Vernon Garland “Buddy” Phillips has moved on to the next realm, but his influence on the lives of family, friends, golfers and golf professionals throughout the state lives on. Admit it, if you have a pair of bright red Sahara slacks or a blinding Lilly Dache shirt still on a hanger at the dark recesses of your closet, you probably bought them from Buddy, or at least you’re a kindred spirit.
Talk quietly but dress loudly was a motto for Buddy, who passed on Friday, August 21, 2020 at the age of 85. For 40 years Buddy was the head PGA Professional at Cedar Ridge Country Club in Broken Arrow (1972-2012), uplifting a young club into one of the most respected in the Southwest.
He was dedicated to his family, his members, the game and the golf course he loved and the still growing tree of young and now middle-aged professionals he taught revere him.
Born July 22, 1935 in West Milford, West Virginia to Garland Fletcher Phillips and Allie Bessie Phillips, Buddy and family moved to Jal, N.M., where he excelled in sports and first took up the game. Upon graduation from high school he followed his father by taking a job in the oil field business at El Paso Natural Gas, but soon accepted an assistant professional post at Jal Country Club, where he met another legendary pro in Harvey Loudermilk who would help instill service to the membership as a guiding principal for the rest of his career.
It’s a demanding life but Buddy, one of the game’s most innovative merchandisers, knew how to enjoy it. He was, in his own words, a walking mannequin advertising the colorful threads he preferred, and the tournaments he hosted at Cedar Ridge were legendary, including the Roy Clark Celebrity Classic and the annual Ridge Run. Under his leadership the club hosted the 1983 U.S. Women’s Open Championship and numerous other USGA events, as well as high school, Oklahoma Golf Association and other junior championships. His support of junior golf was second to none.
Buddy was married to Doris Swain Phillips on Oct., 7, 1955 in New Mexico and the young couple moved to Artesia, N.M., in 1961, then to Denver and arrived in Tulsa when Phillips was offered the head professional job at Tulsa Country Club in 1966. He accepted the head professional position at Cedar Ridge in 1972. The couple had two children, daughter Kathy and son Tracy, and it was the emergence of Tracy as one of the top junior golfers in the country that presented Buddy with one of the few conflicts of his career, the desire to be at work and also to watch his son as he began to play a national schedule.
The little things never escaped Buddy’s attention. Baylor golf coach Mike McGraw remembers Buddy paying him full rate as a caddie for a round that was rained out, a lesson in generosity that stuck. One of his former assistants Rob Yanovitch, now the Director of Golf at Shangri-La Resort, said “great leaders have a heart to serve and Buddy has served his membership, staff and association with consistency and a sense of fairness like none other I’ve seen.” Attention to detail was a hallmark that all of his former assistants carried with them as they forged their own successful careers.
Buddy retired in 2012, and the learning center at Cedar Ridge was named the Buddy Phillips Learning Center in his honor. Cedar Ridge General Manager Cleve Stubblefield said at the time that “Buddy Phillips is Cedar Ridge.” He was inducted into the PGA South Central Section Hall of Fame in 2007 and won the Bill Strausbaugh Award in 1997.
Buddy is survived by his brother Jerry Phillips, wife Doris Phillips, daughter Kathy Boehler and husband Terry Boehler, son Tracy Phillips and wife Suzie Phillips, and grandchildren Aaron Boehler and Samantha Phillips.
Services will be at 10 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020 at Moore Southlawn Chapel, 9350 E. 51st Street, Tulsa. Visitation is Wednesday, Aug. 26, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Moore Southlawn Funeral Home, 9350 E. 51st Street, Tulsa. The service will also be available on live webcasting at www.moorefuneral.com, click on the obituary for Buddy Phillips and then the live webcast link on the Tribute Wall.
You can wear your Sahara slacks, flowering Lilly Dache shirt and dazzling white blazer!