BROKEN ARROW, Okla. – Imagine yourself in Talor Gooch’s shoes this week at LIV Golf Tulsa. You’re on the hottest streak of your career, having won two consecutive LIV Golf League events halfway around the world.
Now you’re going for the three-peat in your backyard, your home state, the place you still reside. The place you proudly represent.
On Saturday night of the weekend before the tournament, your wife surprises you with a party to celebrate your recent success. Family and friends provide a constant stream of well-wishers. It’s the first of what’s sure to be many heartwarming moments during the next few days.
On Sunday, you host a meet-and-greet with fans. It’s at the Goat Bar – aptly named considering your LIV Golf team is the RangeGoats. Locals of all ages attend. You’re especially touched by the youngsters who’ve come to ask for your autograph. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that you were that kid, awestruck by the golf heroes back then. You remember what an impression it made on you when you asked for their autograph. It’s important you provide the same for those now cheering your name.
On Monday, you host a pro-am at Cedar Ridge Country Club to benefit your foundation. Many of your fellow LIV Golf members participate, a show of support that makes you appreciate the strong bonds developed since joining LIV a year ago. Things get interesting on the course. Side bets are wagered – $500 for a 6-foot putt; $100 for a missed fairway. All money goes toward your chosen charities. For anybody who loses, it’s still a win.
On Tuesday afternoon, you’re whisked away in a helicopter to Bailey Ranch Golf Course, about 17 miles north in Owasso. It’s the site of the 6A Boys Golf State Championship and you’ve agreed to present the trophy to the state champions from Norman High School. Back in your schoolboy days at Carl Albert High, you won 17 of 40 starts and finished top 3 in four consecutive state tournaments. Seeing the young golfers at Bailey Ranch reminds you of the good ol’ days – and just how far you’ve come.
Later this week, once the gates open for the three days of competition at Cedar Ridge, the Talor Gooch Foundation will have its own hospitality tent near the 16th green. It’s the first time at any LIV Golf event that an individual player has set up his own charity area on site. Info about his charities will be available – and the Gooch Gang merch is sure to be a hot seller.
Of course, you’d love to end the week with a double victory – for yourself and for your team. That’s the Hollywood script. But even if others are standing atop the podium Sunday afternoon, LIV Golf Tulsa will already be a success from your perspective.
That’s Talor Gooch this week. Born and raised in Midwest City and a proud alum of Oklahoma State in Stillwater, he’s traveled across the globe to become one of golf’s rising stars. And now here he is, back home with his fans to showcase his new league as this week’s unofficial ambassador.
“I have such a love for Oklahoma,” Gooch said. “It’s my people.”
People with a rich golfing heritage.
The Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame includes 13 members, although not all are Oklahoma natives. For instance, famed golf course architect Perry Maxwell was born in Kentucky before moving to Ardmore, Oklahoma, as a youngster with his family. Nicknamed the “Father of Oklahoma Golf,” Maxwell was the solo designer for at least 30 courses in the state, including its most notable one, Southern Hills.
Orville Moody was born in Oklahoma – Chickasha to be exact – and is best known for going through local and sectional qualifying before winning the 1969 U.S. Open win. He’s the last player to have achieved that feat. Gil Morgan is from Wewoka and won 41 pro tournaments – the majority of those after turning 50.
For the 31-year-old Gooch, it’s the more recent cast of Oklahoma golfing stars that influenced him, whether a native such as Oklahoma City-born Bob Tway or transplanted Texans such as Scott Verplank and Willie Wood. He felt their impact on him, and now he wants to take on that same kind of ambassador role. That’s why this week is as important for him off the course as it is between the ropes.
“I want to be a part of helping continue to grow the game in Oklahoma and be someone that kids can aspire to be,” Gooch said. “When I was growing up, it was Bob Tway and Scott Verplank and Willie Wood and guys like that that kind of carried the torch for Oklahoma.
“It's just part of my duty as a guy from Oklahoma to continue to push it forward for all of golf, whether it's junior golf or whether it's a local muni that needs better funding and support. I want to be able to be someone that can help make golf a priority in our state.”
Gooch is one of five Oklahoma State golfers in this week’s field. Charles Howell III, the elder of the group at age 43, was instrumental in facilitating LIV Golf’s connection with Cedar Ridge. The club’s president is Billy Lowry, a former OSU teammate of Howell’s. “We had a lot of phone calls,” said Howell, who opened this season with a win at Mayakoba. “I was quite passionate about it. Oklahoma is a huge sports state. They love their golf.”
Peter Uihlein is a former U.S. Amateur champion, while Matthew Wolff is a former NCAA Division I individual champ. Eugenio Chacarra gave up his senior season in Stillwater to turn pro and join LIV Golf a year ago. “Oklahoma is my second home,” said the 22-year-old Spaniard, “and I’m always really proud to say that.”
Of those five, Gooch is the only native Oklahoman. It’s his first home and will likely always be his home. Weeks like this one at Cedar Ridge simply enhances his love for the state. He welcomes the opportunity to showcase the LIV Golf product to his fans, and to showcase Oklahoma’s passion for the sport to his fellow pros.
Most of all, he’s just glad to feel the warmth of playing at home.
“I'm here because of Oklahoma,” Gooch said. “If it wasn't for where I grew up and how I grew up and the people that supported me along the way, I wouldn't be where I am today.”
With all the activities Gooch is engaged in this week, you don’t have to look very hard to find him. He seems to be everywhere. The biggest question now is whether he’ll end up at the top of the podium Sunday, popping champagne bottles with his fellow RangeGoats. That’s the only way this already successful week can get any better for him.
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