Paxton Park is a place where community golfers find a sense of community.
The word community implies more than a cluster of homes or a defined geographical area; it conjures connotations of camaraderie, continuity, and connections, and it aptly describes Paducah’s community golf course: the Edwin J. Paxton Park Golf Course off Berger Road.
From nine to ninety, golfers of all ages enjoy the superb public course with recently upgraded greens, GPS-equipped carts, and reasonable fees. Spawning golfers such as Russ Cochran and Kenny Perry, Paxton Park is steeped in history.
“It’s more than a golf course,” says golf pro and director, Danny Mullen. “Seniors fellowship and exercise here; kids grow up out here; families play together. We have great support from the community because of what this facility has meant to people.”
Danny stepped up to the position of Paxton Park director when his father, Kayo, retired in 1998. He had served as his father’s assistant for ten years, and had helped out in nearly every aspect years earlier. Danny’s tenure as director has been marked by an effort to upgrade the golf course.
Beginning in 2003, Champion Ultradwarf Bermuda grass replaced the old greens, providing a year-round quality putting surface. The new grass eliminates any need for temporary greens. Conducive to Paducah’s climate, it functions well for winter golfing and also stands up well to the intense heat of summer.
“We had a few years of transition, but now we have the best greens around,” explains Rick Loyd, one of seven city-appointed golf commissioners overseeing course operations.
“The course is beautiful,” says 90-year-old frequent golfer, J.T. Graves. “I’ve played golf east, west, north, and south—all over the nation—and I’ve never played on greens as beautiful as these.”
Young golfer Owen Workman appreciates Paxton Park as well as other golfers he meets there. Golfing since he was four, Owen is now 11 and has been golfing competitively for two years. “I really like the course,” he says. “And people will help you out. They give me good advice and tell me what not to do,” he says of more experienced golfers.
Mark Knecht, an accomplished golfer who began playing at Paxton Park in his teenage years, is excited about recent improvements. “The new greens are a tremendous addition, a quality at least twice as good as they used to be.” Mark also considers GPS on the cart fleet a “huge benefit” and has high praise for Danny, his staff, and contributors.
“The atmosphere is tremendous,” says Mark, “and that’s a reflection on Danny. He works so hard at making it a comfortable place to be. Kenny Perry and Russ Cochran have been instrumental in helping raise money for the golf course.”
The Super Valu Golf Scramble to benefit Paxton Park and Junior Golf, featuring Cochran and Perry, is an annual event which raises funds for area high school golf programs, in addition to dollars used directly for the golf course. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds is given to the golf programs of the three McCracken County high schools, Paducah Tilghman, St. Mary, and Community Christian Academy. A portion of the funds also provides scholarships to cover green fees and related costs for selected youth to be able to play at Paxton Park for free. In return, scholarship recipients provide community service hours at the golf course or at other community locations.
Additional area businesses also provide financial support to Paxton Park, and the Paxton Foundation has provided integral funding for long-term infrastructure needs. The city of Paducah has helped fund specific projects as well, but the golf course does not receive regular funding in the city’s budget.
“We’re city owned and community supported,” says Danny. He counts location, tradition, history, and community support as key elements to Paxton Park’s success. “Public golf is much more competitive than it used to be,” he adds. “There are more regional golf courses. We have to maintain a competitive product to not just survive, but prosper.”
A focus on service helps provide the type of community atmosphere that is apparent at Paxton Park. “One of the reasons I’m so proud to be involved is because of the service,” says Rick. “Danny and the staff do a great job of taking care of the little things.” Rick compares this attention to detail to that offered by Paducah Bank. “Not many businesses are really good at individual service; that’s something Joe Framptom and the staff at Paducah Bank have perfected, and I feel like Paxton Park does a great job at providing excellent service as well,” he remarks.
“We are simply stewards of the facility,” says Danny. We just want to leave it better than we found it, and leave it for other people like it was left for us.”
With a budget far less than that of comparable golf courses, Paxton Park was included in the 2008-2009 edition of Golf Digest’s Best Places to Play, a source of pride for the staff and board.
Plans call for the addition of two lakes this fall, and more as funding allows. Hiring more people is also high on the wish list. (“Danny does the jobs of two or three people,” says Rick.)
Still meeting the resolve of Edwin J. Paxton and other organizers who set out in the 1930s to bring the sport of golf to the masses, Paxton Park, as a public, community course, is available to all. “The best golfers can play here and be challenged, and those starting out can come and be comfortable,” says Danny. “We cater to all walks of life. We want everyone to feel welcome here.”