By Ken MacLeod
Tom Jones is back in Oklahoma and Oak Tree National – a year away from hosting the U.S. Senior Open – will be the beneficiary.
Jones, the former Oklahoma State four-time All-American and PGA Tour player who has been one of the top club professionals and facility managers in the area, was hired this week as the president and CEO at Oak Tree National. He begins July 1.
"I think you can see by the title what we think of Tom," said Oak Tree National co-owner Everett Dobson. "Tom is one of the most respected and trusted names in the sport. He’s been at the highest level of high profile clubs. He’s the consummate golf professional and will fit in great with our membership here at Oak Tree."
Jones, 58, came off the PGA Tour in 1983 and in 1984 became director of golf at The Golf Club in Broken Arrow. He left the Golf Club to be the head professional and manager for Karsten Creek in Stillwater from 1995 to 2004 before resigning. In early 2005 he joined The Blessings in Johnson, Ark., running golf operations and overseeing the real estate and property owners associations as well.
"I’m really excited to be a part of Oak Tree and take it from here forward," Jones said. "It’s always had such a great history and tradition. I’m looking forward to being a part of that and seeing where Everett and (co-owner) Ed Evans and the membership and I can take it."
Jones first saw Oak Tree during his playing career at OSU when the team came down for practice rounds when the course opened in 1976.
"We were used to playing at Lakeside in Stillwater and then we came down and saw this course with all the railroad ties, big humps and other design features and we had never seen anything like it," Jones said. "I think what Pete Dye did at Oak Tree was responsible for a lot of folks starting to recognize the golf course architect and his contributions."
Jones was asked to join the Landmark Land family in 1988 when Oak Tree co-founder Joe Walser asked him to take over as director of golf at the LaQuinta Resort & Spa in LaQuinta, Calif., but Jones was comfortable at The Golf Club of Oklahoma at the time and declined.
Jones did wear the Landmark Oak Tree logo – he picked up an armload of tennis shirts at LaQuinta from Walser – during his PGA Tour career from 1979-83. After leaving OSU in 1977, he spent one year on the European Tour – getting to play and have dinner with Seve Ballesteros was a highlight – and a year on the Sunshine Tour in Florida before winning PGA Tour Qualifying School in 1979. He won the 1981 Magnolia Classic on the PGA Tour, but his career was cut short by disc problems in his back that limit his playing to this day. He stopped playing after the 1983 season.
"It’s hard on those perfect days when you look down at the range and the balls are sitting there in the sun, because I want to go practice, which is what I most enjoyed," Jones said. "But I came to the conclusion long ago that I loved the competition more than I loved just playing the game. I was able to travel the world and meet a lot of great people and had a great experience. My job since has been to make golf a more enjoyable experience for others and I love that too. It’s very fulfilling."
From the Golf Club of Oklahoma to Karsten Creek to The Blessings, Jones has always worked at clubs that have inherently challenging courses but also must be kept enjoyable for higher handicap players. That challenge will remain true at Oak Tree,
"That’s the challenge for a lot of championship courses, to maintain the championship quality but realize that the majority of the time it’s member play. It’s not like I’ve been at easy courses, so I’ve got some experience at that."
Oak Tree National, with the U.S. Senior Open Championship on tap in 2014, has a membership proud of its tough reputation.
Jones grew up playing at Mohawk Park in Tulsa battling brothers Eddie and Joe, then played at Rogers High School before becoming new head coach Mike Holder’s first recruit at OSU in 1974. He was a first team All-American as a freshman and second team as a sophomore, junior and senior.
"I’m glad to be getting back to Oklahoma and to be associated with Oak Tree," Jones said. "I don’t know any golf pro or anyone in the golf business that at one time or other didn’t want to be associated with Oak Tree. Look at all the great people that have come out of there."