Butch Wood retires from Charlie’s 19th Hole

by Lynn Colburn

It is hard to imagine a man who has more get up and go than Butch Wood, the man who has been running Charlie’s 19th Hole inside of The Links Golf Course at Nichols Park for the past 12 years.

Golfers look forward to seeing his friendly face and chatting with him about golf, sports and so much more. In November 2022, Wood decided to step down as the boss of The Links’ concessions.

Still, on the day of his interview about his retirement from Charlie’s 19th Hole at The Links, the first thing Wood expressed was, “I’m not retiring!”

Those who have met Butch Wood know that he won’t ever fully retire. He keeps busy with business, friends, family and, of course, the charity golf tournament he started in the memory of his daughter, Kelly Wood Jacobs, and Jim “Wally” Waltrip. Wood is always one of the first to jump in and offer support with so many things related to this community — for family, friends, organizations and the community itself.

Charlie’s 19th Hole is not the only business with which Wood has been involved over the years.

“When I was young, I started out on a soda pop truck working for Pepsi for about five years,” says Wood. He followed by working at Peerless Bread Co. Bakery and then driving a beer truck for Star Brothers. In 1966, he began Butch Wood and Son Septic Service, which his son Butch continues today. For 13 years, the elder Butch Wood ran the landfill for the City of Jacksonville.

Wood then took over as promoter of the Jacksonville Raceway (now Jacksonville Speedway) and was quoted in 2014 when he and his wife, Laura, were inducted into the inaugural class of the Speedway Hall of Fame as saying, “At the time the track was empty. I just got a wild fever that I wanted to do it.” Wood partnered with Ron Milton, a former driver and fellow hall of fame inductee, and they made the racetrack a success. After that, he also started the family business Charlie’s Coffee & Cones.

Twelve years ago, Wood says, “[City of Jacksonville] Mayor [Andy] Ezard approached me and said, ‘Why don’t you go out and run that concession at The Links.’”

Ezard says, “At the time, Hamilton’s wanted to get out of the business of being the concessionaire at The Links. I knew Butch growing up from his work as a promoter out at the racetrack and then Charlie’s Cone downtown and I knew this was the type of thing that Butch and Laura Wood do. And this was just a perfect fit for him. Butch and Laura and all the people he has employed over the years have just complimented the golf course perfectly. People know the work ethic of Butch and his family. It’s a lot of work … a lot of long hours, the tournaments, long days, weekends. He always goes the extra mile to make thing right.”

Says Wood, “The timing worked with me, so I bid it and got the bid. And I’ve been out here ever since.”

Wood continues, “I had Charlie’s Cones going at the same time and my daughter Lisa ran that. When she came down with multiple sclerosis [MS], we needed to sell the cone shop because you couldn’t hire an outsider to run it. It was just a little family business and if you aren’t there, it’s not going to work.”

Charlie’s Coffee & Cones officially sold in March 2019 to John and Kerry Kvorka, who have been running it since.

Wood notes, “I was 74 years old when I sold Charlie’s Cones and I continued to help there for a while. After that I came out to Charlie’s 19th Hole full time.”

Ezard says of Wood’s retirement from Charlie’s 19th Hole, “Butch is hands on and his family and his friends are involved because of Butch. We hate to see him go! They were a perfect complement with The Links and just took it that extra step. You know when you talk golf course that’s one thing, but when you walk into a friendly smile and good, hard-working people, it is that much more. It just worked. Butch and Laura ran with it and got their daughter Kelly [Wood Jacobs] involved and she was awesome.”

Wood explains, “We’d do 15-18 tournaments a year where I do all the food and we do beer carts during the tournaments. We do food every day, but the big times are the tournaments on the weekends.” Charlie’s 19th Hole has cold (and hot) drinks and great food. It is open to the public from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. every day during the golf season.

Butch and Laura Wood do the work. He has the energy and drive of 10 men half his age! She does all the shopping, goes and gets things, and he does all the deliveries. He was actually in the process of moving tables inside for the winter just before starting his interview.

“I’ve been out here for 12 years, and I’ve enjoyed every day of it. I was talking to the mayor earlier this year and said we ought to start looking ahead a little bit and he said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘I’m 77 years old and I lost my [daughter] Kelly and she was going to take the thing over. If I would happen to get sick in the middle of the year, we’d be in a hell of a shape.’”

Butch and Laura Wood’s daughter, Kelly Wood Jacobs, died September 2021.

“When we lost Kelly, we lost a lot,” says Wood with emotion. “With Kelly, I didn’t have to be here if I didn’t want to be. I’d open up in the morning and she’d come in at 10 a.m. and she would work until close. We’d done that for two to three years and she loved it. Kelly was great at this! The guys thought Kelly was a saint. And then she got sick, and it was all over and done so fast!”

Wood says that when he told the mayor it was time to find someone else to take over, Ezard told him, “Well … awe, you’ll be alright … you’ll live to be a hundred.”

Wood says he laughed and replied, “Yes, true, but I might want a Saturday off sometime. Because I’m here seven days a week.”

Still, Wood continues, “But like I say, I’ve enjoyed it. Hopefully, we can get a young couple to take it over. And I’d love to work for them. And I’ll help them with the tournaments.

“We’ll just have to see how things play out. But other than that, I don’t really have any plans to sit down and retire. I’ll find something to do. I’ll go to County Market and sack groceries. And my son, Butchie, could use me two or three days a week, every week [at the septic business]. And who knows, I may be delivering Sources before I’m done.” Wood laughs. (His daughter, Marcy Patterson, is the owner/editor of The Source Newspaper.)

Wood says he will continue having the golf tournament every year in memory of Kelly and Wally. He says it isn’t about the money, he does the tournament to keep their memories alive, to help their families and the community in ways that would make Kelly, Wally and their families proud. One of the benefits from the tournament is the beautiful new sign on the way into The Links in Kelly’s memory.

Wood finishes by saying, “As I told Andy [Mayor Ezard], I don’t want to leave, but when you get this age, you have to cherish every day you’ve got. And I’ve been fortunate I’ve had good health, but there is no guarantee.”

Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if when at The Links sometime in the future, there’s Butch Wood still working a tournament and talking to folks. After all, he did claim, “I’m not retiring.”

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