By Ken MacLeod
The University of Tulsa menâ€™s golf program is set to go out in anything but style when the American Conference Championships are held Sunday through Tuesday at the Tom Fazio-designed Black Diamond Ranch Quarry Course in Lecanto, Fla.
Barring a miracle invite to the NCAA Regionals, it will be the final tournament for both Tulsa coach Bill Brogden and, at least for the time being, for the Tulsa menâ€™s program. Athletic Director Derrick Gragg announced in March that the university was dropping its menâ€™s program.
Brogden had already announced his retirement after 30 years at TU and 47 years as a college coach when the university stunned the golf community locally and around the state and through the college ranks with its announcement, claiming it would save $500,000 annually.
That figure has been disputed by program insiders, including Brogden, and efforts to restore the program have thus far been rebuffed by outgoing TU President Steadman Upham until at least $7 million is raised to endow the program.
There is no arguing that Tulsaâ€™s team is currently young, inexperienced and not ready to compete successfully in the conference tournament or any elite college event.
And there is no objection here to those who point out that Brogden slipped toward the end of his career in the areas of both fundraising and recruiting.
What should have happened is the University should have determined his successor a few years back, brought him on board for a year as an assistant, then let him take over under the condition that fundraising be a major part of his mission. Former Tulsa All-American David Inglis, now at Northwestern, former All-American Michael Boyd here in town or Kyle Blaser, national NAIA championship producer at Oklahoma City University, are just three of the many excellent candidates who would have jumped at the chance to restore the program to an elite level nationally.
Beyond its fading reputation as an oil or energy capital, Tulsa is known nationally as a great golf city. A place where seven major championships have been held, numerous other USGA championships and where more elite events will be announced, maybe even soon.
For the University of Tulsa to drop menâ€™s golf doesnâ€™t just look bad, it is an affront to the business and community leaders throughout the city and state who are working to bring more national events to Tulsa and Oklahoma and keep building our reputation as one of the worldâ€™s great golf cities and states, not tear it down.
Nancy Lopez is going to be inducted into the Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame this summer based on just her two scintilliating years at TU and the positive publicity and credit she brought to the university, city and state throughout her entire brilliant career.
The menâ€™s program has produced Ron Streck, Hank Haney and many fine players who have succeeded at various levels of professional golf. And many others who were Academic All-Americans who are now becoming leaders in the Tulsa business community.
For its own sake, Tulsa needs to improve its menâ€™s golf program and make it largely self-sustaining. The positive relationships with community and business leaders established over the years by the support of the teamâ€™s at Tulsa Country Club, Southern Hills, Cedar Ridge and elsewhere surely helped TU in accumulated good will and dollars raised.
The hope here is that the program will be restored with a solid plan for upgrading recruiting and fundraising and that it is done soon. Meanwhile, best of luck this weekend and in the future to Brogden and his current team, members of which will be scattering to their future endeavors after the spring semester.
Note: Bill Brogden will be a guest on the Swing Fit Golf Oklahoma Hour Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on The Sports Animal, 97.1 FM.