EDMOND, Okla. – Oak Tree National will host the 2014 U.S. Senior Open, officials said Thursday, weeks after the completion of a $6 million renovation to restore and improve aspects of the golf course.
The par-71, 7,410-yard course, designed by Pete Dye, opened in 1976 under the name Oak Tree Golf Club and has hosted the 1984 U.S. Amateur, the 1988 PGA Championship and the 2006 Senior PGA Championship.
It went 18 years between hosting top-level events, partly because a previous owner declared bankruptcy and there were problems with the course. So a group of investors who bought the course last year poured money into renovating it in the hopes of bringing back a major championship.
“We look for the best courses and there’s no doubt in my mind that Oak Tree falls into that category,” U.S. Golf Association executive director David Fay said.
“For a golf course that is relatively young, it has already built up quite a resume of significant events,” he said.
Ed Evans, the chief executive of Oklahoma City-based Stelera Wireless and leader of the Oak Tree ownership group, said hosting another successful Champions Tour major would be a big step toward turning the course into a regular stop for major events.
“I think we were given the chance to get back on the national map,” Evans said. “What we’ve been given by the USGA is an opportunity and it’s incumbent upon us to go execute on that opportunity.
Jeff Sluman won the 1988 PGA title at Oak Tree, and the course was set to host the 1994 PGA Championship when its owner, Landmark Land Co. Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 1991. A group of Oak Tree members bought the course in 1994 and it was later sold to Evans.
The 1994 PGA eventually was moved to Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, about 90 miles to the northeast. Southern Hills has continued to host major events – including the 2001 U.S. Open, the 2007 PGA Championship and, this week, the U.S. Amateur – while Oak Tree struggled to return to national prominence.
During the course renovation, every fairway and bunker was redone, with the goal being to return the course to its original condition, but with modern updates. A strain of U-3 Bermuda turf that’s common now was put in on the fairways, 22 bunkers were added, the tee boxes were laser-leveled and the greens were modified to play more like they did when the course opened. Dye was brought in to provide guidance on the makeover.
The course also changed its name to “Oak Tree National” in an effort to better distinguish the course from neighboring Oak Tree Country Club.
“All the owners … wanted to get Oak Tree back to the status that they felt it should be,” said PGA Tour pro Bob Tway, who lives at Oak Tree. “With the renovations that they did, it was still a great golf course before, but I think it just got a little bit better. Their goal is to have major championships and this is a start.”
Tway is one of a group of touring pros based out of Oak Tree. That group includes Scott Verplank, David Edwards, Doug Tewell, Gil Morgan, Willie Wood and Mark Hayes. All will be 50 or older in time for the 2014 event.
“It would be wonderful if everybody could still play,” Tway said.