Tulsa CC's charm is in its difficulty, history
Randy Keck will tell you that his fellow citizens of Tulsa, Okla., know the game and know it well. It’s what you might expect from a city with such a footprint in golf history.
“They have a very good golf IQ in the city of Tulsa,” Keck said Sept. 12, a day after wrapping up the Dale McNamara Fall Preview at Tulsa Country Club, site of this spring’s NCAA Women’s Championship.
That’s music to the ears of women’s golf fans hoping for a repeat of the 2010 national championship hosted at Landfall Country Club in Wilmington, N.C., where spectators lined the fairways and residents packed the porches of homes on the property.
The Tulsa Sports Commission assisted in the bid for this NCAA Championship, and it’s a group that’s familiar with putting on events, whether that’s concerts, ball games or golf tournaments. Judging from the crowds that lined the fairways at Preview, a regular-season event, Keck expects a good turnout in May. The Sports Commission already is drumming up awareness.
Tulsa hosted the NCAA Women’s Championship in 1999, when Duke won the title, and the course hosted an LPGA event from 2001 to ’03. Nearby Southern Hills also is a prominent golf stop, and most recently hosted the 2007 PGA Championship, won by Tiger Woods.
“This is a great golf city, and people here are very excited by the NCAAs,” Keck said.
The championship will allow Tulsa Country Club, an A.W. Tillinghast design, to showcase recent renovations by Rees Jones. Among the biggest changes? The addition of more than 60 bunkers.
Defending national champion USC topped the 15-team field with a 54-hole total of 8-over 848. Keck said tournament directors tried to set up the course like it would play for the national championship.
“It was probably much harder than most early-season tournaments will be,” said Keck. He predicted the winning team score would be close to par.
Tulsa Country Club’s greens were receptive over the weekend, thanks to additional watering in the Midwest summer heat. Keck said players can expect the greens to measure 11.5 on the Stimpmeter during championship week.
Part of Tulsa’s appeal as a championship venue is that weather can play such a factor, especially the wind.
“You kind of had all the elements in place from the weather standpoint,” Oklahoma State head coach Courtney Jones said of the weekend. In the spring, it’s typically much windier on the Oklahoma plains.
Jones’ Cowgirls finished solo third at the Preview, seven shots behind USC and three behind runner-up Oklahoma. Jones played collegiately for the Golden Hurricane (2002-06), and calls Tulsa a ballstriker’s course.
“It’s demanding,” she said. “You can’t just bomb it. You have to think about where you’re going to place it.”
Arizona State head coach Melissa Luellen agrees. There’s a premium on hitting fairways.
Luellen’s mother Dale McNamara, the namesake for Tulsa’s annual home event, is one of the well-known stories in women’s college golf. McNamara started the Tulsa program from the ground up. As a volunteer coach in 1974, she had a starting budget of $1,600. She went on to lead the Golden Hurricane to four national championships.
Arizona State posted its best round of the tournament on Day 3 to finish seventh. Luellen, who played for and coached at Tulsa, says the weekend’s scores say a lot for the course. The bunkers added in the renovation were well-placed, there is a premium on hitting the fairways and the two par 5s (the course plays to a par 70) are not reachable. The 16th, which played at 535 yards for the Preview, could be especially pivotal. The double dog leg means the longest players can’t hit driver, and the second shot requires touch.
“Play the par 5s at even par and that’s a good thing,” said Luellen. The winner will have to do her scoring on the par 4s.
The consensus on Tulsa? It’s a good test in a great atmosphere.