Members, employees pay tribute to Stubblefield following retirement announcement

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By Ken MacLeod

In 21 years running Cedar Ridge Country Club in Broken Arrow with an open mind and even hand, Cleve Stubblefield earned the respect and love of both members and employees alike, not always an easy task in the ego-inflated world of private club management.

That tenure is coming to an abbreviated close, unfortunately. Stubblefield announced last week that he would be resigning his position as general manager most likely in November due to a recent deterioration in symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, which he has been battling for four years.

Stubblefield said removing the stress of daily operations could help slow the progress of the disease and he is also considering a treatment called Deep Brain Stimulation which has proven effective in treating tremors in up to 88 percent of patients.

Stubblefield, 61, came to Cedar Ridge in 2002 after 10 years of running Tulsa Country Club. In his tenure he has guided the club through five LPGA Tour events, U.S. Amateur qualifying, numerous high school, college and Oklahoma Golf Association championships, massive improvements to the golf course and practice facilities, clubhouse renovations, the addition of a weight room, pool and fitness center, a new halfway house and the addition of an indoor teaching center.

In May of 2023 the club hosted a LIV Golf event and shortly thereafter parted ways with its superintendent, bringing back long-time superintendent Mike Wooten to serve as interim superintendent. His son Jared Wooten was recently hired as superintendent and officially began work this week.

Stubblefield said the big events of 2023, including an internal club debate about whether to completely rebuild its clubhouse, did not increase his stress levels.

“I’ve always done well handling the big events,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the little things that I’ve let bother me.”

“Cleve is just the best guy you would ever want to meet and the type of GM you want in your club,” Mike Wooten said. “He takes charge and stands by you. Just knowing he will be there to back you up if you have any issues is invaluable. He’s not going to run off and sacrifice you to save himself and that’s worth its weight in gold for a golf course superintendent.

“Also he’s just there for you. Anything you need or want to talk about, he’s going to help. The members support and like him. He doesn’t crawfish around. If he has to give them some bad news, he’ll do it. He was a great GM and will be sorely missed.”

Maggie Roller, the director of instruction at Cedar Ridge, said she will miss his quiet but firm leadership.

“I’ve known Cleve a long time and think the world of him,” Roller said. “He’s quiet and kind and really cares about people. He does things the right way. And he’s a good listener, which not that many people are.  He’s just a good man and has been the right man for Cedar Ridge for a long time.”

Nick Sidorakis, the general manager at Southern Hills Country Club who is also retiring at the end of the year, said Stubblefield was the first GM in Tulsa to reach out to welcome him when he arrived in 1995 and the two have worked together and been friends since. Sidorakis runs the First Tee of Tulsa and Stubblefield has been on the First Tee of Tulsa Board for nine years.

“Cleve has always been there for me and I’ve tried to be there for him,” Sidorakis said. “We served on the Club Managers Association of America board together. He’s really done some great things at Cedar Ridge and moved that club to new heights. “

Member Bob Laird, who has been a two-time president of the board during Stubblefield’s tenure, agreed with Sidorakis that Cedar Ridge has elevated itself in many areas under his watch.

“The success of this club is due to Cleve and we are in the top quartile of all the metrics we track,” Laird said. “The membership respects him immensely. He’s done some really cool things and some things behind the scenes that not everyone knows or appreciates that solve problems and make the club look good.

“My dad was in the hotel restaurant management business and he knows it’s tough just to run a successful restaurant. That’s just one small piece of everything Cleve does and is responsible for.”

Nanette and Cleve Stubblefield

The LIV Tulsa event is an example of Stubblefield’s abilities. Despite the controversy surrounding LIV, the event itself, put on in short oder with lots of logistical hurdles and agronomic challenges, was an unquestioned success and one of the best attended events the league has had to date, particularly in the United States.

No one is a better example of the loyalty Stubblefield engenders than Cheryl Fair, who was his controller/office manager for nine years at Tulsa Country Club and for the past 16 years at Cedar Ridge.

“Cleve is the guy that doesn’t mind going into the kitchen to wash dishes if he needs to,” Fair said. “He is also the guy who goes fishing with you or goes to your wedding. He has a great relationship with the employees and the members and that’s just one of the things that really makes him a good GM.”

Cleve and wife Nanette have four children and two grandchildren. A native of Enid, he started his career with Landmark and worked at both PGA West and Mission Hills in the Palm Springs Area before becoming the GM at TCC at age 29.

“The most important thing I can say about Cleve is he was always a strong advocate for his employees,” said incoming Cedar Ridge president Steve Jelley. “That’s sometimes tough to do when you’re dealing with a large membership. At the same time he was always a strong advocate of the membership. That’s a fine line of being good to both sides and he was great at it.”

“You never hear anybody talk bad about Cleve,” said Director of Golf David Bryan. “All the employees love him dearly and he’s just a really genuine guy and has had a wonderful career. He’s helped turn Cedar Ridge into a great club that’s in as strong a position as it’s ever been.”

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Ken MacLeod

Publisher Golf Oklahoma | Oklahoma's No. 1 Golf Source