EDMOND — The Oak Tree logo is one of the most recognizable in golf.
Several factors play into a course built in the 1970s having a first-rate worldwide reputation, but longtime club members concur Bob Tway was one of the most influential factors in Oak Tree’s meteoric rise.
“Bob’s impact on this golf club is immeasurable,” said Scott Verplank, who played at Oklahoma State just after Tway’s college career ended. “Bob is such a great guy that I knew after I finished I wanted to be around him and Willie (Wood). I love Oak Tree and the community we have here. Bob is such a big part of that.”
Because of his ties to the Pete Dye-designed layout 20 miles north of downtown Oklahoma City, Tway will be one of the crowd favorites at the U.S. Senior Open, which begins on Thursday.
“Bob Tway and Oak Tree were synonymous even before Scott Verplank,” said Oak Tree co-owner Everett Dobson. “I don’t think Bob ever thought about changing his address. We’re fairly far south, but there are a lot better places in the winter to prepare for the Tour. That’s how much Bob cares about this club.”
Asked why he became so invested in Oak Tree nearly 35 years ago, Tway provided one of his customary dry sense-of-humor responses before turning serious.
“When people over the years have asked me why I live in Oklahoma, I tell them it sure isn’t because of the weather,” Tway said. “It’s a great golf course, but we’ve lived here because of the people. It’s a great place to raise a family.”
A three-time All-American at OSU, Tway was the first Oak Tree player to enjoy “major” success on the PGA Tour. The pinnacle of his career coincided with Oak Tree’s reputation growing nationally.
Two years before Oak Tree hosted the 1988 PGA Championship, Tway was named the 1986 PGA Player of the Year. He won four times that season, including holing out from a greenside bunker on the final hole to win the 1986 PGA Championship at Inverness Club in Toledo.
“I’ve only been part of the ownership group for six years but I’ve been a member here since the mid-’80s,” Dobson said. “Oak Tree was put on the map because of the players carrying that logo around the country. It was a well thought out strategy by the leadership of Landmark that’s still paying dividends today.
“We’ve always had the Oak Tree Gang. We’re thought of a players’ golf course. Those players have represented Oak Tree so well, but no one has represented Oak Tree any better than Bob Tway, one of the classiest men you’ll ever meet.”
Tway was born in Oklahoma City, but during the late 1960s and early ’70s, Tway’s father, then an executive with IBM, moved the family to Missouri and Connecticut before finally settling in Georgia.
A natural athlete, quiet but cerebral, Tway was a quarterback and pitcher growing up, but he always concentrated on golf every summer. After helping lead OSU to the 1978 and 1980 national championships, Tway was honored as the most outstanding player in college golf in 1981.
Tway earned $15.8 million on the PGA Tour, 77th all-time. He’s added nearly $2 million on the Champions Tour but has often confessed he probably tinkered with his swing too often throughout the years.
“I’ve had a good career but I think it should have been better,” Tway said. “I feel I could have won more tournaments. Sometimes trying to get better, it can backfire. If I knew that back then I’d have changed some things, but that’s not the way life works.
“All in all, I’m thankful I’ve got to play professional golf since I left college. Not many people get to go through life and wake up every day and enjoy doing what they’re doing. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my career, but I’ve been fortunate to play golf for a living, which is what I always wanted to do.”
Tway, 55, owns 13 career pro wins, including eight PGA Tour wins in addition to winning the 1985 and 1987 Oklahoma Open. He plans to continue to play on the Champions Tour for the foreseeable future.
“My game is not at the level it needs to be, but I still love to play,” Tway said. “I still believe there’s a lot of good golf for me. I’ve hit the ball fairly well, but my scoring hasn’t been where it needs to be. These guys out here play great. To win, you can’t have parts of your game you’re not doing well.”
Tway is 49th on this year’s money list. He’s posted only one top-10 finish and hasn’t won since he captured the 2003 Canadian Open.
Still, Tway, Verplank and Wood know the 7,219-yard layout better than anyone in the 156-player field.
“Bob probably would admit his short game isn’t the best it’s ever been, but he hits the ball so well,” said Steve Kimmel, Oak Tree’s director of golf. “The farther they move it back, the better it will be for him. This tournament is so great for all of our guys. You just don’t see five or six guys get to play on their home course.”
Tway, who lives near the driving range, believes his game is close enough he could make a run this weekend if everything comes together.
“It’s like I said at media day – it doesn’t matter how often you play a course if you’re not hitting it well,” Tway said. “Now, if you know a course and you’re playing well it can be a huge advantage. I definitely know where to not miss. I’d love to play well. I’m very much looking forward to it. This is home.”
Tway’s influence on Oak Tree is not lost on those that have been associated with the club the past four decades.
“Bob loves the game of golf,” Dobson said. “Even though it’s his vocation, if he wasn’t on the Champions Tour he’d still be playing in our weekly Wednesday game. In fact, he plays on Wednesdays when he’s not in an event. That’s how much he loves the atmosphere here at Oak Tree.”