Pfister’s weight loss was Fleming’s gain in Hall of Fame career

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By Ken MacLeod

If E.J. Pfister, sweating profusely in a rubber suit provided by wrestling coach John Smith, had run just a few more laps in the bowels of Gallagher-Iba Arena, Tim Fleming’s breakout senior season at Oklahoma State may never have happened.

Fleming, the long-time and ultra successful director of golf at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club, told the amusing story on himself at his Monday night induction into the South Central PGA Section Hall of Fame. Also inducted posthumously was his friend and fellow PGA professional Mark Fuller (1961-2001).

Junior golf leader Dawn Darter of The Greens at North Hills in Sherwood, Ark., was named the Section Professional of the Year for the second time since 2019. Nick Sidorakis, general manager at Southern Hills, was given an honorary membership in the PGA of America for his career work and leadership in bringing the 2022 PGA Championship to Tulsa. Tom Jones, President and COO of Oak Tree National in Edmond, was named Executive of the Year. A complete list of award winners is below.

Fleming, who has been the head professional and now director of golf at OKC G&CC since 2008, is one of the most accomplished professionals in the country, both in serving his membership while maintaining an outstanding playing career. He has won more than 20 section major championships, competed in 22 PGA Professional Championships, five PGA Championships and in the U.S. Senior Open. He is a seven-time Section Player of the Year and was the 1998 Section Golf Professional of the Year.

In the fall of 1996, however, Fleming, though a highly-recruited junior star from Oxford, Miss., had experienced a middling level of success at OSU through three years. He finished sixth in a qualifier at the beginning of his senior season and was looking at staying home while the team took off for the Butler National Intercollegiate in Chicago.

E.J. Pfister

Pfister, who was also Fleming’s roommate, had qualified for the tournament, but he was also struggling to meet a weight goal set the previous year by coach Mike Holder. He had reached 240 pounds as a sophomore and was trying to get down to 185, a number Pfister said was shouted out by Scott Verplank as a worthy goal and then agreed upon by Holder.

“I hadn’t weighed 185 since I was in eighth grade,” Pfister said. “But I was trying. I was losing three pounds a week but it was tough.”

Verplank was now gone but Pfister was determined to make weight. He lost more than 40 pounds from his sophomore to junior season but was still a few pounds short of his goal despite joining Smith for some intense workouts on a running track in the lower depths of Gallagher-Iba.

“I remember coach Holder saying, “E.J., you’re out. Flem get your sticks.” Pfister said Tuesday. “And he really took advantage of it.”

Fleming finished third individually in Chicago, then went on to tie for fourth two weeks later in the Buckeye Fall Classic. He went on to play every event his senior year, recording five more top-10 finishes including sixth place individually at the NCAA Championship at Ohio State’s Scarlett Course.

“I finished sixth individually but third on my team,” Fleming said. “Probably needless to say but we won the national championship.”

Brian Watts won the individual title for OSU, with Michael Bradley in fourth, Fleming tied for sixth and a svelte Pfister, now back in the lineup, tied for 65th. Pfister went on to win the Big Eight Championship and the NCAA individual title in 2008.

“I want to give coach Holder credit for not giving up on me and allowing me to be a part of something really special,” Fleming said.

Pfister is now teaching at both Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club and at Oak Tree National. He and Fleming are still fast friends and he appreciates Fleming’s role in the section over the course of his outstanding career.

“Tim is one of the best club pros in the country,” Pfister said. “The work he’s done with his staff, the merchandising, as a teacher, his continuing drive to be the best club pro. When we visit other facilities he wants to know everything about their operations. Plus how hard he works on his own game and his conditioning. He’s so well rounded and the members love him. It’s really cool for me to be working him now.”

Fleming started his career at Silverhorn in Edmond, then was head professional at The Trails Golf Club in Norman from 1996-2002 and at Quail Creek Golf & CC in Oklahoma City from 2003-2008. He, wife Ellen, son Thomas and step-son Patrick reside in Oklahoma City.

Fuller, long-time PGA golf professional in Oklahoma and one of the best competitors in the PGA South Central Section for decades, passed away Oct.  21, 2021 after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 60.

Fuller, who was the Director of Golf at Surrey Hills Country Club in his hometown of Yukon when he was diagnosed in January of 2019, battled back from an original prognosis of only having a few months to live to playing tournament golf and qualifying for the 2019 PGA Senior Professional Championship at Barton Creek Resort near Austin, Texas.

“He never gave up and just persevered,” said Jeff Tucker, his fellow PGA professional who worked with Fuller at both Gaillardia Country Club (2013-14) and at Surrey Hills. “His attitude was always good and he fought hard. He was just a wonderful man who would do anything for you. A dear, dear friend and I loved him.”

Fuller grew up in Yukon and tied for sixth in the 1978 Class 4A state championship, He attended the University of Houston from 1980-83, where he was an All-American and as a junior a starter on the 1982 NCAA national championship team with such illustrious teammates as Steve Elkington, Billy Ray Brown and John Slaughter. Jim Nantz of CBS fame, Fred Couples and Blaine McAlllister were Houston teammates earlier in his career.

PGA Section notes: Garrett Diel, formerly of Gaillardia Country Club in Oklahoma City, has been named the new head professional at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club. Fleming remains the director of golf.

Steve Kimmel

Oak Tree National long-time head professional Steve Kimmel has announced he will retire in March, he has been the head pro at Oak Tree National for 21 years. He and wife Sammie are moving to Panama City, Fla. Previous to working at OTN, Kimmel worked at Meadowbrook Country Club in Tulsa (1995-2002), Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City (1990-1995) and Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club (1981-1989.) He was the head professional at Jimmie Austin Golf Course in Seminole after graduating from Oklahoma State when former Oak Tree Country Club professional Hugh Edgmon convinced him to apply at Oklahoma City.

“I told Hugh I was happy here. He said no, get in the car, and he drove me down there to meet Len Casteel (then the head pro at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club. The rest is history.”


South Central PGA Awards

Golf Professional of the Year
Dawn Darter, The Greens at North Hills, Sherwood, AR

Hall of Fame Inductees
Tim Fleming, Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club, Nichols Hills, OK
Mark Fuller (1961-2021), Edmond, OK

Honorary South Central PGA Membership
Nick Sidorakis, Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa OK

Teacher of the Year
Bruce Baxley, Searcy Country Club, Searcy, AR

Player Development Award
Trent Rommann, Crestview Country Club, Wichita, KS

Youth Player Development Award
Jett Johnson, Quail Creek Golf & Country Club, Oklahoma City, OK

Professional Development Award
Jim Young, Gaillardia Country Club, Oklahoma City, OK

Bill Strausbaugh Award
Mark Budler, The Club at Indian Springs, Broken Arrow, OK

Executive of the Year
Tom Jones, Oak Tree National, Edmond, OK

Patriot Award
Chris Tuohey, Sand Creek Station, Newton, KS

Private Merchandiser of the Year
Garrett Diel, Gaillardia Country Club, Oklahoma City, OK

Public Merchandiser of the Year
Tyler Woodward, Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club, Norman, OK

Resort Merchandiser of the Year
Rob Yanovitch, Shangri-La Resort, Afton, OK

Assistant Golf Professional of the Year
Trent Rommann, Crestview Country Club, Wichita, KS

Leon Faucett Salesperson of the Year
Yoyo Rosario, Antigua/Lorente, Dallas, TX

Player of the Year
Austin Peters, The Territory Golf & Country Club, Duncan, OK

Senior Player of the Year
Jim Young, Gaillardia Country Club, Oklahoma City, OK

Super Senior Player of the Year
Vince Bizik, PGA Life Member

Assistant Player of the Year
Andre Tourinho, Broken Arrow Golf & Athletic, Broken Arrow, OK

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Ken MacLeod

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