Mendenhall to be missed after 38 years at Oakwood CC, Tucker excited to get started

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By Ken MacLeod
Top photo by Mike Klemme

Time marches on. Although Tim Mendenhall seems to have a done a masterful job avoiding its ravages, his days as the trusted and beloved face of Oakwood Country Club in Enid are nearly over.

For 38 years Mendenhall, 74, has shown up early and worked late, usually six days a week as the head professional and director of golf. Combined with Hack Williford (1948-51), Dan Langford Jr. (1951-1980) and Dave Bryan Sr. (1980-85) he is one of only four gentlemen to have run the pro shop at the 1948-era club with its beautiful Perry Maxwell-designed golf course. That’s a level of stability and consistency seldom matched.

Consistency can be overrated, however, if the quality is mediocre. Under Mendenhall, Oakwood members were treated to a level of service, care and professionalism that was exceptional, according to long-time members, club officials and his fellow PGA professionals.

“Tim is a legend and has always done what’s right for the membership,” said Cole Wasinger, Oakwood’s general manager and also an experienced PGA professional himself, having formerly been the head professional at both Southwind CC and Buffalo Dunes Golf Course in Garden City, Kan. “He has that old school mentality and pretty phenomenal energy. He’s been a father figure, grandfather, brother to generations of members and adapted well to all the different trends and things that have been thrown his way, like Covid, that you could never plan for.”

Mendenhall will transition to head professional emeritus at the end of 2023 and also has been granted an honorary membership with full playing privileges. He’ll be around if the new man needs any advice or guidance.

And that new man is Zach Tucker, 32, who for the past seven years since graduating from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah has been an assistant professional at Cape Cod (Mass.) National Golf Club in 2016, Gaillardia Country Club in Oklahoma City (2017-20) and Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club (2020-23), working under the tutelage of Tim Fleming, considered by many as one of the best PGA pros in the country.

Tucker is also the son of long-time Oklahoma City-area PGA professional Jeff Tucker. It’s fair to say he’s been training for this his whole life, but still he has remarkably big shoes to fill.

“Tim is the epitome of what a club pro should be,” said 2021 Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame inductee Art Proctor. “I don’t know of many people in the nation who have had as many assistant pros go on to be head professionals and that speaks volumes. He’s a first class individual, family man, competitor and a really good player. For 40 years Oakwood had a great pro shop and he was always equal to the times.”

Zach Tucker

Many of his fellow pros fondly remember the years that Oakwood would annually host the South Central Section Professional Championship. Jerry Benedict, who will be retiring at the end of 2024 from an equally distinguished career at Adams Golf Course in Bartlesville, said the good times in Enid were responsible for him turning down a job in Grand Rapids, Michigan, many years ago.

“They offered me that job and I looked at my wife and (Brent) Goodger (former pro at Oak Tree National) and said, if I take that, I won’t be able to go see Tim at Enid. The Section Championship was so much fun. So I made that decision to stay.”

Dan Langford
Pat Jenkins
Jerry Benedict

“Tim is a good friend and one of the best pros I ever been around,” said Pat Jenkins, longtime teaching professional who was elected to the South Central Section Hall of Fame in 2018. “He was always about what was best for the club. He set a high standard. He’s made that one of the best jobs in our section.”

“Tim’s personality would rule the day in any circumstance,” said Dan Langford Jr., director of golf at Earlywine Golf Course in Oklahoma City and son of early Oakwood pro Langford Sr. “That’s just who he is. He gets along with everybody and is always fun. He has a great presence and people enjoy being around him.”

Mendenhall grew up in Enid playing at the public course Meadowlake but also getting on Oakwood when playing high school golf. He attended Oklahoma State from 1967-70 and then finished college at Phillips University, where he played from 1970-72. He was an assistant pro at Fenway Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y., from 1970-72, returning to Enid in 1980 to be the head professional at Meadowlake, where he remained until being offered the Oakwood post in 1985

Stacy Upton

A few years later he began to hear about this phenomenal junior practicing by car light at Meadowlake. He persuaded the club to extend playing and practicing privileges to a young Stacy Prammanasudh, giving her a key asset on her way to a standout career in Enid, at the University of Tulsa and later on the LPGA Tour, culminating in her Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame induction in November. He was also instrumental in getting a group of Oakwood members together to sponsor her when she first left college to attempt the LPGA.

“Tim is an amazing man,” Prammanasudh (now Stacy Upton) said. “He led the club with open arms and warm smiles and jokes. My golf career was able to take a big leap because he allowed me and my dad to come out to Oakwood and practice. Getting to play on faster greens and a course with more undulation prepared me for college and beyond.

“He introduced me to members that supported me in getting my professional career off the ground as well. He was a key factor in my success and I’m forever grateful.”

Long-time members and friends Mark Stevenson, known to all as the Waffle Guy for his former ownership of a Belgian Waffle Factory, and Dr. Dennis McIntrye, have been Mendenhall’s companions on numerous family and golf trips and his biggest boosters at the course.

“He’s just a genuine guy,” Stevenson said. “A good teacher, level-headed, never gets angry, good to his employees. I was with him the first time he shot his true age at 70 and he got a big kick out of that.”

Stevenson said he was nervous the first time he took a lesson from Mendenhall, figuring he was going to change so many aspects of his swing it would take months to adjust.

“He looked at me and said ‘why are you getting so high up on your left toe?” That’s it, he changed that and the results were better immediately.”

McIntrye grew up playing with Mendenhall and they played together on Enid’s high school team. They have remained friends ever since.

“Tim has been the cornerstone out here for the last nearly 40 years,” McIntrye said. “It’s a great course, great club and great membership and Tim has a lot to do with all that. We’re looking forward to Zach coming on board but hate to see Tim leave.”

Mendenhall and his wife Teri have been married 43 years, raising daughters Ryan, Lyndsay and Morgan and now have four grandchildren. When he first went to Oakwood in the midst of the early 1980s oil boom, the city and club were rocking and Oakwood had more than 700 members. Two years later after a devastating oil bust, it was down to 350 members.

A rocky start, but not one of Mendenhall’s making. Since then Enid has slowly diversified and the club has bounced back in terms of members and taken care of its facilities, with new irrigation, new clubhouse, new pool and many more improvements. Tucker will be taking over a strong club.

“The club is debt free and in so much better shape than when I came here,” Mendenhall said. “It’s been a great club to work for.”

Mendenhall is proud that so many of his assistants, including Frank Heinen, David Monday, Rodney Young, Woody Capron, David Rogers and Brandon Alexander, have gone on to become head professionals at other prominent facilities. He’s a humble guy, but one compliment this fall made him beam.

“I was talking with Cary Cozby (director of golf at Southern Hills), whom I consider to be one of the best in the country. He said ‘Tim, I wouldn’t want to follow in your footsteps.’ That makes me feel like I did something right, When you’re going through the daily operations, you’re not thinking about accolades. I told the board membership, you hired me to do a job and I did it to the best of my abilities. “

“Zach has big shoes to fill, no doubt, but he’s going to do a good job for us,” Wasinger said. “He’s worked for one of the best pros in the section in Tim Fleming, he’s got a calm presence about him, he’s in his early 30s, really what you want in a new pro. He did a great job growing the women’s program at OKC (growing the nine-hole league from 10 to over 100 members). He will continue some things that Tim did well while adding some technology-based stuff and new trends.”

“Tim is beloved in the community and I do have big shoes to fill,” Tucker said. “But I’m excited about the opportunity.”

Tim Mendenhall has good form on the course and off.

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Ken MacLeod

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