OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma State golf program was well represented in the inaugural class of the Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame, which held its reception Sunday night at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
Two-time All-American Bob Dickson and eight-time national championship coach Mike Holder highlighted the six-member class inducted into the newly created Hall of Fame that will merge with the Oklahoma Women’s Golf Hall of Fame.
“I look at it as an honor not for Mike Holder, but for Oklahoma State University golf,” the OSU athletics director said. “... It’s a big deal being a part of the inaugural class, but I don’t know if I really belong in it. I know I don’t as a player, but as I said, it’s not me as a golfer, it’s about our golf program.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be around a lot of great players. Unfortunately, that didn’t rub off on me. I wish I were here based on my merit as a player.”
Holder did have some individual highlights as a golfer – earning conference medalist at Ardmore High School in 1966, winning the Oklahoma Amateur Championship in 1968 and winning the Big Eight Conference medalist honors at Oklahoma State in 1970.
But it’s what he did after his playing career that earned him his spot in the first class.
Holder took over Oklahoma State’s golf program from Labron Harris Sr. in 1973 and coached the Cowboys to eight national titles and 24 conference crowns. He coached 101 All-Americans, 20 conference medalists and five individual national champions with every squad in his 32-year coaching career making it to the NCAA Championship and making the cut.
“Not only did he continue on what Coach Harris created, he grew it. He was very responsible for growing it,” said Dickson, who played at Oklahoma State just years before Holder got there. “... Mike Holder definitely deserves being in this class because he’s done a lot, not only for Oklahoma State University golf, but he has done a lot for golf in general. And I’m just proud as punch of him.”
Holder originally grew up in west Texas, where football was king. He said he was “a chubby, little fat kid playing offensive line” until he lost some weight one fall in football and was told he had to play a spring sport in order to play football the following year.
“My dad had a set of golf clubs and he let me borrow them and went out and tried out for the golf team,” Holder said. “And my life has never been the same since that day. I owe everything that I’ve got to golf.”
Holder said Dickson was a golfer he looked up to – literally and figuratively – as a junior golfer in Oklahoma.
“When I was a junior golfer, he was so tall that I couldn’t see him up there. He was a great player,” Holder said. “I couldn’t believe that somebody could do the things that he did. So when I got to Stillwater, that was a pretty big deal just to be a part of the program.”
It’s understandable that Dickson was held in such a high regard in Oklahoma. He won three straight Class 2A state championships for Muskogee High School and earned All-American honors at Oklahoma State in 1965 and 1966. He won back-to-back Oklahoma State Amateurs in 1965-66, as well as the Oklahoma Open in 1966 and 1971.
In 1968 he won the Bob Jones Award – highest honor given by the United States Golf Association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf – a reward he said he didn’t quite understand the significance of until his later years.
“I didn’t think a lot of it at the time. I just didn’t really appreciate it as much then as down the road,” said Dickson, who won three events on the senior tour. “That’s a very high honor for me.”
Perhaps his most recognizable accomplishment was becoming the fourth golfer to win the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur in the same year (1967) – something that hasn’t been achieved since.
But the most astonishing aspect is the circumstances surrounding both tournaments.
Dickson was eligible to play in the British Amateur because he was a member of the Walker Cup team competing overseas a week earlier. And when he arrived back in the United States the day after winning the British Amateur, his plane out of New York had to turn back shortly after take-off due to a compressor breaking.
“It didn’t explode, but it made a loud noise and we turned around in pretty quick order. I’m looking as we’re making the turn and their are fire trucks lined up there,” said Dickson, whose older brother Ben Jr., who won an Oklahoma State Amateur, was his golf idol and instructor. “I thought, ‘This is going to be the shortest time to enjoy this trophy – which I hadn’t even received yet.’”
The next day, he found himself at basic training for the United States military and didn’t expect to get the chance to compete in the U.S. Amateur a few months later. But at the last second he was granted leave and was allowed to create history.
“I had zero expectations. I had played a couple 18-hole rounds after basic,” Dickson said. “But hadn’t played any, hadn’t worked on my game. So when I went to Broadmoor, it was probably to my benefit – I didn’t have anything riding on it to me, I was just happy to be in civies.”