By Ken MacLeod
For all their illustrious accomplishments and awards, what three of the 2023 inductees into the Oklahoma Golf Course Superintendent’s Association Hall of Fame cherish most are the times they spent actually playing the game together.
Mike Wooten, (Certified Golf Course Superintendent). Bob Randquist CGCS, and Gary Hallet were part of a group of 10-12 Tulsa-area superintendents who would meet regularly on Thursday mornings to forget the pressure of maintaining a course and pleasing members and enjoy the game. Their work provided joy for so many thousands of rounds for other golfers, it was only fitting they got to do the same as well.
“Never big money, but definitely competition,” said Randquist, at the time in the midst of his 1979-1998 run as superintendent at Southern Hills. “Those games were really important and helped us all maintain the right perspective on what was truly important, like your friends and your family.”
“Those games were a lot of fun,” said Wooten, superintendent at Cedar Ridge Country Club from 1986 to 2021 and again for part of 2023. “We would rotate and play all over town. There was some business talk but mostly just friends having fun.”
Wooten, Randquist and Hallet will join Ray Beard and salesman Rick Murray as the 2023 inductees. They will be formally inducted Friday evening at Cedar Ridge.
Hallet grew up in Nowata and began working at Adams Golf Course in Bartlesville when he was 16. He graduated from Oklahoma State in 1974 and his first post was superintendent at what is now called The Canyons at Blackjack Ridge in Sand Springs from 1974-76 He was hired as the first superintendent at Page Belcher Golf Course when it opened in 1976, where he stayed until 1985 when he took a post at the Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed Hank Thompson’s Celebrity Golf Club in Bixby (later White Hawk). The course never opened after a mid-80s oil bust and Hallet wound up at Meadowbrook Country Club, where he was superintendent from 1986-2007, followed by eight years at The Golf Club of Oklahoma from which he retired in 2015.
Hallet loves to play and also to teach. He was a part-time horticulture instructor at Tulsa Community College from 1977 to 1980 and has also worked with the Tulsa Technology Center. He was president of the OGCSA in both 1984 and 1994 and president of the Oklahoma Turfgrass Research Foundation in 1994. Regarded as one of the top well experts in Oklahoma, he still helps various courses as a consultant.
“I grew up on a farm and this is one way I could be a farmer,” Hallet said. “I just liked to be outdoors. I’ve met some great people along the way and love to share what I know. I’ve had at least a dozen go into the turf industry and that’s something I’m proud of.”
Hallet said one possible regret of his career is the hundreds of trees he planted at Meadowbrook that are now huge and give golfers at the course a bit of claustrophobia.
“We had a budget for 30 trees a year and we had a reason for every one we planted,” Hallet said. “But I’d sure like to take a lot of them out now.”
Beard also has history with Meadowbrook, having started his career there as a mechanic in 1979 after leaving the Army Corps of Engineers. He then went to The Coves in Afton for five years before working from 1989-96 at Cherokee Village, Ark. He came back to Oklahoma in 1997 to work for Wooten as a mechanic before becoming head superintendent at Indian Springs Country Club from 1998-2009 and then on to Tulsa County where he maintained LaFortune Park Golf Course from 2010-2020. He passed away in August of 2020.
Beard did not join in the weekly games, preferring to spend his free times working on cars and collecting guns.
“He loved working on cars,” said his widow Sandra Joy. “At one time we had one in the garage, four in the driveway and two in front of the house. He loved fixing them up and selling them. We had a ’63 Chevy that he rebuilt the motor, painted it and we drove for years. We loved that car.”
Wooten and Randquist are two of the biggest names in turf grass in Oklahoma history. During his 35 years at Cedar Ridge, Wooten not only maintained Cedar Ridge in immaculate condition but also was a resource and troubleshooter for superintendents across the state and well beyond.
A 1978 graduate of the Oklahoma State turfgrass management program, Wooten worked for Steve Wilcoxen at Ponce City Country Club from 1979-81 before becoming superintendent at Stillwater Country Club from 1982-86. His son Jared was also at Stillwater CC before taking over at Cedar Ridge earlier this year.
Wooten is the only three-time OGCSA president (1989, 1997 and 2010) and was on the board of directors 23 of the 25 years between 1986 and 2011.
Randquist, a 1972 University of Oklahoma graduate with a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering, came to Southern Hills in 1979 from Quail Creek Golf & Country Club in Oklahoma City, his first job as a head superintendent after assistant posts at Trosper Park and Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club. He guided Southern Hills through the 1982 and 1994 PGA Championships and the 1995 and 1996 Tour Championships. He had a good friendship with Judy Bell of the USGA, who was instrumental in Southern Hills landing the 2001 U.S. Open.
Randquist, however, left Southern Hills in 1998 for Boca Rio Country Club in Boca Raton, Fla., where he stayed until 2018. The slower pace, particularly in the summer when the course was nearly deserted, allowed he and wife LaVada to make some long-planned trips. He jumped back in the fray in 2018 when he was named the chief operating officer of the Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America (GCSAA) in Lawrence, Kan., where he spent 4.5 years until retiring in 2022. He was also president of the GCSAA in 2011.
“I went there planning to spend two years and wound up spending four and a half,” Randquist said. “But I really enjoyed working there and it was a great time to give back to a lot of members and an organization that has done a lot for me.”
He and Wooten have kept in touch over the years by phone even when there was nothing work pressing to discuss.
“We got to be good friends when he was at Southern Hills, particularly from getting to play golf together,” Wooten said. “We’ve always stayed in touch.”
Murray has worked in the Oklahoma turf industry as a salesman for many years, most recently with Harrells and prior to that with Winfield Solutions and the Paul Blakeney Company.