Oak Tree ready for the big time

by Jenni Carlson Modified: July 23, 2009 at 1:00 am •  Published: July 23, 2009
EDMOND — So, the folks at Oak Tree decided the golf course needed an overhaul. New grass. Different irrigation. Bigger bunkers. More bunkers, too.

Eleven months, $6 million dollars and one name change later, Oak Tree National has opened for business.

Most people couldn’t care less.

Only a couple hundred folks, after all, are members at the course, and while Oak Tree isn’t super-exclusive or ultra-expensive compared to some country clubs, one of its memberships still costs more than most of us could manage.

But on the day that the renovated course formally re-opened, we learned that there is a reason to care about these renovations at Oak Tree.

A major reason.

"It is certainly our goal to attract major events out here again,” lead investor Ed Evans said Wednesday. "I think it’s unlikely that you would see a regular annual tour stop out here. We’re more focused on something that would be every two to three years out here.”

That means major tournaments such as the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship.

Suddenly, talk of reshaped bunkers and contoured greens doesn’t seem so boring.

Oak Tree hosted the PGA Championship in 1988. At the time, many believed that would be the first of many major tournaments hosted by the Edmond course. But there has yet to be another PGA Tour major there.

Evans and Co. are working to change that.

"We are actively talking to all of the golf bodies on a regular basis,” he said, referring to the USGA, the PGA of America and the PGA Tour, "and I hope in the next 90 to 120 days, we’d be able to announce the start of what we believe will be a long-term commitment to pro golf here.”

What that could mean is anyone’s guess. Men’s event? Women’s event? Senior event? But as Evans indicated, Oak Tree is interested in major events, not regular tour stops.

Good thing. Tour stops are a crap shoot. Some draw great fields with notable golfers — Tiger, Phil, Sergio — but just as many are headlined by no-names.

Majors carry no such uncertainty. You know exactly what you’re getting — the best.

Sure, majors only come around every few years, but that isn’t such a bad deal, either. There was a time when the Oklahoma City metro area could’ve supported a regular tour stop. But with the economy the way it is and the NBA now in the fold, the landscape has changed.

Corporations that might otherwise back a tour stop already have money tied up in the NBA’s Thunder.

Ditto for fans with disposable income.

But with a major tournament, the financial strain would be eased. Business owners and ticket buyers would be more likely to pony up once every five years, especially if someone such as the talented Mr. Woods was going to be in the field.

Can Oak Tree really draw one of the PGA Tour majors?

That’s difficult to say.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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