Weekend golfers looking to add a little competitive spice to their game should check out the Golf Galaxy Golf Tour, which offers two-person teams the opportunity to vie for prizes and merchandise in a tournament setting.
One of 63 cities nationwide offering a version of the unique tour, Oklahoma City boasts one of the largest tour schedules and fastest-growing followings, said tour director John Jones. Halfway through its fourth full season in the metro area " which includes 11 tournaments " the Golf Galaxy Golf Tour is averaging 36 players per event.
"If you can shoot 95 or better, you're eligible to play the Golf Galaxy Golf Tour," said Jones. "Basically, we're talking about your average golfer who is going to go out and play on most Saturdays. Our tour offers them a chance to play in a tournament environment at all sorts of different courses and to also have a lot of fun.
"I think more than anything, the camaraderie between the players on our tour is what makes it special."
LOCAL TOUR DIRECTOR
Jones, a 39-year-old Oklahoma City native, is the prototypical player for the Golf Galaxy Tour. He was basically looking for a way to play a little more golf when he walked into Golf Galaxy store on Penn and Memorial three years ago. He signed up for the store's e-mail list and eventually learned about the opening for the local tour director job in 2007.
"It's been great. We've had such a great response here in the Oklahoma City area over the last couple of years," said Jones. "It's a competitive " but fun " format that gives players a chance to play some courses they might not otherwise get to play. You can play with your best buddy or sign-up as a single and get paired up with another golfer."
With Calaway Golf on board as the presenting sponsor, the tour has grown from its original six-event schedule in Minnesota 11 years ago to a national phenomena that includes 320 tournaments and more than 8,000 participants across the country. The Golf Galaxy Golf Tour has become the largest network of amateur golf tournaments in the country.
Just this past weekend, the Golf Galaxy Golf Tour hosted a total of 18 events, ranging from Buffalo, N.Y., to Sacramento, Calif.
"This tour really is for the average golfer " people who love the game of golf but maybe only get the chance to play once or twice a week and can't dedicate a ton of time to their game," said Tim Miller, vice president of Golf Galaxy's national tour operations based in Minneapolis. "Oklahoma City has become one of our top 5 average tours in the network. We've developed a great following there and it continues to grow."
Golf Galaxy, a national chain of golf retail and specialty shops with more than 100 stores from coast-to-coast, recently merged with Dick's Sporting Goods. That partnership should only serve to strengthen the foundation of the golf tour, which opens all events to men, women and junior players.
"We're all about having a good time. That's the most important aspect of the Golf Galaxy Golf Tour," said Miller. "Building camaraderie is such a big part of what we want to do at every event. Our goal is to have people enjoy the game the way it should be played."
Each of the two-person tournaments are played on Saturdays, and feature either a best-ball or scramble format. Entry fees are usually $20 over the regular green fee rate, which is considered a bargain compared to normal tournament costs.
Five events remain on Oklahoma City's 2009 tour schedule, including stops at River Bend Golf Club in Chickasha, Winter Creek Golf Club in Blanchard and the WinStar Golf Course near Thackerville.
"Most of our tournaments are played fairly close to (Oklahoma) City, but we've expanded our tournament sites to include a few more destinations this year. We played one at Sugar Creek Canyon in Hinton earlier and we're going to be hosting events in Durant, Seminole, Chickasha, Blanchard and down at the WinStar Casino this summer," said Jones. "We only had six events in 2008 and we've bumped that up to 11 this year because of the response we've had. It's really taken off here in Oklahoma, and we hope it will continue to grow into the future." "Jay C. Upchurch