Oak Tree Golf Club, the site of the 1988 PGA Championship, has been sold to an Oklahoma City businessman who hopes to bring more majors and potentially a regular PGA Tour stop to the course.
Ed Evans, the chief executive of Oklahoma City-based Stelera Wireless, said Tuesday he is purchasing the course from retired furniture store operator Don Mathis and hopes to close on the sale within the next month.
“There are very few opportunities in this world to be a part of something like this that has such a lot of history and is such a part of Oklahoma golf,” Evans said in a telephone interview.
Located in the north Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond, Oak Tree most recently hosted the 2006 Senior PGA Championship. It also hosted the 1984 U.S. Amateur.
Evans, who is an Oak Tree member, said he thinks Tulsa’s Southern Hills — which hosted last year’s PGA Championship — has surpassed Oak Tree in recent years as Oklahoma’s most respected golf course but he’d like to put the Edmond course back on top.
He said he will contact architect Pete Dye, who designed the course, to see if he would be interested in updating it.
“We’ve got a great golf course today, but I’d certainly like to make it one of the premier courses in the country,” said Evans, who is also a member at Florida’s Isleworth club that is Tiger Woods’ home base.
Mathis, who has owned the club since December 1994, said after his retirement he knew eventually he would need to find someone else to operate it. Evans was the right fit at the right time.
“I didn’t have the club for sale. Some people approached me and I thought it was right for the club,” Mathis said. “It’s always been a special place for me.”
Evans said he will consult Oak Tree’s members to determine their vision for the course and whether they’d be willing to give up their course for a few weeks on an annual basis for a PGA Tour event. He has already consulted with PGA pros Scott Verplank and Bob Tway, who are members at Oak Tree, and spoken with PGA and U.S. Golf Association officials.
Evans said he would consider pursuing both a major and a regular tour stop.
“I think you can start talking about both at the end of the day,” Evans said.
Evans believes the Oklahoma City area has shown it will support golf events. In addition to the majors at Oak Tree, Oklahoma City’s Quail Creek Golf and Country Club has hosted PGA and senior tour events and Gaillardia Country Club hosted the Senior Tour Championship earlier this decade.
The primary hurdle would be finding a major corporate sponsor for the event. In recent years, several PGA events in other cities have struggled to maintain their sponsors.
“We seem to be in a window right now where there could be an opportunity to grab a regular event,” Evans said.
Evans said improvements at Oak Tree could begin as soon as this fall, after the golf season begins to slow down, but he has no timeframe for securing an event at the course.
“I think there’s a lot of homework that has to be done between now and then,” Evans said.
This is the latest in a series of forays into the sports world for Evans.
He was previously part of a group that tried to purchase the Washington Nationals and he was initially part of Clay Bennett’s group that purchased the Seattle SuperSonics before deciding to pull out.
“I think there’s a couple of motivating factors,” Evans said. “One is certainly being a sports junkie ... and the other is the chance to bring something back to Oklahoma.”