FW golfer Martin Piller on how he played his way back on to the PGA Tour
If Ben Hogan is your club’s first founding member, the sales pitch writes itself.
The Texas Golf Hall of Fame voters probably didn’t need to see much more than that in deciding Fort Worth’s Shady Oaks Country Club deserved recognition in this year’s class as the “Texas Registry of Historic Golf Courses” selection.
“When I got the call on behalf of the club, all of us were very pleased and very proud,” said Mike Wright, Shady Oaks’ director of golf who has been at the club since 1984.
“If you look at it from an outsiders’ point of view, it’s something you’d think Shady Oaks deserved as a club. With the history and the performance of the club, we’re well deserving.”
Along with Shady Oaks, other honorees in this year’s class include PGA Tour professional and major champion Jimmy Walker; former University of Houston golfer and accomplished amateur Mike Booker; philanthropist and Plano resident Fin Ewing, III with a lifetime achievement award; and Preston Trail Golf Club head professional Cameron Doan (who has worked with, among others, major champion and Austin resident Rich Beem).
A formal induction ceremony will take place Oct. 14 at The San Antonio Country Club.
For Shady Oaks, it’s an honor to join Colonial Country Club as the only Fort Worth club’s in the Hall of Fame. Eight members of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame are affiliated with Shady Oaks in some form or fashion (Hogan, Marvin Leonard, Marty Leonard, Chad Campbell, Dan Jenkins, Lindy Miller, John Grace, Bruce Develin).
Shady Oaks was built by longtime Fort Worth businessman Marvin Leonard in 1958, the same man who built Colonial, and designed by Robert Trent Jones. The course has kept its prestige for more than 60 years.
Asked how the club has sustained its allure over the years, Wright said: “Well, we had a great start with our founder Marvin Leonard and our first founding member being Ben Hogan. Once you get past that, we’ve had the funds to keep the golf course in great shape and we’ve had great leadership as far as members serving on our board.
“We’ve had great foresight to keep up with the times.”
Shady Oaks may not be a household name such as Colonial, home of the PGA Tour’s Charles Schwab Challenge, but the club has hosted a number of notable events over the years.
The USGA’s U.S. Senior Amateur was held at the club in 2008, as well as the 2014 TGA Senior Amateur Championship. The course has hosted almost every Northern Texas PGA major event, too, and approximately 20 USGA qualifiers.
Additionally, the club hosts a number of junior golf events.
Shady Oaks is in the early stages of a complete renovation that will take a year to complete, Wright said.
But this process is necessary and will help it remain one of the top courses in the area.
Shady Oaks’ membership includes several PGA Tour and LPGA Tour professionals, too, including Chad Campbell, Angela Stanford and Martin and Gerina Piller.
But the biggest name tied to the club is Hogan.
Hogan actually pushed for a then 23-year-old Wright to become the head professional in 1986 and, of course, the members took Hogan’s advice.
“For whatever reason, Mr. Hogan took a liking to me,” Wright said. “I’m not bragging, but he helped edit my letter of application and even offered me his sports coat to wear.”
It worked out for Wright and he’s done his part in keeping Hogan’s “pet” in tact.
As Hogan famously said at the club’s opening, “Shady Oaks is special and there is no place like it anywhere. This one is my pet.
“Anyone who is building a golf course anywhere in the world and doesn’t come down to see what has been done at Shady Oaks will be making a big mistake.”