By Ken MacLeod
The young ladies participating in the LPGA/USGA Girls Golf Program in the Tulsa area benefitted from a double does of golf history Saturday during a meeting at the Jenks High School indoor practice facility.
Kay Dalke is the mother of University of Oklahoma golfer Brad Dalke, one of the most recognizable names in collegiate golf. Not only is he a member of the defending national champions, he was the runnerup in the 2016 U.S. Amateur, has competed in both The Masters and the U.S. Open, had an amazing junior career and has achieved notoriety for such things as crushing Rory McIlroy in an arm-wresting contest and becoming one of the youngest athletes to commit to a college when he gave a verbal to the Sooners at age 12.
While Kay spent much of her time with the group discussing Brad’s career, she has had her own remarkable times in the sport. In the early 1970s she was a top-notch junior player at Memorial High School and dominated junior events at The Oaks Country Club. She was asked to but later prevented from playing on the boys team at Memorial.
After high school she attended the University of Oklahoma, where she was eventually asked to join the golf team and given the first scholarship to a female athlete in OU history to play for coach Joan Blumenthal.
Her athletic prowess was no surprise, considering her father was legendary OU basketball player Ken Pryor, who led the Sooners to the 1947 NCAA Championship game, where they lost to Holy Cross, which had a freshman point guard named Bob Cousy. She met and married OU linebacker Bill Dalke, who played for the 1975 national champions, and they eventually had seven children, the last of whom was Brad.
A well-respected rules official, Kay shared her love of the game with the young players, including one telling remark in which she said walking the course is one of her greatest enjoyments, because it gives you time to feel the hole and go over in your mind the challenges and opportunities the next shot presents. What a great lesson not just for those young players but for most golfers.
The Brad stories were also remarkable. Kay told about him watching golf on television and imitating swings at 11 months, winning a three-hole junior tournament and setting the course record by eight shots at age three, and becoming the youngest player to win an AJGA Invitational event at age 13.
“It was apparent very early that there was something different with Brad,” Kay said. “I would advise the parents in the room that if you see your child has a passion for something, try to encourage and nurture that.”
Brad was a huge OU fan and destined to be a Sooner, yet Kay said it was still surprising when Joe Castiglione, the OU athletic director, and golf coach Ryan Hybl went through with the public commitment at age 12. That was before Brad became the youngest player to win an AJGA Invitational when he bested a field including some members of the extraordinary collegiate class of 2011, to win the 2011 Thunderbird Invitational.
She told about how she tried to temper his expectations going into that event after seeing the glittering and long resumes of the other 47 boys in the field.
“I actually told him it would be okay if he finished last,” Kay said. “He looked at me in shock and said, ‘But Mom, I think I can win this.’ “
He was right. Hopefully some of the young listeners will exhibit the same confidence and belief whether in golf or eventually in other pursuits.
Note: The event was organized by Maggie Roller, the director of instruction at Cedar Ridge Country Club, assisted by teaching professional Regina Goodwin from South Lakes Golf Course and Dave Wilber, the former head professional at Heritage Hills Golf Course in Claremore.