated greens, vertical drops and not one flat fairway. The signature hole #12 has a legendary reputation. Keenly nicknamed "Sky Hi,” it is almost 200 yards long and drops over 200 feet from tee to green, making it one of the most spectacular holes in the country. Surprisingly, the Gatlinburg course is in fact located in neighboring Pigeon Forge. But, that is because the course opened before Pigeon Forge incorporated in 1961. At the time Cotton became Gatlinburg’s golf pro, Pigeon Forge’s hospitality industry consisted of one motel and one restaurant.
When the Tennessee Section of the PGA was chartered in 1968, Berrier was elected secretary and then served as president from 1969-1971. He is a three time board member of the PGA of America, serving as district director 1974-1976, 1983-1986 and 1991-1994. Also, he was named Golf Professional of the Year twice, 1971 and 1985 while serving on the Tennessee Golf Foundation Board of Directors. After 44 memorable years, Cotton retired from his beloved Gatlinburg Country Club in 1999. He and Sarah have raised 2 daughters, Harriet and Katherine.
The exclusive 30 member Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame was established in 1991 and is located in Franklin, TN.
Henry Piarrot is a lodging manager in Sevier County,TN. Please send all story recommendations to email@example.com