The Norman Transcript

October 24, 2013

After 27 years at Westwood, Lisle transitioning into next golfing chapter

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Though the third week of January tends not to be golf season, it will still be a strange thing at Westwood Park Golf Course. 

Customers might visit the golf shop looking for post-holiday deals, die-hards may notice above-freezing temperature and plan a cool 18 holes, others may come for the company. What each will notice is a man conspicuous by his absence.

David Lisle.

The head pro at Norman’s only municipal golf course the last 27 years, Lisle, 60, announced late last week he would be leaving the job he’s performed for very nearly half his life.

His last day will be Jan. 14. Between now and then, as the city has announced, Lisle will be “working to honor merchandise vouchers with our customers and assist with the transition of the golf shop.”

Lisle will not be leaving the game, only the course he has run, along with assistant pros Bobby Florer and Rick Parrish, for a very long time. He is in the process of purchasing and beginning to operate a GolfTEC franchise in the Norman area.

“It’s a small leap of faith,” Lisle said Wednesday. “Gosh, I about broke down when I told my boss what I was doing.”

That boss is Jud Foster, who heads Norman’s Parks and Recreation Department, who actually hired Lisle all those years ago. The following day, Wednesday of last week, Lisle told his staff.

Though he has almost three months remaining on the job, even the idea of his departure will take some getting used to.

“I used to be able to finish his sentences. I used to be able to know what was coming,” said Florer, who’s actually been on staff at Westwood one year longer than Lisle. “He’s been a friend of mine for 27 years and to think that he won’t be around, that’s very difficult. But if he’s happy … I can’t see a better person for a better venture.”

GolfTEC is an instruction center that takes advantage of state-of-the-art technology to improve the games of it’s customers. In many ways, it is one of the parts of being a club pro Lisle has enjoyed the most, teaching the game, taken to a higher and more technological level.

“I can’t wait to learn as much as I’m going to learn about the golf swing,” said Lisle, who’s long been recognized as one of the area’s best swing doctors. “There’s a lot more that I don’t know … I’m kind of overwhelmed.”

Just not enough not to make the leap.

Lisle explained that he had taken an additional mortgage out on his home to fund the transition from one career to another. Still, if the move is expensive, at least in the start-up phase, it may not be as taxing.

“It’s not a get-rich thing at all,” Lisle said. “It’s just a thing where you don’t have to be so spread out. Because, as a PGA professional, you wear a lot of hats and you’re spread awfully thin.”

By his own estimation, Lisle’s put in around 60 hours a week at Westwood over most of his tenure. Much of it has been of his own invention, as he’s been a champion of clinics and programs of all kinds to introduce new players to the game. 

Over the last several years, Lisle and Westwood have been leaders in the First Tee program, designed to bring youth to golf that might not otherwise have been exposed, all the while using the game to teach life lessons along the way. 

Additionally, Westwood played a big role in the formation of the Norman Junior Golf Association, and has continued to conduct the Westwood Invitational, played over Fourth of July Weekend, which continues to be the state’s largest stroke-play tournament.

Lisle deflected credit.

“The only reason we’ve been successful is I’ve had a great staff surrounding me,” he said.

As Lisle prepares his exit, others will prepare for life at the course beyond his exit, though how that will play out is not entirely clear.

Wednesday afternoon, Foster told The Transcript that several golf shop management models would be reviewed, the first three among them being the contracted professional, in which the head pro owns and operates the golf shop (the model under which Lisle has worked); city ownership of the golf shop; and the possibility of bringing in a management group to run the shop and the course.

Foster chose not to handicap each option, yet intimated the current model has worked very well the last 27 years.

“I would expect that we’ll have a smooth transition in January,” he said.

Staff at the course has an interest in the current model remaining the model, and not only because it’s the one in which they’re most likely to keep their job, but also because they believe it’s served the course and the city well.

“We hope something doesn’t happen. We hope we’re not all gone, and that wouldn’t be good for the course either,” said Jim Taylor, who’s worked in Westwood’s golf shop the last seven years. “If they tried to farm it out to a management company or whatever, that would be a big negative. I think everybody here hopes that it’s status quo and that they get somebody in here we’re as comfortable with as David.”

What kind of a guy is that?

“He introduces himself and shakes hands, he doesn’t make anybody mad and he doesn’t ignore anybody,” Nelson said. “He’s the same with everybody that comes in. He’s just a good guy.”

At the very least, Westwood should have a guy like that for another 83 days.

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning