ASHEBORO — It’s about the love of the game, the love of people, and the love from those people. It’s about saving an Asheboro landmark.
Asheboro Mini-Golf at 1842 S. Fayetteville St. is teetering on the edge of a cliff — unless people come through for the 63-year-old institution. Owner David Gregor is hoping that’s the case after more than a year of tragedies.
Gregor took over the business in 2016 while leasing the property it stands on. He had worked for previous owners since moving here from Georgia in 1998.
“I worked for the Surratts (Henry and son Gary) doing maintenance, running tournaments and working in the clubhouse,” Gregor said from the front steps of his home. “I worked some for Frankie Peters, who leased the business from Mike Willett.”
Gregor took over the miniature golf course in 2016. “The place was in bad shape and I had to do a lot of repairs to open.” He said he held his breath until inspectors gave it a passing grade.
“It’s not about money but about the love of the sport and the activity that people can have,” Gregor said. “When I got the business I decided to charge as little as possible and still keep the business going. I charge $3 per person per game. Most anybody could afford to play. I wanted to keep the course here affordable.”
Gregor said he had an agreement with the Randolph County Public Library to give free games to children who completed the library’s summer reading program. That’s amounted to a couple thousand free games. “I took on the business because I love to help people have fun,” he said.
Asheboro Mini-Golf was enjoying success as local folks as well as people from out of town came to play at Gregor’s affordable rates. The course is well-maintained and was originally a Putt-Putt franchise. The holes are challenging but playable for even first-timers.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and Gregor had to shut down for eight weeks in 2020.
“There for a while, we were completely shut down, with no help from the government,” he said. “It’s amazing we survived.”
When he reopened in June 2020, “business was outstanding” as people were eager to get outside. Then tragedy struck.
On a Dec. 22, 2021, Facebook post, Gregor was succinct: “Last year I lost my wife of 35 years.” What he didn’t say is that his late wife, Roberta, had no insurance and his reserves had been depleted by the pandemic. He had asked on Facebook for help just to cremate Roberta’s remains.
Gregor said he opened on a Saturday, still reeling from his loss. He had placed a donation jar on the counter of the clubhouse, expecting maybe a couple hundred dollars for the day.
Early on, a young man appeared, gave his condolences and asked about donating. Gregor said anything was welcome. The man dropped $40 into the jar.
Then an older couple asked to play a game. “That’ll be $6,” Gregor said.
The man handed him a $100 bill and Gregor opened the till to make change. “No,” the man said. “That’s for you.”
Soon after, another couple gave him a $100 to keep. Gregor realized that he had already collected as much as he expected to receive for the entire day. And it was still early.
All told, the public contributed more than $5,000, which was enough for the complete funeral arrangements.
“When my wife died and I couldn’t afford to pay for her cremation, it was unbelievable how Asheboro came through,” he said, fighting through tears as he sat on his front steps. “I’m one who does for others. I couldn’t believe it. Never in my life could I have expected anything like that.”
During that period of grief, when Gregor was still in a daze, a woman volunteered her time to help out any way she could at the golf course. Carla Lassiter wanted Gregor to get his mind off the job and spend time talking to his customer/friends.
During the following months, Lassiter and Gregor became romantically involved. He said in his Facebook post: “She moved in with me in July and in August she had a stroke (and) ended up in UNC Chapel Hill hospital.”
With others running the business, Gregor drove the 75-minute one-way drive to Chapel Hill almost every day to be with Lassiter.
She was improving when, on Sept. 15, he said she bent down to open a drawer and then straightened back up.
“She said she had ‘the worst headache of my life.’ I helped her to her bed and got a nurse.”
Soon her room was filled with medical personnel. The diagnosis was an aneurysm, a burst vessel leaking blood into her brain. Doctors put her into an induced coma while the excess blood was being drained, allowing her to heal.
From Gregor’s Facebook post: “I spent the reserve I had to help support her through this traveling to Chapel Hill nearly daily to give her the help and support to keep her alive and help her heal. I now continue to do the same with her at home.”
At his home, Gregor said he had seen other patients in the hospital who were alone in their rooms. But Lassiter had Gregor at her side holding her hand and talking to her. One of the doctors told Gregor, as he was about the take Lassiter back home, that one big reason she improved was because he was there for her.
Lassiter remains unsteady on her feet and has memory problems. But her prognosis is that she’ll continue to improve. Meanwhile, Gregor keeps a wheelchair in his car to push her around when they go out.
As he was talking, the front door opened and Lassiter came out on the porch. “Be careful and don’t get too close to the edge,” Gregor cautioned before getting up to steady her.
“I’ve met so many good people in the area,” he said. “It’s a true family atmosphere (at the golf course). I treat my customers as my extended family. I appreciate everything. I just want to keep the business running.”
Gregor has started a Gofundme account to anyone wishing to contribute. He said he needs about $1,800 to keep the bills paid until April when the new season begins.
On his Facebook post, Gregor concluded: “Asheboro Mini Golf has thousands of people come during the spring and summer. I have kept prices as low as possible to allow all families to be able to afford outdoor entertainment and have some good old fun. I will continue to do the same and be a big part of Asheboro, if I can raise enough money to keep the lease going until the next season. I love this community and they have shown their love in the past. So please help keep this in Asheboro.”
The Asheboro Mini-Golf course was constructed in 1958 and opened as Putt-Putt of Asheboro. It became an independent miniature golf course in 2007.
The Surratts ran the business for a number of years before selling it to Willett, who leased the facility to others, including Peters.
Meanwhile, Gregor “got involved in Putt-Putt in 1985, and began playing in tournaments in Georgia. Eventually, he entered tournaments in North Carolina, including Asheboro.
“I played as an amateur because I loved the sport,” Gregor said. “I love this course. It’s a lot more than just business.”
The business part involves saving reserves during the season so maintenance can be done during the off-season. That includes replacing the worn carpets as well as the wooden rails bordering the holes.
“The game hasn’t changed but some of the equipment is better,” Gregor said. “We still have tournaments and sometimes pros. We’re not sanctioned and the entry fees go to the purse and expenses. People come from all around to play. The tournaments are open to the public with A and B divisions.”
The A Division is for the pros and good amateurs, he said, while the less-talented can enter the B Division. A golfer who begins to win regularly in B Divison may be asked to move to A.
Asheboro Mini-Golf is a par-2 course. Gregor said the course record is 21 but has since been renovated. He held the course record after renovations with a 25 but another golfer posted a 24 to break his mark.