The gallery went wild as he stepped to the first tee box. The sounds were reminiscent of a scene out of Happy Gilmore. The crowd noise was deafening and welcomed.
Needless to say, I am not talking about Tiger Woods. If a patron so much as rustled a leaf, Woods' caddie Steve Williams would vaporize the spectator into particle dust.
Bailey Ranch Golf Club, 10105 Larkin Bailey Blvd., is nestled in Owasso, off the beaten path. The course layout is extraordinarily unique, and the challenging greens rank high on the list of reasons to play the course.
The course hosted Hooters Tour events in the past, and Golf Digest ranks it as one of Oklahoma's Top 10 you can play. Who am I to argue with the experts?
Several weeks ago, on a day when it didn't rain, I tackled the course with my neighbor. J.B. is my OSU outsider; every sports journalist has an insider -- who needs one of those?
Apparently, there was a mini-tournament taking place after our tee time. Hence the opening gallery I experienced for the first time in my life. It's hard enough for a hack like me to hit the fairway on the first tee.
Now add 16 to 20 spectators behind you, hooping and hollering. Hey, at least I didn't end up OB. I've always favored a par-5 hole to open a round. The initial hole at Baileys doesn't disappoint.
What the second hole lacks in length it makes up for in commanded accuracy. "Two is probably the most difficult hole," says Director of Golf Corey Burd.
Burd is originally from Owasso. His grandfather ran Mr. Baileys' ranch years ago.
"I grew up hunting and fishing, and when we'd come visit, we ran all over this place. Now I manage the same property my grandfather managed," recalled Burd.
Well, after two holes, I was feeling pretty good.
I still had the same golf ball, which is a moral victory of sorts. J.B. slapped a couple of sevens on his scorecard, which prompted a quick, "You're not going to write about that are you?" Of course not.
Again, we've had a bit too much rain over the past month or so; however, the course maintained a high level of playability.
"We haven't gotten the rain West Tulsa has. We've gotten too much really, but it's actually pretty dry out there. Last July and August we had 24 days over 100 (degrees), followed by an early snow, followed by ice, followed by a cold April. The last 10 months have been pretty difficult," said Burd.
The fairways played like carpet when I managed to find them. The only areas of concern were the few low-lying spots. Heading into the second nine, I found myself behind on the scorecard. Typical.
Hole number 10 is without a doubt the shortest par-4 in Oklahoma that I simply cannot manage to par. It's the deceiving drive to the drop-off fairway that gets your attention. Excellent way to start the back nine.
Number eleven is the longest hole on the course. A pond on the right keeps your drive honest. The second or, in my case, third shot into the green is uphill and guarded by bunkers. It ranks as the hardest hole on the back nine.
The 12th hole is one of my favorites. It moves away from the houses. "Two and 12 are by far our most difficult golf holes," said Burd.
It is also the first hole a man could pee on and not have to worry about someone watching. Not that I condone that kind of behavior on the course, I'm just saying.
Hole number 13 is being rebuilt. A new green is only a short iron away. The 14th hole is an ego builder. The par-5 comes in less than the typical 500-yard mark.
The signature hole is number 17. "It is almost an island green. It is long. It's windy. You have a lot of options," said Burd. Or you can deposit one in the pond and take a drop. Make sure you utilize the designated ball drop area.
Overall the experience was fantastic. The golf pro in the pro shop, Chad Baker, was engaging and knowledgeable, and the cart didn't feel like it was juicing at the end of 18.
Baileys and Battle Creek together started a unique membership this year.
"You can play two quality golf courses for one membership. So far, it has been really well received. It also helps our existing members as they get an added benefit," said Burd.
PGA or Bust
What would a golf column this year be without a little PGA Championship talk? In case you forgot, the Championship comes to Southern Hills Aug. 6-12. However, if you weren't aware of the dates, chances are you were not going to attend anyway.
"I think Tulsa's ready. We've shown in the past, with the 2001 U.S. Open, that we can handle it. I think the influx of people is not going to be as extensive as the Open.
"It's late in the summer. It's August and people are getting ready to go back to school and they've already had vacation," Burd said.
He gauges some of the differences between the '01 Open and the '07 Championship by scheduled tee times. In '01, the tee times at Baileys were booked solid for the week of the tournament far in advance. There are still slots available for the week in August.
This doesn't mean the event won't be special. "It'll be exciting. It'll be fun. It'll be crowded, but I don't think it'll be U.S. Open kind of crowds," he said.
Back by popular demand are actual questions proposed to Tiger Woods by local media members via teleconference in June. Again, not sure who asked the questions and not sure the answers matter.
"Because the Tiger Slam ended here and because you haven't won here in two tries, you've been such a dominant player, I just wonder, do you feel there are courses that don't fit Tiger Woods, and if so, is Southern Hills one of them?" Great idea, call out Tiger Woods for going 0-2 on a course.
"You've said in the past that you don't believe that it is a course that doesn't suit you; it's just a matter of you just didn't play well enough." I get it. Tiger is an intimidating persona. However, this loaded question was rubbish. Or was it even a question? My kid is three and she makes more definitive queries.
"You don't believe the course doesn't suit you, correct?" You see where this is going already don't you. Imagine how Tiger must have felt.
"On a scale of one to 10, how would you gauge the way you are playing at the present?" This was quickly followed up by the same media member sliding Tiger a note saying "Do you like me? Circle yes or no".
Hurry up and get here, PGA Championship!
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