The 2023 Directory and Travel Issue of Golf Oklahoma is online now and in pro shops this week. Click here to open or download the full issue. Below is a story from the issue we hope you enjoy on the relationship between Cedar Ridge Director of Golf Dave Bryan and Greg Norman, now LIV CEO but once a larger-than-life golf hero for Bryan.
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Greg Norman has been lacerated by media and fans worldwide for some of his actions and words in the effort to launch LIV Golf.
When LIV Tulsa comes to Cedar Ridge Country Club on May 12-14, the Great White Shark will find safe harbor in the office of a longtime admirer, thanks to his kindness to an 11-year-old boy some 40 years ago.
David Bryan, for the past 10 years the director of golf at Cedar Ridge, was a tow-headed boy in the company of his father Dave Bryan, then the head PGA professional at Oakwood Country Club in Enid, later the longtime head pro at Southern Hills Country Club. The two were attending the 1982 PGA Championship at Southern Hills. Norman, then 27, had won seven times overseas but was still relatively unknown in the United States and two years away from winning the first of 20 PGA Tour victories.
The younger Bryan was not a fan of his own bleach blond hair and all the attention it drew from grown women, who were constantly fussing over him. His father, spotting the flowing blonde locks of Norman practicing his putting, introduced himself and asked him if he would reassure his son that one day that seeming liability would be an asset.
“He said something like, ‘Hey, I know you’re a young kid right now but the girls will really love your hair later,” Bryan recalled. “He was just really encouraging and I became a fan that day.”
As Bryan grew, so did the resemblance and by the time he reached collegiate golf at East Central in Ada, his nickname was Shark. He even had an affinity for straw hats.
“That’s all anyone knew me by,” Bryan said. “Most people didn’t even know my name.”
Scott Varner, now boys and girls coach at Northeastern State in Tahlequah, gave Bryan a chance when he walked on after a semester at Paris (Texas) Junior College.
“Shark was a great success story,” Varner said, “He was part of four top-10 NAIA teams and helped lead us to third in the nation as a senior.”
The paths of the two Sharks crossed again. As Dave Bryan was now head professional at Southern Hills, David got to spend some time there with his hero at the 1994 PGA Championship, the 1995 and 1996 Tour Championships and the 2001 U.S. Open.
“Greg would rent a house close to Southern Hills and I was often the one to get him a cart so he could drive back to the house, so we got to talk quite a bit,” Bryan said. “Then the year before Covid he was at the PGA Show as an ambassador for Club Car. My dad and I got in line and were able to spend 10 minutes or so chatting with him there and reminiscing.
“I know he’s been a lightning rod and a lot of people have vilified the guy, but he’s always treated me really well. I look forward to seeing Greg and chatting with him a little bit.”
COUNTDOWN TO MAY
Bryan and tournament chairman Frank Billings said the Cedar Ridge membership has actively embraced the LIV Tulsa event, serving on committees, volunteering to work the event and buying tickets.
“It’s just a unique opportunity to bring some of the best male golfers in the world to Cedar Ridge,” Bryan said. “The members are excited to see that type of golfer play their course, just see how their game stacks up to what they are doing. How will they attack holes compared to what we know and do. That will be one of the more fascinating things to see. Are they going to hit shots that you wouldn’t have even thought possible?”
Adding intrigue to how the players will handle Cedar Ridge, the only two players in the field known to have played the course previously are former Oklahoma State golfer Charles Howell, who has played rounds there with former OSU teammate and member Bo Van Pelt, and Talor Gooch, who played the course in a stroke-play qualifying round for the 2009 U.S. Amateur at Southern Hills, shooting 69.
Phil Mickelson escaped to Cedar Ridge to work on his short game during practice for the 2007 PGA Championship but did not play the course, according to former director of instruction Tracy Phillips.
Cedar Ridge has a proud history of competitive events, having hosted numerous high school and college tournaments, USGA qualifiers, Oklahoma Golf Association and Women’s Oklahoma Golf Association championships, as well as an LPGA tournament from 2004-08 and the U.S. Women’s Open in 1983. It has seldom failed to hold its own.
Both Bryan and superintendent Eddie Roach Jr. said the LIV format, 54 holes for 48 players with a shotgun start starting around noon each day, with music blaring and no cut, will probably lead to some go-for-broke strategy with players not having to play defensive golf.
Cedar Ridge is 7,392 yards from the tips. That distance used to be considered long, but no longer. The par-5 first hole at 540 yards from the back tees will likely be played as a par-4 and even then will be one most of the players can reach the green with driver followed by a short or mid-iron. The once fearsome uphill par-4s, such as No. 4 at 430 yards, will be approached with sand wedges.
LIV Golf will handle setup in terms of pin and tee positions, so the scoring will be in its hands to a great extent. Other unknowns are the weather, which in early May can range from frigid to hot, calm to gales and rain likely at some point. The moisture will affect the firmness of the greens and fairways. Rough will be light barring an early spring heat wave.
Roach said he was following a blueprint laid down by Southern Hills superintendent Russ Myers after he prepared Southern Hills for May events the past two years in the Senior PGA Championship and the PGA Championship. Part of that means making an early call to a sod farm to have sod reserved if there is winter kill such as the area experienced in 2001. Also more pigment will be put down on the fairways and roughs in March in an effort to stimulate Bermuda growth.
“You’re just trying to encourage the Bermuda to wake up,” Roach said. “For the rough, our goal is to get whatever we can get. You’re at Mother Nature’s whim when it comes to May golf. It all goes back to the old 150 rule. Daytime highs and nighttime lows have to equal 150 for Bermuda to have active growth.”
Bryan, who admittedly hadn’t followed LIV Golf closely, was surprised when he received the call from General Manager Cleve Stubblefield that Cedar Ridge was looking at hosting an event. Having studied the format since, he thinks some of the things LIV Golf is doing could eventually be incorporated by the PGA Tour as well.
“A lot of the talk by the membership is about the entertainment side (which includes concerts on Friday and Saturday nights). It’s a festive atmosphere and I’m interested to see and feel the vibe. We could be getting a little glimpse into the future of professional golf with this. You and I may be traditionalists, but when you think about the next generation of fans they are doing some things that are creating interest.”
Ticket packages and volunteer information are available at Livgolf.com. Follow our coverage online here through the tournament.