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.