Oak Tree co-founder Ernie Vossler is best known for being one of golf's top developers. Few remember he started his career on tour, winning three PGA titles. Or that he was married to a LPGA pioneer.
Vossler died Saturday at his home in LaQuinta, Calif. He was 84.
“His unselfishness, not wanting anything in return, he would bend over backwards to help you,” said Oak Tree pro Gil Morgan. “He was my first real instructor in the '60s, something I'll always be grateful for. We had a neat friendship.”
Vossler is survived by his wife, Marlene Hagge-Vossler, a 26-time LPGA winner who was one of the founders of the women's tour.
Inducted into the inaugural class of the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame, Vossler and Joe Walser, Jr. built Quail Creek in Oklahoma City. They later teamed to form Landmark Land Co., which built Oak Tree Golf Club, which opened in 1976, and Oak Tree Country Club, which opened in 1981.
The Landmark logo would become one of the most recognizable emblems in golf. Vossler was involved in several prestigious developments including all three courses at LaQuinta Resort and the first four courses at PGA West in California.
In August of 1997, Golf Illustrated described Walser and Vossler as “two of the most important golf developers in the world.”
Vossler, though, was quoted several times what he valued most was relationships. He cherished mentoring Morgan, who has 40 professional wins, including 25 wins on the PGA Champions Tour. Morgan, from Wewoka, first met Vossler at Quail Creek.
“He helped me considerably when I was starting out on the tour,” Morgan said. “He was my instructor almost entirely at that point and time. He had a lot of neat stories about the tour. We talked golf a lot but he talked about life in general. It was a total learning experience.”
Oak Tree teaching pro Jim Woodward also took his first pro lesson from Vossler at age 13. More than a decade later Woodward's first four years in the golf business was with Landmark working with Vossler and Walser.
“You would never meet two finer gentlemen, would never meet two more golf oriented people,” Woodward said. “Ernie was my matriarch that got me to love the game of golf. I know we don't live forever but it's always sad to lose those type of people. It's kind of ironic we lost both of them the past year.”
Walser died last year in Dallas at the age 80.
Vossler won the Kansas City Open in 1958, the Tijuana Open in 1959 and the Carling Open in 1960 but decided to become a teaching pro at Southern Hills in Tulsa, then Quail Creek to spend more time with his family.
One of Vossler's innovations was bundling a green fee to include golf carts and range balls.