NORMAN — The first scoreboard David Lisle and the rest of the team bought for the Westwood Invitational could list up to 150 participants. They never dreamed they would ever actually fill it up.
Just a few years later they signed up nearly 250 for the annual tournament, which will tee off at 7 a.m. today in its 38th incarnation with more than 130 participants in this year’s contest.
There are six divisions at the 2013 Westwood Invitational sponsored by OklahomaTickets.com, with four-time and defending champion Kelsey Cline leading the Championship Flight.
The tournament has grown to be an annual tradition that brings in dozens of local golfers as well as others from across the country in a rare three-day stroke tournament. But when Lisle began working as the course pro 26 years ago, it was a young tournament that had about 70 participants.
That’s where Ron Stucker came in. The tournament’s longtime chairman, who died in 2008 at the age of 61, treated the Westwood Invitational as if it were the U.S. Open, meticulously planning and organizing it for 33 years. Under his direction the tournament grew in both size and stature.
Since his death the duties of hosting the tournament have fallen to Lisle and assistant pros Bobby Florer and Rick Parish. Though the numbers have fallen in the last decade, due mainly to the recession, the trio has worked tirelessly to preserve the legacy Stucker began.
“Ron put his blood, sweat and tears into this,” said Florer, who has been at Westwood for 27 years. “We just took it and ran with it.”
The three believe it’s the tournament attendees’ sense of camaraderie that sets it apart. Many participants use it as an opportunity to meet up with old friends and spend the weekend on the golf course.
“People come from all over to be here, and we have a lot of local players too,” Lisle said. “When you’re able to get together with old friends and have a beer and hot dog at the clubhouse, that’s something special.”
It’s not just old friends that will be there when the tournament kicks off today. More than 50 first-time participants have signed up to play, and many of them have quickly familiarized themselves with the course and the clubhouse.
“It’s so fun to see all the golfers up here and have them come up and say howdy,” Lisle said. “I woke up Tuesday and was excited about it finally being this week and having the tournament be here. We try to make it as fun a weekend as you could possibly have on the golf course.”
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