New superintendents named at Southern Hills, Cedar Ridge, The Patriot

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By Ken MacLeod

Tuesday was International Thank A Golf Course Superintendent Day. Members at several prominent clubs in the greater Tulsa area will have a new person to direct those sentiments to in the coming months.

• Southern Hills Country Club has named Bryant Evans, currently the superintendent at Old Town Club in Winston-Salem, N.C., to replace Russ Myers, who is going to work for the course design team of Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner.

• Cedar Ridge has named Jared Wooten, currently superintendent at Stillwater Country Club, to replace his father Mike Wooten, who has been interim superintendent since the club and former superintendent Eddie Roach Jr. parted ways in May.

• The Patriot in Owasso has named Blake Willems, a former assistant superintendent at Southern Hills, as its Director of Agronomy. Jack Dunn, who was promoted to superintendent after Jeremy Dobson was tragically killed in an auto accident on Feb. 21, 2022, remains in that role and the two will work together as the course reopens next week following a $3.3 million renovation.

If anyone can replace the popular and revered Myers at Southern Hills, Evans seems the ideal candidate. Not only has he worked for Myers at Southern Hills, he has spent the past five years taking another Perry Maxwell transition zone classic in Old Town Club from relative obscurity to the lofty perch of No. 38 in the U.S. by Golf Magazine, No. 54 by Golf Digest and No. 22 in the U.S. in Golfweek’s list of top 100 classic courses (pre 1960).

“Bryant is agronomically sound, he has the technical skills, he’s worked on a Perry Maxwell course in the transition zone and knows bent grass greens and Bermuda fairways,” said Southern Hills General Manager Nick Sidorakis. “He’s done an amazing job at Old Town. He’s got a calm demeanor, his staff loves him and he’ll be a very good fit culturally here.”

Evans said he loved his time at Old Town Club but Southern Hills has always been a dream job, just not one he expected to open this soon.

“I’ve always wanted to put myself in the right position to be considered if it opened up but never thought it would be this early,” said Evans, who is engaged to a Tulsan in Kendall Craft. “We love the Tulsa area and spent almost 10 years there.”

Evans was a volunteer on Myers staff for both the 2021 Senior PGA Championship and the 2022 PGA Championship and the club will host the 2023 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship next August. He said he learned a lot from Myers in the years they worked together.

“Russ does the fundamentals better than anyone else. He does the simplest things exceptionally down to the smallest detail. You never take a day off from doing things the right way. There are no shortcuts. That’s the culture I’ve tried to instill here.”

Old Town Club was renovated by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw in 2012 and the duo are back for some additional improvements now, but the club was ripe to be elevated when Evans was hired from Southern Hills in October of 2018.

“There were plenty of opportunities for improvement, a lot of low-hanging fruit,” Evans said. “We brought in a lot of what we were doing at Southern Hills to combat heat stress on the bent grass greens and other improvements and built an exceptional maintenance team. It’s been a really fun five years. I’m bummed to leave but extremely excited about going to Southern Hills.”

Wooten story from South Central Golf’s Apr/May 2007 issue. Click to read.

A Family Affair at Cedar Ridge

When Mike Wooten retired in January of 2021 after 34 years as superintendent at Cedar Ridge, speculation was his son Jared would move over from Stillwater CC to replace him. Jared had other ideas and declined to interview.

“For one thing, you never want to replace a legend,” Jared said. “Also I was at a different stage with my kids and school. It’s still one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I have many great friends here, the club is in great shape and the membership is growing, they’ve added a new pool and pickle ball and I’ve become really close with Chris Tidland (head professional) over the past three years. But it’s also probably a good time to leave in that everything is in good shape.”

At Cedar Ridge, Jared will step into another good situation with a thriving club and conditions that his normally dour father calls among the best he has seen in his now 36 years at the club.

“We’re thrilled that Jared is joining us and will carry on the family tradition,” said Cedar Ridge General Manager Cleve Stubblefield. “He’s proven himself at Stillwater CC to be one of the best in the business. And of course he grew up out here and knows Cedar Ridge as well as anyone.”

Jared first worked at Cedar Ridge as a 13-year-old on the summer crew in 1988 and continued that on and of through high school and college before becoming an assistant at Cedar Ridge from 2002 until becoming taking the post in Stillwater in 2006.

Willems moves across town to help The Patriot

One talented agronomist that Evans will not have access to when he takes over at Southern Hills is Blake Willems, who started his new post as Director of Agronomy at The Patriot on Sept. 4.

“With the golf course renovation and our commitment to excellence, we thought it was beneficial to return to the original staff structure of having both a Director of Agronomy and a Superintendent,” said General Manager Ali Sezgin.

Willems, a native of Little Rock, was an assistant at Southern Hills the past seven years, helping Myers with the 2018 restoration project and in preparations for the major championships in 2021 and 2022.

The Patriot has been closed for a good portion of the summer for a renovation project that includes extensive improvements on drainage, bunkers, cart path, creek beds, widening of certain fairways, green collars and tee boxes.

“Blake is a talented superintendent that gives us another set of eyes on everything,” Sezgin said. “Out goal as always is to be among the premiere clubs in the country and Blake will help us with that.”


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Ken MacLeod

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