By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
It only seemed fitting that the afternoon golf session of the Pioneer Playday came down to a chip-off for the first time in 22 years Friday at the Stillwater Country Club.
From the 49 early birds who showed up at the crack of dawn for the first run to the packed house for the first fashion show, this year’s edition offered several new twists on what has become a classic Stillwater event.
“Carolyn (Walstad) and the rest of the group are always trying to look for something more,” Stillwater Athletic Director Tucker Barnard said. “They’re trying to grow the event and involve more people. One of the things they kind of felt was that it was kind of perceived as a golf-only event. ... I think they came up with some great ideas. It was the first year for some of these components but I think we’re going to see this thing continue to grow into a bigger and better event.”
But it wasn’t just about the newest additions to this year’s playday. It was also about new faces — including Stillwater girls basketball coach Clay Stephens, who made his first public appearance in Stillwater since he was hired.
“It was the first for coach Stephens and he had a great time out on the course,” Walstad said. “He came up to me afterward and said, ‘I’m finding out what it means to have Pioneer pride. That makes my heart smile because I bleed blue and gold. My passion is with the Pioneers, and these athletes work so hard and do the best they can with all that we have.”
Stephens wasn’t the only new face wandering in and out of the newly remodeled Country Club clubhouse. Whether it was to take part in the fashion show or just to glance wishingly at the items in the silent auction, Barnard said he heard nothing but positive responses regarding the playday.
“I’ve talked to people about the events that have never been here before,” Barnard said. “They never came to Pioneer Playday because it was a golf event, but there was a big group of people here this morning. It was just a great move by that group to look for other ways to involve new people.”
Asked what Walstad plans to do for an encore next season, the Stillwater cheer coach gave a wry smile — hinting that her group has something up their sleeves.
“We really want it to be more than just an auction and playday golf,” Walstad said. “We’re very excited with the turnouts and the excitment and energy from the new additions. Next year, we’re already talking about adding a tennis tournament. It’s going to be a full day of fun at the Stillwater Country Club.”