U.S. Senior Open: Edmond's 'Statement course' Oak Tree National prepares to make its return to the spotlight

Oak Tree hasn’t been on center stage much in the past three decades, but the 7,214-yard, par-71 layout is known by every pro player, especially veteran seniors.
by Michael Baldwin Published: June 21, 2014
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photo - OAK TREE NATIONAL GOLF COURSE        PHOTO COURTESY OF OAK TREE NATIONAL
OAK TREE NATIONAL GOLF COURSE PHOTO COURTESY OF OAK TREE NATIONAL

— Soon after Oak Tree National was awarded the 2014 U.S. Senior Open, a countdown calendar in the clubhouse was started. The countdown began with more than 1,000 days.

Three years later that countdown chart is nearing single digits. Oak Tree will host the prestigious Champions Tour event July 10-13.

“When the number starts out at more than 1,000 you become kind of numb to it because it’s such a long way off,” said Oak Tree PGA teaching pro Jim Woodward. “When they started putting up tents and building grandstands that’s when you really saw everyone around here get excited. Every day it’s that much closer.”

Scott Verplank, the former Oklahoma State star and longtime PGA touring pro, will be one of the top story lines when he makes his Champions Tour debut on his home course.

“I remember when the tournament was six months away, then six weeks,” Verplank said. “Now it’s, ‘Oh, gosh, it’s almost here.’ You see all the work being put into it by so many different people. It’s really cool to see it all come together. Things started changing a couple of months ago when they started building grandstands and TV areas.”

Oak Tree marketing director Steve Kimmel said the U.S. Senior Open will bring back some luster following a period when Oak Tree went through ownership changes.

“You’re talking the U.S. Senior Open, which is the biggest event on the Champions Tour,” Kimmel said. “This tournament means so much to a lot of people around here. Everyone is excited that we’ll host such a great golf tournament. It’s one of those events you spend three years preparing for. It’s exciting it’s so close.”

Corey Pavin, who won 15 PGA Tour titles, shot even par to finish 17th at the 1988 PGA Championship that Jeff Sluman won at Oak Tree.

The 54-year-old Pavin hasn’t played the Pete Dye-designed course since. He was still on the regular tour when the Senior PGA was held at Oak Tree eight years ago.

“I’ve always liked playing in the Midwest,” Pavin said. “It’s nice to go places we haven’t been. A lot of players are really looking forward to this tournament. I’m sure the fans will come out in droves, which makes it a lot of fun.”

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by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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