Robert B. Dickson (born January 25, 1944), a McAlester native, has been playing golf since his father, Ben Dickson, at that time a professional golfer, greens keeper and manager of McAlester Country Club, first put a golf club in his hands at the tender age of five. Bob attended high school in Muskogee, Oklahoma, winning the Oklahoma High School Class 2A medalist title for three years. Bob attended Oklahoma State University, playing on the varsity golf team in 1964, 1965 and 1966, and graduated with a BS in General Business in 1967. He was a two time OSU All American and won the Oklahoma State Amateur title in 1965 and 1966, and the Oklahoma Open in 1966 and 1971. His graduating year was a very productive one as he won both the U.S. Amateur Championship and the British Amateur Championship, and was a member of the victorious 1967 Walker Cup team and the successful U.S. America’s Cup team.
He turned professional and joined the PGA Tour in 1968.
Dickson played on the PGA Tour for 10 years, and won two official events. During his rookie season in 1968, he won the Haig Open Invitational and the Bob Jones Award for distinguished sportsmanship in golf. His best year as a professional was 1973 when he won the Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational, earned $89,182, and finished in the top-30 on the money list. His best finish in a major championship was a tie for 17th at The Masters in 1973. Dickson was hired by the PGA as the Director of Marketing for the Tournament Players Club in 1979, and was also a Rules Official on the Senior PGA Tour (now known as the Champions Tour) from 1986-1989. He was appointed as the Tournament Director for the NIKE Tour (now known as the Nationwide Tour) in 1989 and was instrumental in its initial development.
After reaching the age of 50 in January 1994, Dickson began play on the Senior PGA Tour. His sole victory in this venue came at the 1998 Cadillac NFL Golf Classic in a playoff with Jim Colbert and Larry Nelson. He last played in a Champions Tour event in 2004.
On August 21, 2006, Dickson was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. He concluded his career with nine wins, four as an amateur, five as a pro. According to PGA Tour records, he won almost $300,000 on the PGA Tour, and more than $2.5 million on the Seniors circuit. He lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame
New York Times
The Baltimore Sun
Labron Harris Sr.
Professional golfer and coach Labron Harris Sr., who founded the intercollegiate golf program at Oklahoma A&M (later Oklahoma State University), was born November 26, 1908, in Dardanelle, Arkansas, and moved to Wewoka, Oklahoma, at age 8. He graduated from Wewoka High School in 1927, having lettered in basketball, baseball, track, tennis and football. Harris then attended Southwestern State College in Weatherford, wrestling in the first match he ever saw. He also competed in golf, winning the Oklahoma Collegiate Conference individual title, and graduated in 1935.
Beginning in 1936 Harris won three consecutive Oklahoma Sand Greens Championships. Also in 1936 he became the head professional at Guthrie Country Club. In 1947 Henry P. Iba hired Harris as golf coach at Oklahoma A&M, where he coached the Cowboys to 24 conference titles and one National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship (1963). He taught 27 All-American selections, one of whom, Mike Holder, succeeded him as OSU golf coach in 1973. His 27 All-Americans included two NCAA individual champions, Earl Moeller in 1953 and Grier Jones in 1968. He had a total of 58 tournament victories as a collegiate coach.
Harris also captured the 1953 Oklahoma Open in Enid and tied for 27th at the 1958 U.S. Open. He won 152 tournaments as a player. His son, Labron Harris, Jr., won the 1962 U.S. Amateur Championship. Harris, Sr., designed the Lakeside Memorial Golf Course in Stillwater. Lakeside served as the home golf course and training facility for the Oklahoma State University golf teams for almost 50 years. Harris was the head golf professional from 1945 to his retirement in 1973.
He retired to Sun City, Arizona, and died on August 14, 1995. He was honored with induction into the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame, the OSU Hall of Honor and the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.
Nancy Marie Lopez (born January 6, 1957) became a star in her two seasons at the University of Tulsa and continued that success professionally, and is considered one of the greatest women’s golfers of all time. She became a member of the LPGA Tour in 1977 and won three major championships. Also, like her counterpart on the PGA Tour, Jim Furyk, is known for her trademark hitch in her swing.
Lopez won her first tournament when she was nine years old, finishing 110 strokes better than her nearest opponent. All throughout her early career as a youngster, she carried one other accessory her competitors didn’t – a trash can. She would get so nervous, playing competitively, that she would have to throw up during her rounds. Her father told her she had to get over that and Lopez did, being named All-American and Female Athlete of the Year for her play at the University of Tulsa, even though when Dale McNamara offered her a full scholarship, Lopez had no idea where Tulsa was. She wanted to go to Arizona State, but the school would not offer a full ride. Tulsa was the benefactor for ASU’s mistake because she won the individual medalist trophy at the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) National Championship and was a member of the U.S. Curtis Cup and World Amateur teams. She left college after her sophomore year and turned pro. That year she finished second in the U.S. Women’s Open.
In 1978, her first full season on the LPGA Tour, Lopez won nine tournaments, including at one stretch, five tournaments in a row.
Little known fact: During that five-tournament streak, she almost quit golf. Going for her fifth win in a row an accident happened during her first round in Rochester, N.Y. that made her consider hanging up the golf clubs for good and never touching them again. An errant drive struck dentist Gerry Mesalella, a spectator, in the head, and unnerved Lopez completely.
“He was bleeding a little bit,” Lopez said. “If I would have injured him in any way or killed him, I don’t think I would have been playing golf anymore. I was crying. Now we are good friends.” For years, she had dinner together with Mesalella and his wife once a year.
She appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, LPGA Rookie of the Year, LPGA Player of the Year and was named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year. She won another eight times in 1979. She won multiple times in each year from 1980 to 1984, although she played only half-seasons in 1983 and 1984 due to the birth of her first child.
Playing full-time again in 1985, Lopez posted five wins, five seconds and five thirds, won the money title, the scoring title and the Player of the Year Award. She was also named Associate Press Female Athlete of the Year for a second time. She played only four tournaments in 1986, when her second daughter was born. But came back to win multiple times in 1987-89 – three times each in 1988 and 1989 – and once again won Player of the Year honors in 1988. Her schedule was curtailed again in the early 1990s when her third daughter was born. In 1992 she won twice. She continued to play short schedules – from 11 to 18 tournaments – through 2002, then in 2003 cut back to just a half dozen or fewer events a year before officially retiring. She unretired about five years later and failed to win a tournament.
Won the LPGA Championship three times (1978, 1985, and 1989) and finished as runner-up in the U.S. Women’s Open four times and second three times in the du Maurer Classic, also a major on the LPGA Tour. Won 52 tournaments professionally. Lopez was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1987. She was a member of the United States Solheim Cup team in 1990 and was captain of the team in 2005. Lopez is the only woman to win LPGA Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, and the Vare Trophy in the same season (1978).
She is involved with charity events and philanthropy. Lopez gives her time and has helped raise funding for AIM (Adventures in Movement), an organization that helps mentally challenged, visually impaired, hearing impaired, physically handicapped and other children and adults with special needs, and also for Albany Community Hospice in Georgia.
Orville James Moody (December 9, 1933 – August 8, 2008), born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, was a professional golfer who won numerous tournaments in his career, including the 1969 U.S. Open, the last champion in the 20th century to win through local and sectional qualifying. His nickname was Sarge because that was the rank he achieved in the military.
He began his career at Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City, winning the 1952 state high school golf championship. After attempting college for a few weeks at the University of Oklahoma, Moody joined the U.S. Army. He was able to continue playing golf while in uniform, winning the All-Service championship and three Korea Opens. He spent 14 years in the Army, heading up maintenance supervision and instruction at all Army golf courses. In April 1969, he took part in a four-way playoff at the Greater Greensboro Open won by Gene Littler.
The 1969 U.S. Open was played at the Cypress Creek Course of the Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas. Defending champion Lee Trevino, who had first met Moody in 1966 in Japan when Trevino was serving in the Marines, had picked Moody to win, saying, “He’s one helluva player.” Moody won by one stroke over Deane Beman, Al Geiberger and Bob Rosburg with a 72-hole score of 281. He was named PGA Player of the Year for 1969. Five other times he finished as the runner-up in the U.S. Open.
Little known fact: While winning the ’69 Open, after hitting out of the trees and giving his club back to his caddy, as he was walking back through the ropes, he was such an atypical looking golfer at 201 pounds, a marshal mistook him for a spectator and told him to get back behind the ropes. It wasn’t until another marshal intervened that Moody was allowed to get back on the course and go on to win the tournament.
His career on the Senior PGA Tour (now known as the Champions Tour) was a successful one. After turning 50, he won three of his first five tournaments and finished fifth on the money list on his way to a total of 11 Senior PGA Tour victories. In 1989, he became only the fourth man to win both the U.S. Open and the U.S. Senior Open. Moody went to a long putter after becoming a senior golfer, and this method improved his putting significantly.
Moody finished his career with 26 tournament wins professionally, one on the PGA Tour, 11 on the Champions Tour and 14 others.
Orville Moody YouTube video
Robert Raymond Tway IV, born in 1959 in Oklahoma City, may be best known for one of the greatest golf shots in PGA Tour history. Tway holed a greenside bunker shot at the 18th hole on the final day of the 1986 PGA Championship held at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. He won the major, two strokes ahead of Greg Norman, known then as the greatest golfer on the Tour. Tway entered the final day four shots back of Norman. It looked like he might blow his chances of winning, by bunkering his shot to the final hole, but then played a beautiful fluff shot from the sand that found the hole. People still talk about his fist-pumping joy when the crowd erupted.
Little known fact: Inverness members dubbed the bunker on 18, “Tway’s Twap.” A golf magazine, a month after Tway had won the major, took him back to the trap and he went 0-for-20 in trying to recreate the shot.
He won numerous tournaments including eight PGA Tour victories. He spent 25 weeks in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking in 1986-87.
He was introduced to golf at the age of five by his father and grandfather. He participated in his first tournament at age seven. He won the Redding Country Club Championship as a junior golfer in Redding, Connecticut. Tway attended Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where he had a distinguished career as a member of the golf team — a three-time, first-team All-American his last three years. In 1978, Tway’s freshman year, the Cowboys, led by seniors Lindy Miller and David Edwards, won the NCAA Championship. When Oklahoma State won again two years later, Tway was their star player. He was the winner of the Haskins Award in his senior year. He turned pro in 1981 and joined the PGA Tour in 1985.
In 1986, he was named PGA Player of the Year and finished the season with four victories including that PGA Championship, a major. He was second on the final money list that year — just a few dollars behind Norman, the Great White Shark. Tway has placed in the top 10 on 80 occasions in his career and placed in the top 10 at the U.S. Open three times during the 1990’s. Tway has PGA Tour career earnings in excess of $14 million and won 13 tournaments professionally, eight of those on the PGA Tour. He currently lives in Edmond, Oklahoma and enjoys snow skiing, fishing and a variety of other sports. His legacy may live on. Tway’s son, Kevin, celebrated his 17th birthday by winning the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2005. Kevin turned professional in 2011 and won a Web.com Tour event in 2013.
Thomas Henry Bolt (March 31, 1916 – August 30, 2008), born in Haworth, Oklahoma, was best known for his 1958 U.S. Open victory at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa by four strokes over 22-year-old Gary Player and his poor temperament. He served in the United States Army during World War II and turned professional in 1946. He worked as a caddie and club professional in Shreveport, Louisiana. He did not join the PGA Tour until he was in his 30s, but he went on to win fifteen PGA Tour titles, including the one major championship in Tulsa. He was the fifth PGA Tour player to shoot a 60 (11 birdies) in an 18-hole round when he did it in the second round of the Insurance City Open outside Hartford, Connecticut. Bolt had a putt for a 59, but he missed his 15-footer for birdie on the 18th green at the par-71 Wethersfield Country Club. He followed that round with a 69-71 over his final 36 holes that got him into a playoff, with Earl Stewart, that Bolt won.
Bolt was a member of the United States Ryder Cup teams of 1955 and 1957. His career Ryder Cup record was 3-1, including a singles victory over Christy O’Connor Sr. in 1955 at Thunderbird Golf and Country Club in Palm Springs, California. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002.
Bolt was known for his sweet swing and fiery disposition. The latter earned him the nickname “Thunder” and “Terrible Tommy”. He was known to break clubs during rounds, and his penchant for throwing clubs led to the adoption of a rule prohibiting such behavior. In his later years, he admitted that a lot of his on-course eruptions were merely showmanship and that he felt they had detracted from his playing. “I’ve busted a few clubs in my time,” he recalled after retiring from the tour. “I think it’s all right for a man to break his golf clubs, every one in the bag if he wants to. They’re his clubs. He’s the one to suffer. As for throwing clubs, that’s something else. That could be dangerous.” The best example of his temper may have been a famous quote from his caddy. He was playing the Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach, Calif., when he had 135 yards left to the 16th. He turned to his caddie and asked for a 7-iron, and the caddied replied, “It’s either a 3-iron or a 3-wood. Those are the only clubs you have left.”
Little known fact: Bolt was once asked who was better – Ben Hogan or Jack Nicklaus? “Well, let me put it this way,” Bolt said, “I once saw Nicklaus watching Hogan practice, but I never saw Hogan watching Nicklaus.”
Bolt won 18 tournaments professionally, 15 of those on the PGA Tour, including a win over the legendary Hogan in the 1960 Memphis Open. Other than his one major win, he also fared well in the other majors, finishing third three times in the PGA Championship and once in the Masters. He died in Cherokee Village, Arkansas at the age of 92.
Douglas Fred Tewell was born in 1949 and raised in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He has won numerous tournaments at both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour level, including two senior major championships.
Tewell got started in the game by working as a caddie for his father. He attended Oklahoma State University in his hometown on a basketball scholarship his freshman year, but later switched to golf. Tewell graduated and turned pro in 1971.
Tewell joined the PGA Tour in 1975; his best year came in 1980 when he won the Sea Pines Heritage and IVB-Golf Classic. He won two more times on the Tour in the mid-1980s. His best finishes in a major were tied for ninth at the 1983 PGA Championship and tied for 10th at the 1986 PGA Championship. Tewell was forced off the PGA Tour at the age of 46 at the end of the 1995 season due to an orthopedic problem in his left elbow. He had arthroscopic surgery on the same elbow in 2005, a procedure he describes as “cleaning out scar tissue”.
The biggest win in his career was his first on the Champions Tour. He won his first major, the Senior PGA Championship at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida by seven shots over four other players including Tom Kite and Hale Irwin.
Tewell has 15 professional wins, four on the PGA Tour, eight on the Champions Tour on the Seniors circuit, and three others.
Tewell lives today in Edmond, Oklahoma with his wife Pam. They have a daughter, Kristie, and a son, Jay. Tewell has worked as a color analyst for the Golf Channel, ESPN and Fox Sports.
Francis G. “Bo” Wininger (November 16, 1922 – December 7, 1967) was an American professional golfer who played on the PGA Tour in the 1950s and 1960s. Wininger played at the same high school in football and baseball, in Commerce, Oklahoma, as future New York Yankees great Mickey Mantle, albeit a few years before Mantle came along. He attended Oklahoma State University.
Wininger served in the United States Naval Air Corps during World War II. He turned pro in 1952 and joined the PGA Tour in 1953. After winning three times in the mid-1950s, he quit playing the tour full-time in 1959 to take a job in public relations. He returned to his winning ways in the early 1960s, winning the Greater New Orleans Open Invitational in 1962 and 1963 and the Carling Open Invitational in 1962.
Wininger had several runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour in addition to his six wins; these include a second at the 1957 and 1959 Canadian Open, the 1959 and 1960 Dallas Open Invitational, and the 1959 San Diego Open Invitational. He was the first back-to-back winner in the modern history of the New Orleans tournament. His best finish in a major was 4th place at the 1965 PGA Championship. He died in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma at the age of 45 after suffering a stroke that left him paralyzed on his right side.
Little known fact: He appeared on “The Lucy Show” with legendary comedienne Lucille Ball in an episode titled, “Lucy Takes Up Golf” in 1964. PGA Tour legend Jimmy Demaret also appeared on the show.
Wininger was also known for his wild side, as golf great Jack Nicklaus recalled in a story he put in a book. “I remember Bo Wininger,” Nicklaus said. “He was the pro at the Desert Inn (in Las Vegas) at the time. I remember one night he took me back to the hotel in his Shelby Cobra. He had one of the original ones. We came back at about 110 to 115 mph through the streets of Las Vegas. I do remember that. And I said, ‘Bo, slow down!’ And he said, ‘Oh, I’m just having some fun.’ And I said again, ‘Bo, slow down!’ Fortunately Bo didn’t kill us there, and he didn’t kill himself in a car. I think that is as scared as I have ever been in an automobile.” The terrifying ride took place in the early to mid-1960s.
On the PGA Professional side, all of the following have received some degree of support and deserve to be considered.
Club pro at Hillcrest CC in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, for 41 years. In 1985, he was selected PGA Professional of the Year, about the highest honor a pro can receive unless he is selected to the PGA of America Hall of Fame. In 2005, to the strain of bagpipes, Cozby walked into that Hall, tears streaming down his face, to be inducted along with his fellow honorees. Led Odessa (TX) Junior College to back-to-back national championships as a player.
The Pro Shop at Hillcrest CC has turned a profi t in 38 of the past 40 years, generating more than $17 million in revenue. Incredibly, the course has never had to use dues to fund the golf- shop operation, including salaries of Cozby and his staff.
Served as section officer in numerous capacities. Served on boards of Boys & Girls Clubs in Bartlesville and the Bartlesville Booster club. Served on the committee that oversaw the $5 million renovation of the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Course. Created the Mark Kizziar award that provides a $1,000 annual scholarship to a junior golfer, now part of the Birdies for Scholarship program.
Fifteen of his former assistants have gone on to land jobs as head professionals, while numerous others have been successful in other endeavors in golf and out.
Little known fact: Cozby helped Lamar win the national “college division” title in his junior season, helping assistant basketball coach and “golf coach” Billy Tubbs to his only national championship.
“He is just the ultimate golf professional. When you talk about being in the Hall of Fame and being the National Professional of the Year, those are the highest honors paid in our association. The members at Hillcrest have been very lucky to have Jerry at the helm all these years. Somebody is going to have big shoes to fill.”
Barry Thompson, Executive Director PGA South Central Section
In 1971, Oklahoma City golf pro Walser and longtime friend and golf associate Ernie Vossler teamed to form Unique Golf Concepts, Inc. Landmark Land Co. purchased Unique Golf Concepts in 1974 and Walser was named vice president in charge of golf operations, golf course design and construction. Walser worked closely with golf course designer Pete Dye on the construction of Oak Tree Golf Club, which opened in 1976, and Oak Tree Country Club, which opened in 1981. They used approximately 8,000 railroad ties in the process.
The Oak Tree and Landmark logo would become one of the most recognizable emblems in golf and spurred the development of the prestigious developments such as PGA West and La Quinta Hotel Golf & Tennis Resort in Palm Springs, Calif. Other notable ventures the duo worked on included Mission Hills, Carmel Valley Ranch Resort, Kiawah Island Inn and Golf Resort, Palm Beach Polo and Country Club and Moreno Valley Ranch.
In August of 1997, Golf Illustrated described Walser and Vossler as “two of the most important golf developers in the world.”
The story is that Walser Jr., and Vossler founders of Landmark golf communities in California, Oklahoma and Louisiana, told legendary course designer Pete Dye to make the toughest golf course he could when he was building PGA West near Palm Springs, Calif. “Make it tougher than Oak Tree, tougher than TPC (another of Dye’s creations), tougher than anything in the country.”
So he did. He designed 18 holes that can stretch from 5,228 yards for the women to 7,721 for the professionals, with more water than fairways and more sand than greens. Pot bunkers, 200-yard sand traps, 8 lakes, 5,000 railroad ties and more than 250,000 hand-planted shrubs make it a diabolical golfing torture chamber. Water must be crossed on nine holes. PGA West and Oak Tree became the Nos. 1 and 2 toughest courses in America according to the United States Golfing Association.
Walser worked at Altus Country Club, Quail Creek Country Club, Lake Hefner Golf Course and Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club, Walser served as president of the South Central Section of the PGA of America. He also served two terms on the PGA of America Board of Directors and was chief operating officer for PGA Tour Golf Course Properties, Inc.
When Walser died four days short of his 80th birthday in 2012, flags were flown at half-staff at Oak Tree.
Ernest Orville Vossler (November 29, 1928 – February 16, 2013). As his full-time days on the PGA Tour were winding down in the 1960s, Vossler became a club pro and worked at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and later Quail Creek Golf & Country Club in Oklahoma City. He was named “PGA Golf Professional of the Year” in 1967. He later became involved in a series of businesses relating to golf course development starting in 1971. Some of his business partners include former tour players Joe Walser, Jr. and Johnny Pott. In 1974, Vossler and Walser founded the Oak Tree Golf Club, now known as Oak Tree National, which has hosted the 1988 PGA Championship and the 2014 U.S. Senior Open. He was the Chairman of Landmark Golf, a golf/real estate development firm serving the southwestern United States.
La Quinta? PGA West? The Carmel Valley Ranch? Oak Tree Country Club? Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course? The Palm Beach Polo Club? These were but a few of the properties Landmark built in the 1970s and ’80s. Landmark acquired the famed La Quinta Hotel in the Palm Springs desert and quickly expanded its franchise, building fabulous golf courses and even more fabulous gated communities to go with them. Pete Dye and his railroad ties were called on frequently by Landmark Land: He built La Quinta’s Mountain Course, and a few years later one of the pièces de résistance of target golf, the Stadium Course at PGA West.
Landmark Land also developed the Carmel Valley Ranch in the hills above Carmel, as well as Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, and the Moreno Valley and Oak Valley communities in California. Then it moved east, developing the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club in tony West Palm Beach, Florida, and acquiring the resort amenities at the Kiawah Island resort outside Charleston, South Carolina. Once again, Vossler and Walser pulled some kind of magic string at PGA of America headquarters, and got that organization to grant the 1991 Ryder Cup Matches to Kiawah Island, as they did in 1988 bringing the PGA Championship to Edmond, Oklahoma. Somehow, Landmark Land was able to conceive, design and build the Ocean Course at Kiawah in less than 24 months, just in time to stage the now-famous “War by the Shore,” the Ryder Cup.
Vossler was inducted into the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame in 2005. He was a professional golfer who played on the PGA Tour with his best finish in a major a tie for fifth in the 1959 U.S. Open; he later prospered in the fields of golf course design and construction, golf course management services and real estate development. He finished his playing career with four professional wins, three of those were tournaments on the PGA Tour.
Vossler was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, where he played on the Pascal High School golf team. Vossler turned professional in 1954 and began play on the PGA Tour in 1955. Vossler was married to World Golf Hall of Famer Marlene Hagge. He died in La Quinta, California in 2013.
Former head pro at LaFortune Park for decades and director of golf at South Lakes in Jenks. For 50 years, the pro shop at LaFortune Park Golf Course in Tulsa was one of the most successful in the country, due in large part to the management of golf pro Jerry Jones and his staff with their creative ideas and marketing. It certainly wasn’t because of the space in which they had to work. It was small, cramped and yet they, under the tutelage of Jones, continued to crank out the success card year after year after year. Jones’ leadership and entrepreneurship has become a legacy. In 2009, the operation received a huge boost to a now aesthetically pleasing and functionally superior new pro shop that was built with funds from the Four to Fix (Tulsa County) Two bond project. This was part of the legacy that Jones created in Tulsa and that the current Director of Golf at LaFortune Park, Pat McCrate, has continued.
The previous pro shop was the original and opened Oct. 15, 1960, the day the first rounds of golf were played at LaFortune Park. Previous head professionals Charley Weisner and Jones established the tradition of LaFortune Park being a center for golf merchandise and McCrate has continued it despite heavy competition from golf discount stores and big box retailers.
Jones has been one of the key leaders in the growth of golf in the public sector in Tulsa. He has been one of the driving forces in seeing that the public has had affordable golf in Tulsa for half a century, getting behind the building of courses like South Lakes to keep the logjam from discouraging players in this city. “Tulsa was at one time a total country-club town,” Jones said.
For years, private golf courses such as Southern Hills and Meadowbrook were the only game in town. But all that changed when LaFortune Park, 5501 S. Yale Ave., opened for public play in 1960. Page Belcher, at 6666 S. Union Ave., was next to open in 1977, and South Lakes followed in 1989.
Jones headlined a place in Tulsa that was way before its time, with night golf on the Par-3 course for decades, as well as innovations to draw the average golfer out for the big course as well, such as twilight golf reduced greens fees in the late afternoon. He taught clinics and encouraged the average Joe that he could be treated like a country club member even at a public course. Jones was the kind of pro who could have likely had many other similar positions around the country, but chose to stay home and give his life’s work to the city and courses he loved and nurtured.
After almost 20 years at the job, Jim Awtrey stepped down as the chief executive officer of the PGA of America in 2005 and when he did, it was written about him that “he possessed enough power and influence that golf will never be quite the same.” Jim L. Awtrey served as a Senior Vice President of Landmark Land Co. Inc. DE from November 18, 2006 to May 2009. Awtrey served as the Chief Executive Officer of PGA of America from 1988 to 2005 and since retiring from that organization has been consulting on a variety of golf-related matters.
He was born in Oakland and grew up in Oklahoma. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1966. He worked as an apprentice club pro at the Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, NY – fittingly, as it turned out, the site of the first PGA Championship in 1916. He competed on the PGA Tour in 1970-71, then returned to Oklahoma to begin a full-time career as a club professional. Until 1986, Awtrey held positions at four venues, including being the coach of the men’s golf team at his alma mater. That year was a pivotal one for Awtrey – he was appointed manager of tournament operations for the PGA of America. He and his family moved to Palm Springs Gardens, Florida, where the PGA has its national headquarters. The following year he became the acting executive director, and in 1988 he became the organization’s chief executive officer. This might seem like a meteoric rise. It is, yes, but with a small asterisk. CEO of the PGA was not as big and powerful a job as it is today. What happened is Jim Awtrey. Perhaps the most significant of his many accomplishments is that as he grew in stature and importance in the golf world, so did the office he held.
Just a few advances that were made on Awtrey’s watch: • Membership in the PGA of America in the mid-2000s was at 28,000, up from 15,000 when Awtrey took over. The PGA Championship went from being the poor relation of the four majors to having the best field of players of the majors. • Just in the his last five years as CEO, PGA revenue grew from $68 million to $120 million annually. • The Ryder Cup is arguably the greatest event in golf. Back in the 1980s, the PGA had to practically beg the networks to televise it, and the organization lost money underwriting it every two years. Now it generates tens of millions of dollars, and broadcasters battle over the rights to air it. • He took a tough stand when the PGA Championship was to be held at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Not only was it learned that the club did not have a black member, but an official at the club was quoted as saying, “We’ll never have a n—– on our fairways.” Awtrey threatened to take the championship elsewhere, and the club opened up its membership to minorities. • The PGA got into golf course development and ownership. This was especially on display in 2008 when the Ryder Cup was hosted by PGA-owned Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky. • The PGA of America is a well-run organization. A lot of that is because of the business expertise that Awtrey brought to and fostered over the years.
“I’m one of those guys who is energized by doing things and creating,” he said. “I’ve accomplished everything I want to do here.”
Claim to Fame: Built golf empire just west of Guthrie. He has been one of only two players in the 90-94 age bracket of the senior pro golfers who were actively participating in tournaments of the PGA of America on a competitive basis. The other was Jerry DeRosa.
“People think I’m about 65,” said Martin, who lives in Guthrie, Okla., where he built and owns four courses. “I’ve got a young heart and a good attitude. I’ve got all kinds of Nautilus machines in my house. I work out twice a day. And I’ll walk 300 yards uphill on the treadmill every morning and at night. I’m 6-feet-3 and weigh between 185 and 190 now, [the same as] I did when I was playing athletics in high school.”
Martin, who can drive the ball 250 yards, in his 90s quite often shot less than his age, scoring an 83-86 – 169 in one tournament and 80-82-90 – 252 in another, both times winning his age bracket by double figures.
“I tell people to stay away from the whiskey and cigarettes and play golf every chance they get,” he said. “If people will play more golf and exercise, age is just so many numbers.”
Birthdate and place: May 21, 1916, in Faxon. Martin grew up on a farm, one of 10 kids.
Claude “Duffy” Martin lives near No. 11 tee on the Augusta course at Cedar Valley Golf Club in Guthrie, one of seven courses he helped construct with his own hands. His golf mecca, located a few miles west of Guthrie along both sides of Highway 33, comprises 90 holes androughly 1,500 acres.
Martin claims he went to the college of hard knocks and the school colors were black and blue. When he was 17, Martin suffered a severe spinal injury while playing football for coach Jim Lookabaugh. For nine months, Martin lay on a hospital bed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “They stretched me from head to toe so it could heal,” he said. “Felt like I was 7 feet long, but I beat the rap. I’ll tell you what, it was a jump ball whether I’d walk or not.”
Martin’s golf empire started in 1948 when he leased some property at NW 58th and May Avenue in Oklahoma City, built a little par-3/driving range and dubbed it Duffy’s Golf Land. His driving range shack was an old corn dog stand he “stole” from the fairgrounds. “It was there, and once the fair left, it was gone,” Martin said unapologetically. “There was a time when people lined up to give me money to hit balls – three and four deep around the shack. I had the only range in town. My kids would pick up every ball at night, get done about 11 o’clock.” Four years later, Martin left $20,000 richer and decided to give the PGA Tour a try. After seven or eight months, the money was almost all gone and he returned home.
In 1954 headed south and built Brookside Golf Club in south Oklahoma City. Shortly after he arrived, construction on Interstate 35 passed alongside his property line. “You talk about a letter from home,” Martin said. “Then things started happening for ole Duffy.” Martin sold Brookside, purchased the old Bruce January Farm in Moore at an auction in 1966 and constructed Broadmoore Golf Course. When Martin sold the place, he had become a millionaire.
In 1972, Martin arrived in Cedar Valley, where eventually he would construct Augusta, International, Cimarron National, Aqua Canyon and The Executive Par-3, an 18-hole layout built around an RV park. “I just ran a horseshoe (design) around the (RV) park,” Martin said. “They said I couldn’t do it. Hell, I know what I can do.” And he knows what he can’t do – put sand traps or roughs on his courses. None of them have ever had either. He wanted to make his courses playable for anyone.
My last meal would be: Cornbread and beans.
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