Known as a friendly, trustworthy and insightful visionary, Joe Walser Jr. steadily built a stellar career as a player, PGA professional and golf developer.
Born and raised in Oklahoma City, Walser was a member of state championship teams at Capitol Hill High School and received a full scholarship from Labron Harris Sr. to play at Oklahoma A&M, which later became Oklahoma State and was where his son, Jeff, would play 25 years later.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in education, Joe Walser served as a first lietenant in the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Ga., and Fort Riley, Kan. Walser began his golf career at age 14 while caddying for his father and turned pro in 1954, the same day his first son, Steve, was born. Walser would win 25 amateur/professional tournaments, including the Oklahoma State Amateur and the Oklahoma Open.
Walser left the tour and worked as a club pro at Altus Country Club, Lake Hefner Golf Course and Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club. Two of his closest friends and golf partners were Ab Justice, a longtime golf contributor and OSU’s first All-American, and Alsie Hyden, a 2008 inductee into the Oklahoma Women’s Golf Hall of Fame as a lifelong proponent for women playing the game.
Hyden, who has been director of golf at Lake Hefner Golf Course for nearly a half-century, became close friends with Walser since their freshman year at OSU. Hyden came to Lake Hefner when Walser moved to Oklahoma Golf & CC in 1968. “He dreamed big and what he got accomplished was big,” Hyden said of Walser.
In 1970, Walser was presented the PGA of America Horton Smith Award, which recognized his contributions to the education of fellow golf professionals.
In 1971, Walser formed Unique Golf Concepts with fellow 2017 Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame inductee Ernie Vossler and with three-time Ryder Cup member Johnny Pott alongside later founded Landmark Land Company, Inc., which in 1992 became Landmark Golf LP.
Walser served as vice president in charge of golf operations, golf course design and construction. Jerry Barton joined as the development expert and Walser worked closely with Pete Dye on the construction of both Oak Tree Golf Club (opened in 1976) and later Oak Tree Country Club (opened in 1981).
Oak Tree National carried the nation’s highest course rating ever when it opened, which deemed it the hardest golf course in America. The Walser-Vossler-Dye trio would later would an even harder track with the Stadium Course at PGA West in Palm Springs, Calif. Other Dye-designed classics that quickly sprang from Oak Tree included PGA West, La Quinta Resort and Mission Hills, plus the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C.
Walser saw the value of having 2016 Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame inductee Gil Morgan, 2017 inductees Bob Tway, Doug Tewell and Mark Hayes, plus future inductees Scott Verplank, Willie Wood, David and Danny Edwards and other touring pros wear the Oak Tree logo, which quickly became one of the most recognizable symbols in golf.
A 2005 inductee into the Southern California Section of the PGA of America Hall of Fame, Walser met his future wife Patricia Irene “Pat” Eubanks in high school. They were married in Oklahoma City in 1953 and remained together until her death in 2009.
Walser died on May 10, 2012, in Dallas, Texas, with his family by his side, after a valiant fight against Alzheimer’s Disease.