Back Story

Most golf aficionados wouldn’t think of Oak Cliff as having much of a golf history. They would be wrong.

For starters, the 1927 PGA Championship was played at none other than the Cedar Crest Golf Course, also home of the first Dallas Open, played in 1926. This first time the PGA Championship came south, a 15-year-old member of the gallery, Byron Nelson, lent his visor to player Walter Hagen. Hagen went on to win. And Byron Nelson? Well, he became a member of the Golf World Hall of Fame and the first man to have a major tournament named after him.

Then there’s Sunset High School.

The 1937 Sundial shows a wonderful photograph of the school’s Depression-era golf team. Pictured in the front row is Earl Stewart Jr., who became both a NCAA individual and team national championship winner for Louisiana State University. Turning professional, he played the circuit before signing on, in 1953, as the pro at Oak Cliff Country Club. In 1961, he won the Dallas Open Invitational, a PGA tournament played on the Oak Cliff Country Club fairways from 1955 to 1963 – now known as the Byron Nelson Championship. Besting Arnold Palmer by one shot, Stewart became the only club pro ever to win a PGA tournament on his home course.

Next, the seasoned Stewart moved his golf bag and cleats to Southern Methodist University, where he coached men and women. His ladies team garnered the 1979 NCAA Division I championship. He also coached the late Payne Stewart (no relation), who went on to win two U.S. Open tournaments and a PGA Championship. Earl Stewart is an inductee of the National Golf Coaches Hall of Fame.

Stewart’s son, Earl “Chip” Stewart III, attended Sunset and played golf for the Bison. He went on to play for the University of Texas, and now participates in state and nationwide amateur competitions.

Also among the Bison golfers in the photo is Bettye Mims Danoff, the only woman on the team — and it seems, the school’s only female athlete.

After high school, Danoff played golf as an amateur, the only option for women at that time. There, she pulled off a surprising victory when she took the 1947 Texas Open championship, ending Olympian Babe Didrikson Zaharias’s 17-game winning streak. In 1950, the 5-foot-2, 106-pound Danoff, along with 12 other female golfers, founded the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

The Mims family is still in the area and remains owner of the Sunset Golf Club on West Fort Worth Avenue. Danoff’s brother, C. B. Mims, who was a professional golfer in the ’30s and ’40s, designed the course there.

Don January (Sunset ’45) played golf for the Bison before joining the North Texas State team that won four consecutive NCAA Division I titles. January won 10 PGA tour titles, and went on to win the 1967 PGA Championship. He was a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup in ’65 and ’77, and he spent many years as a golf course designer. Later, he won two PGA Senior Championships.

A surprise to most everyone is the highly exclusive and top-rated Dallas National Golf Course nestled behind Mountain View Community College. There’s also the Golf Club of Dallas (formerly Oak Cliff Country Club) and the Stevens Park Golf Course.

So, when thinking of Oak Cliff, think “golf”. Visit one of the courses and drink in some sunshine. Absorb the ambience of the green spaces. Visit the pro shops. Think about Stewart, Danoff, January and even Byron Nelson.

And hey! Don’t forget your clubs.


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  • Charles “Benny” Kirtley

    What a tribute to Oak Cliff and a great heriatage we have. My great aunt, Laura Suddarth, lived on Hampton Rd. only a few hundred yards away from OCCC. Their house built in 1937 from a Kentucky plantation plan, still remains a Dallas, Oak Cliff landmark on the corner of Hampton and Camp Wisdom. Laura was an avid golfer and member of OCCC. I used to go through her house admiring her tropheys she earned playing golf at OCCC and other fine courses in Dallas.

  • Linda Parsons, Kimball ’66

    Gayla,
    The previous post said he knew virtually nothing about Oak Cliff. Well, I know virtually nothing about Golf, but a lot about Oak Cliff! I love reading your articles and the comments that follow and really appreciate the time you take to entertain us. Thanks! Linda

  • mickey

    Gayla, what a wealth of info you have shared. Though I know virtually nothing about Oak Cliff, your articles have certainly enlightened me.

  • Bob Hall

    Gayla,

    Your article brought back memories from long ago. I was at the 1961 Dallas open at then OCCC. I remember watching Chi Chi Rodriguez walking down the fairway with two irons, one in each hand, bouncing a ball back and forth between the two. I was absolutely amazed. It was quite a treat getting to see Palmer,Snead,and the Golden Bear all together in our backyard (Oak Cliff). What was really unbelieveable was Earl Stewart, the club pro, doing what no other club pro had no before.

    I started playing golf at Riverlake CC and still play today with one of our classmates, Dennis Lutes. I have many fond memories of the game growing up and really enjoyed your trip down memory lane.

    Thanks,

    Bob Hall, Kimball ’65

  • John Paty

    I remember OCCC and The Dallas Open very well. My parents joined in 1959 and I grew up there playing golf. Earl Stewart was my golf teacher and I played many rounds with him and Chip. I remember walking just a few feet behind Sam Snead and Ben Hogan playing the 4th hole together in the tournament. Saw Don January hole-out from the fairway on #9 Enjoyed watching Tommy Bolt throw clubs after missing shots.
    Remember Gene Littler asking me which club to hit on #2. (What a moment that was for a kid.)Saw Arnold Palmer on the
    range practicing trick shots, and Jack hitting drivers out
    of sight.

    Sill a great course

  • Linda Shipp Moon

    Gayla,
    Really enjoyed the article. As others have said brings back such memories! Earl was a cousin (1st or 2nd) of my Mother’s and I took my first golf lessons from him! I can vividly remember playing the course as a beginner at 12-13 years old, especially the 4th hole…never learned how to go over the trees…think it was a dog leg to the left! My Mom played for a while but my Dad was the real golfer in the family. Always played on Wednesday and Sunday and then any other days he could work in! Also remember the year Earl won the Open. Everyone at the Club was so happy for him! And such excitement to see all of the pros my Dad always talked about. Every month I look forward to your articles that bring back such fun and fond memories! You have really found your calling!

    Linda Shipp Moon/Kimball 1965

  • Larry Click

    Gayla:
    You never cease to amaze me. Where do you get all these fascinating bits of information. I remember well the Dallas Open @ Oak Cliff CC and Earl Stewart’s win there. Growing up in Wynnewood, I still didn’t appreciate the significance of these honors for Oak Cliff until they were gone. Thanks again for your wonderful trips down Oak Cliff memory lane.

  • Benny Kirtley

    Gala, thanks for the memories. I remember well the Dallas Open being a premier event in Oak Cliff and for the Oak Cliff C.C. I remember Charlie, my dad, was a sponcer for the first Dallas Open at O.C.C.C. The sponcership afforded him a few special priviledges such as parking and other “special” perks that I can no longer remember. Bob Goetz, then a professional golfer, would stay with us while he was touring and playing in the Dallas area. Bob later became the pro at Preston Trails.C.C. What a shot in the arm for Oak Cliff that soon was just a fading memory.

  • Mark Smythe

    Gayla, another fun to read article that really hits home to many of us. As with you and I golf has been so much a part of our families. Your dad and mine lived and breathed the game which caused me and my cousins to learn the game at a very early age. Riverlake country club was where I began to play and then the countless rounds at Stevens Park which to this day is still one of my favorite courses to play. Thanks for mentioning the old Dallas Open at Oak Cliff Country Club which is a great memory of watching and walking with the famous golfers of the 50s and 60s. Again, keep these articles coming.

    Mark Smythe

  • Vivian

    Gayla,

    You missed David W. Carter’s famous golfer: “Mancil Davis is known worldwide as “The King of Aces”, for his PGA world record 51 holes in one. The native born Texan scored his first official hole in one at age 11, and continued to find the hole throughout his amateur and professional career.

    A member of the PGA of America since 1974, Davis played the tour briefly in 1975 and 1976, before focusing on a Club Professional career in 1977. Davis has served as the Director of Golf at The Woodlands Country Club (former site of the PGA Houston Open), the Trophy Club in Roanoke, TX (only course ever designed by Ben Hogan), and The Resort at Squaw Creek in Lake Tahoe, CA.”