As Chuck Tillman pulled his club back for a soft putt on the green at Kah-Wah-C Country Club in Fairfax he remembered the elite golfers that once played in the annual Oklahoma All-Indian Golf Championship.
“It’s not one specific thing that happened, just kind of a reflect back on things that have happened in the past, past players that used to participate that are gone now,” Tillman said. “(I remember) Joe Benny Mason and how he used to play.”
It’s because of players like Mason and a handful of others that Tillman and 31 other golfers try to make it out to the annual tournament, which was held July 30-31.
This year 32 men, women and children made it out for the event that at one time drew thousands.
The Oklahoma All-Indian Golf Championships is a two-day tournament. The first day is played calcutta style, where players are separated into flights based on handicaps and bid one another team, the team who bids on the winning team wins the pot. The last day is open to anyone wanting to play.
George Pease III, Director of the Oklahoma All-Indian Golf Championships, took over the tournament in 2005, after a nearly 10-year hiatus that resorted from constant change in ownership of the course.
Pease said he grew up on the course and around the game so when the opportunity came to take over the tournament he jumped at it.
“It’s something ever since I was a small child I’ve been around, my grandpa was an avid golfer, he drug me there kicking and screaming,” Pease said. “It’s something important for those old people to get around and visit, just seeing somebody’s family you haven’t see in awhile. It’s good not only for the Osage tribe but all the neighbors.”
Back then players mingled and sat around playing Indian Dice and cards.
The tournament started in 1965 and was always a big hit but now, 46 years later, the small but active organization is trying its best to get the tournament to what it once was.
Memorial plaques of past members are given out along with monetary prizes.
This year, R.J. Walker, Osage, won first place in the championship flight. Walker has won at least three other times.
Walker said he’s played golf since he was about eight years old, and much like the other players grew up playing in the tournament.
“They used to have it when I was in high school and then my early 20s probably and now probably since 1988 or 1989,” he said. “It was disappointing to see it go and of course it’s not what it once was.”
Walker said very few people also want to play out in the intense heat but this year he was able to stick it out and get another win.
“I do feel obligated to support it, and it’s fun. I guess I was the one that was able to endure the heat best, I’m the toughest Indian,” he laughed.
Walker added he was thankful for Pease continuing the tournament, “I appreciate George and recognize what he’s doing and if it weren’t or him it’d be another thing that once was.”
Pease said he was happy with the outcome of this year’s tournament.
“Aside from it just being hotter than Satan’s window it was a real-good turnout,” Pease said. “I think everybody enjoyed it, it went real well.”
Tillman said he too is happy to see that the tournament continues to grow every year. He said he feels he has a special tie to the tournament since the course is named after his great-great-great-great grandfather Kah-Wah-C (Yellowhorse).
“I just wanted to support, I am from Fairfax, the Grayhorse District…when they started the tournament back up I just wanted to give as much support,” he said. “What we’re really trying to do is build this back up to the way it used to be.”
Championship flight winners:
First place- RJ Walker (Osage)
Second place- Darrin McKinney and Mark Dennison (Both Osage)
Fourth place- George Pease III (Osage)