By Ken MacLeod
From her first team in 1974 to young ladies not yet born when she retired in 2000, they came from near and far to celebrate the remarkable life of Dale McNamara Monday.
The audience for the classy celebration at the University of Tulsa’s Lorton Performance Center included LPGA stalwarts such as Jody Anschutz (Rosenthal), Stacy Prammanasudh and of course daughter Melissa McNamara Luellen to many collegiate All-Americans all the way down to the current team who served as ushers.
That included 18-year-old Jenni Roller, who had a special relationship with the legendary Tulsa golf coach described eloquently by her mother Maggie (Kelt) Roller during the ceremony. In one of her final good days outdoors before she succumbed to cancer on Oct. 30 at age 86, Dale rode 18 holes with Jenni at the Golf Club of Oklahoma, encouraging her to the last.
Maggie’s memories of her revered coach were one of the highlights of the afternoon that included many. After opening remarks from Tulsa Sports Information Director Don Tomkalski and a tribute video, former Tulsa World sports editor John Klein spoke of their long friendship. Susan Neal, the executive director of Gilcrease Museum, testified about Dale’s post-retirement career giving to both the museum and Tulsa Park Board. Daughters Cathy and Melissa gave moving tributes as well.
Besides former players, the audience included business heavyweights such as former Williams Companies CEO Keith Bailey, Tulsa Athletic Director Rick Dickson and many of his staff, prominent Tulsa boosters such as Robert West, PGA professionals such as Rick Reed and Tracy Phillips.
Letty Watt, who writes historical golf pieces for this website, knew and played against Dale during as she was coming up and on her way to winning a then-record seven Women’s Oklahoma Golf Association state amateur championships, remembers her as tough competitor on the course but fun-loving off of it.
Maggie Roller, the director of instruction at Cedar Ridge, helped keep Dale active and involved in golf as she fought threw numerous health issues over the last decade. This writer was fortunate to escort Dale around during the final round of the Dale McNamara Invitational at Cedar Ridge on Oct. 11, sharing conversations about her life and career and her hopes for the future.
Alas that future was all too short. But what a life! In her career at Tulsa she won four national championships, finished second five times, won 81 tournaments and coached dozens of All-America players. Nancy Lopez got it all started in 1975 and she won the 1976 AIAW national championship. Kathy Baker took home the title in 1982 and Melissa in 1988.
Roller told the story of her former coach in the form of an acrostic, fleshing out each example into a story that captured Dale’s manners, will, spirit and eternal optimism that made her such a unique success. Listen to her remarks here.
D – Dictator
A – Available
L – Listener
E – Energy
M – Motherly
C – Chic
N – Never stop giving back
A – Attitude
M – Master at her craft
A – Ability
A – Atmosphere
“So here’s to coach. May we all remember coach Dale when we take a full stance for that 2 foot putt, when we lay the flagstick down gently to respect the golf courses we are privileged to play, when we applaud and do the Dale fist pump for good shots not just our own, when we paint our nails and they look good on the golf grip, and esp. when we wear a pair of fancy silver shoes.”
Melissa concluded her remarks about her mother with a story about one of her favorite off-color expressions, one Dale herself regaled us with as she watched Tulsa win the Dale McNamara Invitational this fall.
“LTFF,” Melissa said. “Let the %*^*& Fly.”