Six legendary figures in Oklahoma golf will comprise the first class in the newly formed Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame.
Included are one of senior golf's most successful competitors in Gil Morgan, all-time top amateurs in Charlie Coe, most decorated golf coaches in Mike Holder, a man with a brilliant career as an amateur, professional and golf administrator in Bob Dickson and one of the world's most revered golf architects in Perry “Duke” Maxwell.
The sixth member of the inaugural class is not a household name but should be, according to golf historians who know his true impact as a civil rights pioneer. Bill Spiller of Tishomingo, through his courage, tenacity and deep sense of justice, did more than any other man to end the Caucasian only status on the PGA Tour.
The class will be inducted on Oct. 25 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Ticket information will be available closer to the event at www.oklahomagolfhof.org. A fundraising golf tournament for the new Hall of Fame will be held June 3 at Oak Tree National in Edmond.
“Our selection committee looked at dozens of viable candidates who have had a tremendous impact on golf both in Oklahoma and beyond,” said Everett Dobson, chairman of the Hall of Fame Board. “We will have no shortage of excellent candidates for years to come, but we felt these six epitomize the depth and variety of contributions that give Oklahoma such a proud golf heritage and will make this Hall of Fame one of the nation's best.”
Charlie Coe (1926-2001)
Ardmore native Charles Robert “Charlie” Coe stands alongside Bobby Jones as one of the great amateur golfers in U.S. history. He won the U.S. Amateur in 1949 and 1958 and was runner-up to Jack Nicklaus in a historic battle in 1959.
Coe, a three-time Big Seven Conference champion at Oklahoma, also won the 1950 Western Amateur, was runner-up in the 1951 British Amateur to Dick Chapman, won the Trans-Mississippi Championship four times and played on six Walker Cup teams. He was a playing captain in 1959 and non-playing captain in 1957.
Coe made 19 appearances in The Masters at Augusta National and holds numerous amateur records including most cuts made (15), top-24 finishes (9), top-10 finishes (3), eagles (6), rounds played (67) and most times low amateur (6). In 1961, he rallied from six shots down in the final round to finish one shot behind Gary Player.
The 1964 winner of the Bob Jones Award for distinguished service given by the USGA, he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated on Sept. 14, 1959. He remained an amateur his entire life while running a successful oil business in Oklahoma City.
McAlester native Robert B. Dickson won both the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur in 1967, the first man to do so since Lawson Little in 1934 and 1935. The U.S. Amateur triumph was particularly satisfying, as in 1965 he had suffered a four-shot penalty for having a 15th club in his bag during a one-shot loss to Bob Murphy at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa.
Dickson learned the game from his father Ben Dickson, the professional, greenskeeper and manager of McAlester Country Club. By high school, Bob was good enough to win the Class 2A state championship three times for Muskogee High School. A two-time All-American at Oklahoma State in 1965 and 1966, he also won the Oklahoma State Amateur in 1965 and 1966 and the Oklahoma Open in 1966 and 1971.
Dickson began a 10-year career on the PGA Tour in 1968, winning twice before being hired by the PGA as Director of Marketing for the Tournament Players Club in 1979. He was also a rules official on the Senior PGA Tour before resuming his playing career on the senior circuit at age 50 in 1994. He won the 1998 Cadillac NFL Golf Classic in a playoff with Jim Colbert and Larry Nelson.
Dickson was a member of the 1967 Walker Cup team and won the Bob Jones Award for distinguished sportsmanship in 1968.
The current Oklahoma State athletic director, Mike Holder set a standard that will likely never be challenged during his 28 seasons as head coach of the Cowboy golf team. Taking over for Labron Harris Sr. in 1973, Holder coached the Cowboys to eight national titles and 24 conference championships. He coached 101 All-America selections, 20 conference individual medalists and five individual national champions. Every Holder squad made it to the NCAA Championship and made the cut.
Though born in Odessa, Texas, Holder attended high school in Ardmore, where he lettered in golf for three years and was conference medalist in 1966. He won the Oklahoma Amateur Championship in 1968 and during his career at OSU he was the Big Eight Conference medalist in 1970, third-team All-America in 1969 and 1970 and honorable mention All-America in 1968.
In addition to his brilliant coaching, Holder proved to be a masterful fundraiser and single-handedly led the effort to raise funds for and build Karsten Creek Golf Course, a highly-ranked Tom Fazio design that serves as the home base for the men's and women's golf teams.
Perry Maxwell (1879-1952)
The genius of Perry “Duke” Maxwell was his ability to divine the natural ebb and flow of any particular site and, using primitive earth-moving equipment, let his course routings take every advantage of what Mother Nature provided.
Without Maxwell's handiwork, Oklahoma would be bereft of many of its greatest golf course treasures, including Southern Hills, consistently ranked among the top-25 courses in the United States, and site of three U.S. Opens and four PGA Championships.
The pleasure of playing Maxwell's designs is not limited to the pros and Southern Hills members. From his earliest work at Dornick Hills in Ardmore to such great courses as Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club, Twin Hills CC in Oklahoma City, Hillcrest CC in Bartlesville, Oakwood CC in Enid, Muskogee CC, Oak Hills CC in Ada, Ponca City CC and many public courses as well, the former Ardmore banker left an indelible legacy on our state.
He is immensely respected elsewhere as well. Two of his greatest works, Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kansas, with nine holes added later by his son Press Maxwell, and Crystal Downs, along the shores of Lake Michigan, a collaboration with famed Scottish architect Alister McKenzie, are consistently ranked even higher than Southern Hills.
Gil Morgan could be in the Hall of Fame of humble. It's hard to imagine a nicer, more unassuming superstar than the Doctor of Optometry from Wewoka via East Central State College.
The long-time member and resident of Oak Tree National, Morgan has enjoyed one of the most incredible “second chance” careers of all time. A seven-time winner and consistent performer on the PGA Tour from 1977-90, Morgan's consistent ball striking and unflappable demeanor proved a magical elixir when he moved to the Champions Tour.
Morgan has won 25 Champions Tour events, more than any golfers except Hale Irwin and Lee Trevino. He won three senior majors and pocketed more than $20 million. In his first two full seasons on the Champions Tour (1997 and 1998), Morgan won 12 events and had 23 top-three and 37 top-10 finishes in 50 starts. He continued to win at least one event annually through 2007.
Among his 40 professional wins, Morgan twice won the Oklahoma Open.
Bill Spiller (1913-1988)
Tishomingo native Bill Spiller fought valiantly for equal access on the PGA Tour for African-American golfers and, though he never really got to enjoy the fruits of his victory, his efforts were crucial in paving the way for Charlie Sifford and others to finally integrate the tour.
“Bill Spiller is a hero, but unappreciated,” said national golf writer Al Barkow, who wrote the definitive story on Spiller's integration efforts for Golf Digest in 2008. “
Charlie Sifford gets a lot of the credit for breaking the racial barrio, but Bill Spiller paved the way.”
Spiller moved to Tulsa at age 9 and experienced the sting of racism first-hand at his father's store. He eventually moved to Los Angeles and took up golf around age 30. He started competing and winning blacks-only amateur golf tournaments during the 1940s. After being denied entry in the 1948 Richmond (California) Open by the PGA of America, Spiller spent many years challenging the segregation policy of the PGA of America and its Caucasian-only policies.
Spiller sued. In 1952, the sponsors of the new San Diego Open invited Spiller, unaware of the "Caucasians only" clause. This time he was assisted by fellow invitee and former heavyweight champion Joe Louis. Both men were excluded by Horton Smith, president of the PGA of America.
Louis took his story to popular newspaper columnist Walter Winchell. The story quickly gained national attention and again, Spiller threatened to sue. Once again, Smith promised to change the rules. This time the PGA of America announced blacks could play, if invited. Some sponsors began inviting blacks, however the segregation clause remained.
In 1960, Spiller's cause came to the attention of California attorney general (and future California Supreme Court justice) Stanley Mosk, who told the PGA of America it would not be allowed to use public courses. At the time, most tournaments were held on public courses.
When the PGA of America replied that it would restrict itself to private courses, Mosk promised to stop that as well. Furthermore, he began contacting state attorneys general around the country. Spiller finally won his cause in 1961, but he was well past his prime by then. Every African American who has played on the Tour since owes Spiller a debt of gratitude.
Those six will join 21 golfers previously inducted into the Women's Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame. It was previously announced that the women ‘s hall voted to merge with the new Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame Board and support one state golf hall of fame going forward. More information on all past inductees is at www.oklahomagolfhof.org.