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June 28, 2022

Haunted greens or bad putting?

Gilroy Golf Course shares space with abandoned cemetery
Its severe slope and changing undulation has made many a
frustrated patron walk off the 7th green at Gilroy Golf Course
believing the place is possessed.
Gilroy Golf Course shares space with abandoned cemetery

Its severe slope and changing undulation has made many a frustrated patron walk off the 7th green at Gilroy Golf Course believing the place is possessed.

While bad putting usually is the problem, as Halloween and the Day of the Dead approach the history surrounding the enchanting uphill par-5 on the oldest public course in Santa Clara County is often a consideration, too.

At the turn of the 20th century, the area just to the right of the 7th green was the former site of a Chinese cemetery.

Today, a few plain square marble markers that once anchored headstones are located in the area. One of them is just off the existing cart path about 15 yards shy of the green.

In the late 1920s, all of the bodies and remains of those buried on the sacred site that could be located were exhumed and shipped back to relatives in China.

However, back at the time the cemetery was in operation, no records were kept and it’s impossible to know for sure if all the remains were removed from the site.

“We have no way of knowing how many bodies were there in the first place,” said Gilroy Historical Society Board Member Edith Eddie. “Back then, things were done quite differently. Over time, the floods and rain would destroy markers. There’s no way to know if any remains are still up there. We have found a few headstones here and there just rummaging around.”

Today thousands of golf enthusiasts play the hole annually without any clue as to what lurks adjacent to the 7th green. Head professional Don DeLorenzo can’t recall any specific story surrounding the area, but he says it may explain why the 7th green is so unpredictable.

“I don’t think it’s haunted; but the way everybody putts it, it probably feels haunted,” he said with a chuckle. “I know it has haunted me a few times. Maybe from now on we should all blame poor putting there on the ghosts.”

In the early 20th century the city of Gilroy relied heavily on Chinese labor. Chinese men were brought to the area to help build railroads and work in the fields and the women and children were considered the best cigar rollers in the world. At the time, Gilroy had several thriving cigar factories.

Others came over as servants who indentured themselves for several years as a way to pay for their passage to America. Many first came over years earlier during the Gold Rush but soon discovered that the Yankees and Europeans got the best stakes.

In honor of the Chinese men and women who contributed to Gilroy’s early pioneering days, the city’s historical society has plans to erect a headstone on the site in the upcoming months.

“It will be a granite marker,” said Eddie. “We are still working on the wording. We want to put a marker there in recognition of the contributions that the Chinese people made to the city of Gilroy.”

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