The Last Real Gambler

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He was at a bar with Clint Eastwood. After playing six holes, Eastwood was surprised that Gary Holmes, Jacksonville University alumni, didn’t play professional golf.

“I make more money gambling,” Holmes said.

After graduating from Jacksonville University in 1960 with a business administration degree, four years on the basketball team and three years on the golf team, Holmes discovered a world infused with golf and gambling.

“I played Evel Kneivel and Bobby Riggs,” Holmes said. “[Bobby Riggs] in the fifties was a big deal gambler. He got me to go play gin rummy with the dumbest people you ever saw. We got money.”

In a good year, Holmes could make $80,000 gambling on the golf course, he said in a Florida Times Union article by Gary Smits. Once, he played against Evel Kneivel who lost $4,000 to Holmes over 18 holes. But Holmes’ life wasn’t all gambling.

After achieving accomplishments such as being the first to receive the Alumni Patron Medallion given by the JU Alumni Association, serving as president of the Jacksonville Area Golf Association in 1969, and earning his pilot’s license, Holmes considers the film “The Last Real Gambler” to be his biggest success.

The film details Holmes and his life as a golfer and gambler. He developed a script and according to an article in The Florida Times Union, shooting for the film could begin as early as May. Holmes described the movie in the article as “Tin Cup meets The Sopranos.” Though the film focuses on a big part of his life, golf and gambling, it does not overlook the relationship Holmes has with his wife of more than forty years, Maria Holmes. According to movie editor and producer Mark Grossman in the article, “there is strength in Gary and Maria’s story.”

“It’s a gambling movie but it’s more of a story about me and Maria in a way,” Holmes said. “The movie kind of depicts my life. I’ve had some wonderful times. I’ve built several courses around the states. I’ve enjoyed everywhere I played; I played in courses around this country.”

The film’s budget of $11 million is not fully funded yet, but the sooner the film is funded, the earlier Holmes will begin to shoot in areas around Jacksonville, including Best Bet, Hidden Hills and JU.

“I’d like to come over and see [Cost] and talk about what we could do here,” Holmes said.

Before Holmes found success as a golfer and a gambler, he was a student at Jacksonville University.

“I got out of the navy two or three weeks early to come here and go to school,” Holmes said. “I stayed in a house for about three months. Then I got an apartment. Lived happily ever after. It was a great, great time.”

Holmes, 79, has played golf around the world, from Miami to Britain. And though he spent most of his time gambling on the golf course, he is still a player who knows how to become successful in the sport.

“Get with a teacher,” Holmes said. “One of the things I did is I learned how to fade the ball instead of hook it. In the heat you can control a fade. Some of the best players learned to fade the ball. Work out. Get as strong as you can. Look at old Tiger; he’s as strong as an ox. But I think that’s a good thing.”

Holmes prides himself in being a JU alumnus and is thankful for the experiences he had at the university. In one experience he relishes, he was on his way to Cuba with his basketball team. Everyone passed customs “except Gary Holmes, who was clad in his famous walking shorts; he had to change the trousers before they would let him through,” his coach at the time, Rollie Rourke, said.

His business administration degree from JU aided him to purchase Jacksonville’s Hyde Park in 1963, reorganizing it and turning it into the successful Pine Tree. He has also built and owned other golf courses across the state.

“Getting a college education is what I wanted to do,” Holmes said. “Jacksonville University was the highlight of my life. Maria graduated in 1972 and her brother Steve Taylor graduated in 1977 from JU. So we’re all JU-ites.”

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