Photo: Sylvia Rosenthal (left of and holding flag) 92, is Meadowbrook’s oldest in age and membership, also club’s only remaining Jewish member. Spry and healthy, she still plays 18-holes on Ladies Day Tuesdays with friends (L-R: Claudette Labonte, Paula Robinson and Donna Thomas. Credit: Rick Stiller/www.rickstiller.com
Editor’s note: Following is an article by Meadowbrook member Steve Strong detailing some of the club’s interesting history. As many readers know, Meadowbrook was purchased by developers in 2017 but remains open and general manager Amy Dodson says she has been told by ownership that the club will remain open “through the 2019 golf season.”
At this time, no specific time frame has been announced for closure or development. Golfers can purchase one-year memberships with no initiation fee. Call 918-252-4121 for more information.
Steve Strong is a retired Tulsa marketing executive and 24-year member of Meadowbrook Country Club.
By Steve Strong
A three-letter acronym in golf industry lexicon describes a particular type of golf course. Often it refers to a layout golfers remember and wish they could play again. But Tulsa’s Meadowbrook Country Club members, and many more who have played there, hope that acronym doesn’t soon apply to the Press Maxwell designed links near 81st Street and Memorial Drive.
The acronym is NLE and it means “No Longer Exists.”
In October, 2017 club members were told Meadowbrook had been purchased by Tulsa real estate developers Glenn Shaw and Chuck Ramsey who then said there was no timeline for closure and, more recently, stated the club will remain open through 2019’s golf season.
Once Tulsa’s Jewish-only country club, Meadowbrook began 72 years ago when American golf club discrimination was common and many Tulsa minorities could not join local golf clubs. An article in October 2018’s Tulsa Jewish Review details Meadowbrook’s Jewish heritage, history and current issues.
Meadowbrook started as a social club in 1946 when a group of 100 Tulsa Jewish men acquired the Lortondale estate near 27th and Yale and agreed to a country club project for use by their families. Twenty-six of those men – prominent business, professional and civic leaders – invested $2,500 each ($33,900 in 2018 dollars).
In 1953, the social club targeted its present location for a golf course. A year later Press Maxwell, son of Southern Hills architect Perry Maxwell, was hired as course architect. Nine holes were built originally – Meadowbrook’s back nine today. Play opened in 1956.
It would be another decade (when nobody thought it would work) before the club opened doors to anyone who wanted to join. Among early gentile members was single-digit handicapper, Oral Roberts. A second nine was added in 1968. By 1971 Jewish members were a minority.
Historical twists of Maxwell’s original nine holes remain. Meadowbrook’s current 12th hole originally played as its ninth. Today it’s a short par four – a layup tee shot, then a short iron to the green. But an abandoned tee box just north of the 11th green proves today’s 12th played differently. Maxwell had it as a 200 plus-yard, monster par three.
A Meadowbrook turning point occurred in 1985 with the signing of an operating agreement with Jim Colbert Golf, Inc. (JCGI) which turned into a purchase in 1989. The sale meant members no longer owned the club and, despite several attempts since, have been unable to buy it back.
Beginning with the 1989 JCGI purchase, Meadowbrook has been owned by six separate companies, the last being ARCIS Equities, a Dallas based firm specializing in hospitality and leisure.
Unlike many U.S. courses that have closed recently, Meadowbrook was not losing money. In 2017 the club had nearly 360 golfing members according to Golf Oklahoma Magazine. It just wasn’t earning enough to compete with the Tulsa developers’ offer.
American golf club discrimination eased slowly beginning in the 1960’s. In 1990 two events triggered a tipping point. The 1990 PGA Championship, at Birmingham’s Shoal Creek Country Club, called attention to U.S. discrimination. Clubs were forced either to admit more minority members or lose future PGA tournaments. That same year Tom Watson famously resigned from the Kansas City Country Club over its refusal to admit a Jewish member, billionaire Henry Bloch, founder of H&R Block.
Today’s Meadowbrook is a diverse mix of colors and beliefs plus one very special member: Sylvia Rosenthal. A spry, witty and independent 92-year-old, Sylvia believes she is the club’s last Jewish member. She and her deceased husband Charles (Charles Pest Control) joined 64 years ago. Now the club’s oldest in both age and membership, Sylvia still plays 18-holes with friends on Ladies Day Tuesdays.
Members, guests and tournament players say the course remains in excellent condition. It’s among many reasons Sylvia’s group continues to play Meadowbrook and why, at age 92, Sylvia Rosenthal keeps teeing it up on Ladies Day Tuesdays.