By Ken MacLeod
Dan Rooney may have been the first winner of the Donald Ross Award to prepare a baby bottle while waiting to give an acceptance speech, but it was that kind of family atmosphere Monday night for the Folds of Honor founder.
Rooney, wife Jacqy and five daughters were all present at Southern Hills Country Club when the American Society of Golf Course Architects honored him with the Donald Ross Award, first given 39 years ago to Robert Trent Jones, father of Robert Trent Jones Jr. and last year to Rees Jones. Rees and RTJ II were there to co-present the award to Rooney.
Jones Jr. is also the architect of The Patriot, where the visiting architects played Sunday before rounds at Southern Hills Monday and Tulsa Country Club on Tuesday.
"The Donald Ross Award goes to those who have honored the game and contributed to the understanding of what golf course architecture does for the game and the community," Jones Jr. said. "I’m very proud for Dan. It’s another example of what he calls synchronicity."
"It was an awesome night," Rooney said. "It’s an understatement to say you’re humbled and honored. To have my family there and my closest friends was great. I know it was a super night for Bobby. Tom Watson showed up and that made it even more special.
"My two big objectives were to have the group play The Patriot and feel the spirit and mission of this place, and then to have them spread those seeds of patriotism in their respective spheres of influence.."
Both Rooney and Jones said they received great feedback from the architects on the course.
"All of us work diligently in the vinyards trying to turn our grapes into wine," Jones said. "We all hope when people taste the wine, they appreciate the effort to get there. And it’s particularly interesting with this group because they are both colleagues and competitors.
"The worst thing you can hear is for someone to come up and say ‘nice course Bobby.’ That’s just being nice with no meaning. This time they had all sorts of technical questions and reactions to the course. They were engaged by it, which is what you want."
Ron Whitten, renowned architectural critic for Golf Digest and a part-time architect as well, said the feedback he heard was very positive.
"They enjoyed it because many of the holes collect shots instead of repel them," Whitten said. "It has some open approaches to greens, then some forced carries which are really dramatic. The 18th hole is one of the more dramatic finishing holes in golf. It’s like if No. 8 at Pebble Beach were the 18th hole."
Much like Prairie Dunes has holes that represent all the various topography in Kansas, Whitten said The Patriot is a microcosm of Oklahoma features, with its prairie holes, woodlands, canyons and wetlands.
Whitten said the trip was a good reminder or learning experience for the more than 100 architects who attended of the wonderful variety of golf in the Tulsa area.