Although all three of his sons wound up being fine players for the University of Oklahoma, Jerry Cozby has some ties to Oklahoma State as well.
His father, Steve, had a house in a Gulf Oil camp in Odessa, Texas, when Jerry was a child. Across the alley was a house owned by Speck Holder, father of Mike Holder, a 2015 inductee and astonishingly successful golf coach at OSU.
Although Jerry doesn’t remember meeting Mike, who was just a baby, the two dads pooled their efforts to build a nine-hole golf course with sand greens on an abandoned prairie dog town. That’s where Jerry played his first golf and fell in a love with a game that he still adores today.
Cozby went on to become a fine junior player, winning tournaments, but also playing football, baseball and running track until his sophomore year at Odessa. Golf became serious when a local businessman picked him as his partner for the Odessa Pro-Am, an event that, with its purse of $60,000, drew a lot of sharks and PGA Tour players.
Cozby shot 66-67 the first two rounds on his own ball, his team finished 31-under par in second place, and suddenly he was drawing interest from colleges. He stayed close to home, however, going to Odessa Junior College for two years so he could play as a freshman. His team won two national juco titles, then he was off to Lamar, which won what was then known as the College Division (now Division II) national title his junior year. Cozby tied for second individually after finishing sixth and second in the NJCAA championships.
All of which just shows that though Cozby is known as one of the most dedicated, exacting and professional representatives of the PGA of America in Oklahoma history, he was a fierce competitor as well.
His first job was an assistant to Texas Golf Hall of Fame professional Hardy Loudermilk at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio. It was there he made his best career move, persuading Karole Stanley to become Karole Cozby. In 1969, at the age of 27, he accepted the position of head professional at Hillcrest Country Club, the exquisite Perry Maxwell layout in Bartlesville, where he ran the shop and club with an iron will and soft heart for 41 years.
“Golf professionals only have one job,” Cozby said. “Our job is to make sure all amateur golfers, whether at public courses or country clubs, are having a good time and enjoying the game. Hopefully we’ve done something to contribute to them playing the game to the best of their ability. Any other way of looking at it is a mistake, in my opinion.”
Cozby trained many other excellent professionals and industry leaders, including his three sons. Cary is the head professional at Southern Hills Country Club, while Chance and Craig have prominent positions with Ping Golf. David Bryan, head professional at Cedar Ridge and son of former Southern Hills head professional Dave Bryan, trained under Cozby at Hillcrest, as did Tim Johnson, longtime pro at The Territory and now general manager of Pinnacle CC in Rogers, Arkansas.
“I owe everything to that man,” Johnson said. “He taught me more than I can ever say or ever repay. He taught me how to pay attention to detail, how service is the law of the land. He brought the same enthusiasm, energy, drive and dedication to work every day, not just tournament days or weekends, but every day.”
“I’m very flattered, very humbled and totally shocked by this,” Cozby said. “When I think about those sand greens that I grew up on, I just have to pinch myself. There are a lot of good golf professionals out there, many that are a lot better than I am.”
Among a host of awards, Cozby was PGA South Central Section Professional of the Year in 1973 and 1985, and PGA National Professional of the Year in 1985. He was inducted into the section hall of fame in 2000, the PGA of America Hall of Fame in 2005, the NJCAA Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Bartlesville Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012, the same year he was also named Father of the Year by Golfweek.