Skip to main content

McVeigh and The US Open

Monday of this week, the federal government put to death the man responsible for the worst terrorist act in U.S. history.
Timothy McVeigh was executed. It brought to an end for many'though some may always have unanswered questions'to a terrible six-year period.
This week, with a major golf championship at hand, the state of Oklahoma in a way begins anew.
The governor of Oklahoma, Frank Keating, has been a member of Southern Hills since the late 1950s.
His father was President of Southern Hills in 1960. Franks grandfather was an early mover and shaker at Oakmont in Western Pennsylvania. Franks father came to Oklahoma and found success as an oilman. Frank was a young boy here when Tommy Bolt won the 1958 U.S. Open at Southern Hills. He jokes that his father didnt want him to become a country club bum. He said worry not, hed become a bum in some other way. And in this case, bum is taken to mean he who loves what he does without regard to remuneration. Keating loved law, law enforcement and politics.
He became governor. And then when his beloved state became ground zero for homegrown terror, people got to know Frank Keating. They liked the plain speaking, confidant manner in which he presided over the aftermath. The governor told me that what remains with him to this day is not so much the savagery of the act but the way in which the citizens stitched together without regard to race, creed, color or class distinction.
Keatings hope this week is that visitors and viewers will replace the terrible image of Oklahoma that was seared into all of our minds with something else. Maybe the beauty of a golf course, not the charred remains of a building. Or the friendliness of the people, not the inexplicable hatred of one man.
Keating describes the people of his state as flinty and independent minded; naturally faithful. And thats remarkable considering how nature and man have dealt them such cruel blows. Oklahoma was the last state populated by a land run. People literally ran here or galloped here and staked their claim to what they thought would be the good life. But drought and depression brought about devastating poverty and hardship.
Steve Owens won the 1969 Heisman Trophy as a running back under Chuck Fairbanks at Oklahoma. Today hes a businessman and member of Oak Tree Golf Club in Edmund, Oklahoma with Scott Verplank, Bob Tway and the Edwards boys. Hes one of nine children, a product of the Dust Bowl. His dad crossed into Arizona for work for a dollar a day, was called an Okie, which was a stigma. Owens has seen it all. The Grapes of Wrath childhood, the Oklahoma City bomb blast in which he lost five people he personally knew, the killer tornadoes, the plane crash which took the lives of some members of the Oklahoma State basketball team. Owens says Oklahomans are tough and resilient. Theyve had to be. But theyre not hardened. In fact, theyre quite easy to get along with.
Keating relayed to me a line from Rogers and Hammersteins Oklahoma which he feels best describes the attitude of the people he governs. It goes, I dont say Im better than anyone else. But Ill be damned if Im not just as good.
From all of us who call ourselves fans of this great game, as well as fans of this great country that just six years ago was irrevocably scarred, heres to a United States Open as good as weve ever had.