On a sunny Thursday afternoon, the Rick Reed Learning Center was dedicated on the new driving range at The Oaks Country Club in Tulsa. Reed, the head professional there since 1997, is retiring at the end of December. The indoor learning center equipped with the latest in teaching technology, is just the latest in many improvements at The Oaks made in Reed’s tenure.
The below story on Reed is from the fall issue of Golf Oklahoma, arriving this weekend at pro shops and homes throughout the state. Here is a link to the issue online, we hope you enjoy it.
By Ken MacLeod
The door to Rick Reed’s office at The Oaks Country Club seems to always be open, physically and metaphorically.
Whether it’s a member, an assistant, superintendent Dan Robinson, GM Pat Tubach, a salesman or a visiting writer, Reed always seemed to find the time for everyone during his 25-year run as head professional, which is coming to an end with his impending retirement on Dec. 31.
Reed will be replaced by Derrick Vest, the director of golf at The Patriot in Owasso. Reed will exit with a reputation as one of the industry’s genuine good guys, something we could all strive for these days. And it was earned not just at The Oaks, but long before as head professional at Shangri-La Resort from 1989-97 and before that as an assistant to Buddy Phillips at Cedar Ridge from 1978-1989.
“I’m a better person, father and superintendent for having known Rick and Pat (Pat Tubach, who is also retiring at year’s end.),” Robinson said. “I feel so lucky to have worked with both of those guys.”
“Rick is always there, always answers his phone and his door is open to everyone,” said former PGA Tour golfer Ron Streck, a longtime Oaks member and Reed’s teammate at the University of Tulsa. “I don’t know how he does everything he does. I ran one tournament for a few years and worked my butt off. He does those sort of things every week.”
Reed enjoys all the myriad duties of a golf professional, but member service has always been hugely important.
“I’ve always enjoyed the game and being around golfers,” Reed said. “Golfers are generally good people and fun to be around. I like taking care of them and hearing their stories.
“Although we all love to play, my job is basically in the service industry. Whether it’s selling them a set of clubs or a favorite college team shirt, I’ve always liked to take care of our golfers.”
Reed’s decision to spend a lifetime in golf was influenced by his father Ron Reed selling his donut shop and volunteering to install grass greens at his nine-hole sand greens course in the small town of Mt. Vernon, Mo., back in the late 1960s. Ron became the superintendent, putting Rick to work each summer mowing, watering and helping the course improve.
Reed, who also enjoyed football and baseball, became smitten enough with golf to earn an offer to play at the University of Tulsa, where from 1971-75 he played on teams that at times featured two of TU’s highest-profile golf graduates, Streck and Hank Haney.
High-profile teammates but a low-profile team, as there were no flights back then to gaudy locations such as Pebble Beach or Hawaii.
“We drove a van and usually go somewhere like Norman or North Texas to play a triangle match,” Reed said. “Except for Ron, who was really good, the rest of us were just okay.”
Rick went straight from TU to a job as an assistant at Ridglea Country Club in Fort Worth from 1975-77 before moving to Cedar Ridge to work for Phillips. Father Ron had also moved up in the golf world, becoming superintendent at Tulsa Country Club while Rick was in college, then moving across town to Cedar Ridge prior to the 1983 U.S. Women’s Open held there.
By the late 1980s, Reed knew it was time to become a head professional, but was leery of taking the opening at Shangri-La, which that year was in receivership and owned by Fourth National Bank in Tulsa, with golf enthusiast Ed Keller as president. Keller persuaded Reed to take the job, telling him the bank planned to be involved.
“Sure enough, they sold it six months after I was there, but that was when Club Corp bought it and put it under their resort division,” Reed said. “It was good. We started the Mickey Mantle Make-A-Wish Tournament during that time. We never lost money and we cash flowed each year, but we never made enough to pay down the note.”
The Oaks, a member-owned club, has invested heavily in its own improvements. In Reed’s tenure, he’s presided over two clubhouse renovations, a complete course renovation by architect Bill Bergin in 2016, renovated pool and pool house, the addition of the six-hole Acorn par-3 course and just this year a completely rebuilt driving range and the addition of an indoor teaching facility. Membership is full and rounds are up to close to 30,000 annually.
Reed received two of the South Central Section’s highest honors, being inducted into the Section Hall of Fame in 2012 and being named Section Professional of the Year in 2013. He was named Resort Merchandiser of the Year six times while at Shangri-La.
Reed is looking forward to playing more golf, traveling with his friends and wife Barbara and basically not working weekends, the bane of every club professional.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve had friends say, hey, we’re going up to Branson or wherever to play for a few days, and I’ve had to say, I have an event at the club,” Reed said. “It will be nice to go and play with friends.”
“Rick is very much a hands-on pro and takes a lot of pride in taking care of the membership,” said Tracy Phillips, Buddy’s son and a teaching professional in Tulsa. “He’s worked his tail off and I’m sure he regrets not playing a little more golf over the years. A lot of people have taken a look at his operation and how well it’s run, from the merchandising standpoint and he puts on great tournaments. He always crosses all the Ts and dots the Is.”
Like some of us of a certain age, the game has also passed Reed by to a certain extent as it is currently taught and played. It’s just as hard for Reed to relate to hitting an 8-iron 210 yards as it is for this writer.
“I know it’s a more rotational swing and it’s all in clubhead speed,” Reed said. “I still don’t know how they do it. We’ve got kids out here who can drive it 315 yards.”
Also retiring at the same time is general manager Tubach, who came on board in 2016 and has worked closely with Reed. Tubach, who previously owned Dawn Hill in Siloam Springs, Ark., after numerous pro and GM jobs in Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, said he is looking forward to building a cabin in Arkansas and learning to fly fish.
“Rick was great to work with here,” Tubach said. “He is a true professional. I’ve known him for 40 years and he is one of the best in the business.”
Vest said he was honored to be hired at The Oaks, a club with a reputation for stability and and longevity. He will be just the fifth head pro in 100 years and said he hopes to make that 125 at the least.