What were the big stories in Oklahoma golf 30 years ago when we started? Dive in
The following story is from the Aug.-Sept. 30th anniversary issue of Golf Oklahoma and looks back at our first full year of publishing in 1993 and what the major stories were.
By Ken MacLeod
Here are a few of the things we didn’t have when we started what was then called South Central Golf 30 years ago.
Cell Phones. Internet. Web sites. Email. Social media. Money.
The money we would borrow. The others came along in rapid succession and we’re still in a constant battle to keep pace.
Our first year we produced eight color tabloid issues which were delivered to courses throughout Arkansas, southern Kansas and Oklahoma. That was the extent of our communication with readers unless they picked up the phone and called us, or wrote us a letter or sent a fax.
Today we have five issues of the print and digital magazine, a website updated numerous times daily, a newsletter which reaches some 34,000 golfers and sizeable followings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We have a radio show and our friends in Oklahoma City have a terrific podcast which we promote. Readers can call, email, comment on the website or social media instantaneously. Better yet, they can share what we write with their friends, giving us a much wider audience between all the venus combined than we ever could have hoped for in the old world.
The one thing we have tried to do from the start is provide solid journalism and hope that would be respected and of interest to enough people to make this venture succeed. Looking back at the first year, what strikes me is how many highly talented journalists across the state and region contributed right from the start; Mike Sowell, John Rohde, Mac Bentley, Clay Henry, Jenk Jones Jr., Dan O’Kane, Mal Elliott, Jim Misunas, Beck Cross and others gave us an all-star lineup of writing talent from the jump.
We thought it would be interesting to look back at that first year and summarize each of the eight issues. Many of the people we met then are still newsmakers in and caretakers of the game today and have played a huge role in keeping us going for all this time.
First Issue, August, 1993
Our first cover was the iconic shot of Bob Tway leaping for joy in the bunker after holing out at Inverness to win the 1986 PGA Championship. We chose this because he was getting set to go back to Inverness for the 1993 PGA Championship and the 1994 PGA Championship was coming to Southern Hills. Mac Bentley, golf writer for The Oklahoman, interviewed Tway for the story.
In my first column I tried to explain my vision for South Central Golf. One line stands out looking back. “I guess it takes a little love and blind faith to plunge ahead with project like this when other efforts have failed.” I guess
Cool stories: We had a story about the development of Karsten Creek in Stillwater, along with a sidebar about Tom Jones leaving the Golf Club of Oklahoma to rejoin his old coach Mike Holder and be the face of Karsten Creek, which at that time was still unnamed.
Players: Two then young Oklahoma pros, Jeff McMillian and Darryl Court, kept diaries for us as both had qualified for the U.S. Open that year at Baltusrol. Jenk Jones wrote a history of major championships at Southern Hills in advance of the 1994 PGA Championship. Tim Graves ended Joe Nick’s five-match winning streak in OGA events and captured the OGA Stroke Play Championship. Matt Gogel, originally from Tulsa, won his second consecutive Kansas Amateur.
Stacy Prammanasudh, at 13, won the WOGA Junior Championship at Indian Springs by three shots over Angie Hopkins of Stillwater. The story mentioned how Stacy and father Louie, her caddie and swing instructor, disagreed strenuously at times over club selection. The final graph. “Judging by Stacy’s sweet swing and pure short game, the two will be disagreeing their way into the winner’s circle for a long time to come.”
Nailed that one.
Issue 2, Oct-Nov 1993
The Cover: Arnold Palmer after announcing the 1994 PGA Championship at Southern Hills would be his last.
Cool story: The research by Wilma Buckner and Eleanor Kee of Coffeyville, Kan., that the nine-hole Hillcrest Golf Course there was designed and built by Perry Maxwell, not George Bell as had been common in many records.
Features: Bill Glasson enumerating his many injuries to Clay Henry. A college preview featuring a very young looking Alan Bratton and Chris Tidland at Oklahoma State. A story on the government auction of Oak Tree National by Mac Bentley. An interview of PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman looking forward to the 1995 and 1996 Tour Championships at Southern Hills.
Courses: What was then called Spunky Creek Country Club in Catoosa begins cleanup of the massive devastation caused by a sprawling tornado in April that destroyed the pro shop, restaurant and cart barn and mangled most of the hundreds of trees on the course.
“The tornado came . . . and it played all 18 holes.”
Players: The late Mark Hayes wins the Oklahoma Open by a shot over John Freeman of Broken Arrow.
Issue 3, Dec-Jan 1993-94
The Cover: Page Belcher assistant pro Brian Silcott is overwhelmed by a ton of teaching aids, videos, books and other assorted golf gadgets, every one of which will take five strokes off your game until your average score is about 54.
Cool story; Former Tulsa Tribune sports editor Mike Sowell examines the meaning of golf, picking the brains of Princess Anne, William Wordsworth, Westbrook Pegler, James Weston, Max Beerbohm, Woodrow Wilson, Harper Lee and many others.
“Playing the game, I have learned the meaning of humility,” said Abba Eban. “It has given me an understanding of the futility of human effort.”
Features: The Tulsa World’s Dan O’Kane visits with CBS producer Frank Chirkinian. Arkansas State Golf Association Executive Director Jay Fox takes John Daly to task, Ping salesman Leon Faucett is profiled, John Rohde of the Oklahoman graces our pages for the first time with a review of the 1993 performance of the Oak Tree Gang. His lead summed it up nicely.
“David Edwards and Gil Morgan continued to be among the elite. Bob Tway and Willlie Wood rediscovered their talents. Doug Tewell remained consistent. Mark Hayes remained busy. Scott Verplank remained injured. And Andy Dillard remained in limbo.”
Players: George Glenn, age 50, wins his first Section Senior Championship. Professional Melissa McNamara discusses the search for her old swing. Soon after the interview, she won the JC Penney Classic, teaming with PGA Tour pro Mike Springer, leading to a $120,000 payday after making less than $30,000 during the full LPGA season.
Issue 4, February-March 1994
The Cover: Young golf architect Randy Heckenkemper of Tulsa is profiled, the beginning of a great friendship for this writer and architect. Randy had already completed Forest Ridge in Broken Arrow and South Lakes in Jenks as well as SilverHorn in Edmond and was awaiting the opening of White Hawk in Bixby when this article was written. White Hawk and SilverHorn were part of the movement toward upscale daily fee courses, they later became victims of the golf course contraction. White Hawk in particular was a very good course but ownership brought in a national golf course management firm to run it and that usually spells disaster for the course and its customers, as the firms constantly cut corners on maintenance, customer service and everything they can think of to cash flow and send a guarantee back to corporate headquarters and the ownership group. Still the way Bixby is growing now one wonders if a municipal course could be a success.
Cool story: Dan O’Kane profiles the Cozby family, parents Jerry and Karole and sons Chance, 18, Craig 22 and Cary, 25. The impact of the Cozbys on golf in Oklahoma has only grown from there. I still miss Jerry and his 7 a.m. phone calls.
Features: Mac Bentley delves into the amateur legacy of Charlie Coe in an extensive interview with the great one. Jenk Jones Jr. visits former Tulsa golfer Hank Haney at his ranch in McKinney, Texas, where Holley and Tracy Phillips were assistant teaching pros.
Players: Glen Day, Robin Freeman and Rocky Walcher advance through PGA Tour qualifying school and recount the adventure with John Rohde. ORU great Joey Rassett, age 35, also made it, though it was a short-lived career. A 5-foot-9, 130-poun Union high school senior Michael Boyd is profiled. Boyd, who would go on to be an All-American at Tulsa and make it on the PGA Tour, told us he hit up to 700 golf balls a day, but “was learning to practice more efficiently.”
Issue 5, April 1994
The Cover: A Mike Klemme photo of the new Karsten Creek graces the cover shortly before the course opened for play. Inside are more Klemme photos and a story on the course and how it became named for Karsten Solheim, Ping founder.
The story included a note on the board of Cowboy Golf, Inc., the group that Director of Golf Tom Jones would consult with on major policy discussions. How’s this for a powerhouse lineup. Boone Pickens, Bob Tway, Sherman Smith, Jim Hays, Odell Walker, Ken Greiner, Jerry Hedges and Roger Brown.
Cool story: Stillwater Country Club members Jimmy Schatz and Warren Dunn, both in their 80s and successful players in the state since the 1920s, take the readers on a tour of what golf was like going back 60 years.
Courses: In addition to Karsten Creek, we profile the newly opened Quail Ridge in Winfield, Kan., and the Tour 18 in Humble, Texas. We have a story on Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw renovating the Arlington Course in Hot Springs Village.
Players and pros:
Steve Ball pens the first of his columns promoting custom fitting, which he is still promoting today. He was one of the pioneers of this effort to stop buying clubs off the rack and make sure the lie, loft and shaft were correct for your swing.
Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein was in Tulsa to promote the new Portable Launch Monitor, at that time regarded as the greatest club fitting tool that had ever been constructed.
We also had a story on the LaFortune Park pro shop being named one of the top 100 by Golf Digest. We spoke with Jerry Jones’ top assistant Pat McCrate, now the longtime director of golf at both LaFortune Park and South Lakes. Another great friendship forged that is still going strong 30 years later. And the pro shop is still one of the best in the state.
Issue 6, May 1994
The Cover: The new Parformance School of Golf at Hot Springs Village was profiled.
Cool stories: A feature by Jim Stafford on character Duffy Martin and his growing golf empire in Guthrie. A feature by Dan O’Kane on Nick Price looking ahead to the 1994 PGA Championship. Good choice there. Price came to Southern Hills and dominated.
We visited Oklahoma State’s turfgrass research center with Dr. Mike Kenna of the USGA and tried to keep up with the tech speak between he and Dr. James Taliaferro of OSU. That same research goes on today and is still making a impact on golf courses across the country.
John Daly came to Oklahoma City for an appearance at an A Chance To Change clinic. He was struggling to stay sober (it didn’t last) and he was candid about it. Daly may not have been a great role model in a lot of ways, but one thing he did great throughout this career is play fast.
He complained about Nick Faldo and others who waited forever to hit their next shot. Maybe watching players like himself take forever to hit a shot is one reason Faldo is retiring.
Issue 7, June 1994
The Cover: Defending champ Paul Azinger came to Southern Hills for media day for the 1994 PGA Championship. Bald, scared and defiant all at once, Zinger delivered one of the most brutally honest and heartfelt press conferences I’ve ever attended.
At age 33, he had been diagnosed the previous fall with cancer and had been undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. He discussed throwing up every 20 minutes for nine hours after his first chemotherapy. The terror of waiting to hear whether the cancer had spread. And the peace he gained when he gave his life to God and said it’s in your hands now.
He concluded with “I’m telling you, if you’ve got your health, you’ve got it all. I took it for granted. I’ll never take it for granted again.”
Cool stories: Mac Bentley interviewed Ernie Vossler about his latest ventures and efforts to rebuild the Landmark brand after the government destroyed the original company that built Oak Tree National, Oak Tree Country Club and so many great resorts in Palm Springs and elsewhere.
Walter Hopper, who managed the PGA South Central Section Junior Tour for many years, discussed his love of the game and teaching with Dan O’Kane.
Courses: Jenk Jones Jr. visited Roman Nose state park golf course in Watonga and came away impressed with the wild and wooly of the then nine-hole layout in the Gypsum Hills.
Players: Patrick Lee won the Perry Maxwell Invitational at Dornick Hills, at that time a prestigious collegiate event in the state. Michael Boyd of Union and Stacy Rambin of Jenks were among the high school champions that spring. Tag Ridings of Tulsa led Arkansas through the NCAA Central Regional at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club with a sixth-place finish.
Issue 8, July 1994
Cover: Bailey Ranch Golf Course in Owasso, which opened the previous August, was the subject of our cover story. It was the latest addition in a rapidly changing golf landscape in Oklahoma that saw dozens of courses added across the state between 1987 and the early 2000s.
Bailey Ranch and Battle Creek in Broken Arrow were both municipal courses designed on the upscale daily fee model by Bland Pittman of Pittman, Poe & Associates. The plan was for the respective cities to own the courses but private developers sold the real estate lining the fairways of each.
Like any course, both have had rough years as the market has changed and play has fluctuated, but both Owasso and Broken Arrow have largely supported the courses including subsidies and capital investments as needed and thus they are still today two of the finer and busier public courses in the state. And as both Owasso and Broken Arrow have grown, they have helped tremendously with the quality of life issues that appeal to new residents.
Warren Lehr, now city manager of Owasso, was the head professional when the course opened and he raved about the design. People forget that when the front nine opened it was carved out of prairie grasses of a former cattle ranch owned by Larkin Bailey. It lost much of that character when the housing moved in, but the back nine still retains some of the wildness that made it great.
So here we are 30 years later and Lehr supports the course through his role as city manager. Long-time professional Corey Burd is deeply tied into the community as not only the pro but the Owasso high school boys golf coach and in other ways. I think I first met Corey on the basketball court at the downtown YMCA and another long friendship began. He’s done a wonderful job out there as did Warren.
Cool stories: We spent a couple of pages detailing the exploits of Tim and Todd Graves. Todd was already a proponent of the Natural Golf Swing, which the brothers still teach at their schools in Edmond and Florida. Tim, having finally conquered Joe Nick in both the OGA Stroke Play and Match Play championships, was about to join Todd in the professional ranks.
For those who wonder about the Nick reference, Joe Nick was then the dominant player in Oklahoma amateur golf. In the 1993 State Amateur at SilverHorn in Edmond, Graves had Nick buried by five holes after 18 holes in what was then a 36-hole finale. Nick went on one of his patented birdie barrages, finished nine under for 36 holes and clipped Graves 1 up.
All that did was cause Tim to work even harder for the next 12 months, until he defeated Nick 4 and 3 in the 1994 event. He did lose in the semifinals to eventual champion Lance Combrink.
“I think all he thinks about is beating Joe,” Todd said at the time. “Winning the stroke play helped, but that match play loss ate at him.”
“In my mind, I beat Joe last year,” Tim said. “It didn’t end up that way – Joe took the trophy home – but I beat him. I couldn’t play better golf. If I shoot that well and lose, than I just can’t win.”
But he did, eventually.