Wildcat Driving Range

On Tuesday, Palestine High School cut the ribbon of their new golf club house at Wildcat Golf Course. Head Golf Coach Mike Dear prepares to cut the red ribbon to mark the official opening of the golf course.

For nearly a century, Meadowbrook Golf Course served up fairways lined with East Texas pines and a creek that impacts play on six of its nine holes. It broke ground in the early 20s and served as a community country club and golf course until the mid-90s.

That's when it became home to the Palestine ISD golf team, which delivered two back-to-back state championships in 2004 and 2005. On that team, was then-Assistant Golf Coach Mike Dear.

A few years later, the golf course would close for business reasons, ending one of East Texas' most historic golf courses and the state's second-oldest course.

On Tuesday, Dear, now head coach, began a new era, as he cut the red ribbon at the “Wildcat Golf Course,” hoping to restart a new tradition of excellence.

“No one had touched the golf course in five years,” Dear said. “[The grass] was six feet tall and worse than a pasture. We had to bring it back from basically scratch.

“Luckily, we had long-time community members that wanted to see the course back open. We knew we had to get golf back to these generations of kids who hadn't had the opportunity to play it.”

After a local church bought the property, it struck a deal with Superintendent Jason Marshall and renovations began.

Through community support and donations, Dear, Marshall and many other volunteers, helped deliver the only public driving range in Anderson County. The community project not only restored one of the state's historic attractions, but also returned a popular sport to the Palestine community.

“The district had nowhere for the kids to play,” PISD spokesperson Latrissa Loveless said. “The only place you could play and practice was to drive down to the course in Elkhart, which also meant the kids weren't playing on their free time, either.

“That impacted our golf team. We were not providing that opportunity [to play] as we were in the past."

The goal for many of those involved with the golf course is to “return golf to the community and catch those lost generations.” The closing left several generations without golf.

In its short life, Dear has already begun to see the impact the opening has had on the community. Regulars from both in-and-out of town fill the doorways looking to hit the driving range.

Thirteen members are already involved in the North Texas Junior PTA. Despite ownership change, that East Texas vibe still prevails in the hills and vistas that hold a Palestine legacy.

Assisted by wife Casey Dear, their kids and “right-hand man” Chad Everhart, Coach Dear is excited about the future of the golf course. Once a dream, it's now a reality the Palestine community can enjoy for years to come.

"It was just a dream,” Loveless said with watery eyes. “When I was on my way to work I drove by the second hole. The grass was mowed and the sprinklers were on. Just to look at that and see the sprinklers chucking away I had to pull over on the side of the road to capture that picture.”

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