Golf industry veteran Leon Gilmore died Dec. 1. His family said he suffered a massive stroke. He was 52.
During his career, Gilmore served in various roles for First Tee, the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and PGA Tour Champions.
He began his career in the golf industry in Atlanta as director of the East Lake Junior Academy’s program for underserved youth in the community. After spending a year and a half there, Gilmore assumed a role with First Tee, rising to director of development, where he was responsible for facility development and strategy in nine states and was involved in the successful launch of 35 facilities.
He moved to California in July 2003 to assume the role of executive director of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and Assistant tournament director of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and PGA Tour Champions Pure Insurance Championship Impacting First Tee. In June 2006, he became executive director of the Charles Schwab Cup on the PGA Tour Champions, where he made history as only the second Black PGA Tour executive tournament director and first with the senior circuit.
“Leon dealt with the pressure while also doing his best to create pathways for others to come behind him,” said Dedric Holmes, who worked with Gilmore at First Tee. “Leon’s ability to connect with people through listening and his business mind made him a true force. He was confident and decisive while being understanding and flexible.”
Gilmore attended a historically black college, Hampton University, where he was a standout student and a Collegiate golfer, but realized his talents were better served outside the ropes.
“Phil Mickelson was of my era,” Gilmore once told the East Bay Times. “I’d see him at a junior tournament shooting 68 or 69. I’d shoot 72 and be happy. He’d be going to the range to figure out what was wrong.”
Gilmore also earned a Master of Sports Administration at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and did internships with Titleist and the PGA Tour. In recent years, Gilmore utilized his business acumen and leveraged his entrepreneurial spirit to launch several successful ventures. One of his last contributions was a partnership in the Capital Partners Foundation, where they envisioned being the first African-American owners and operators of a PGA Tour event.
Story Originally appeared on GolfWeek