At 9:30 a.m. on a Friday morning in October, more than 400 golfers will stand together on the green of Dallas’ Firewheel Golf Park, singing “The Eyes of Texas” and raising their hands in the Hook ’em Horns sign. When the song ends, Smokey the Cannon will boom—likely setting off a nearby fire alarm—and the 25th-annual “Get Teed Off at OU” Texas Exes Dallas Chapter golf tournament will officially begin.
“It’s like Christmas to us,” says Ken Capps, BJ ’82, Life Member, a founder and past chairman of the tournament. “That moment just before the start—you realize, wow, all these people are really here.”
In 1988, Capps and a few friends were eagerly anticipating the annual Texas vs. OU game in Dallas. So eagerly, in fact, that they decided to skip work the Friday before the game to begin celebrating with a game of golf. “It was 25 or 30 guys playing hooky from work, just having fun,” Capps remembers. “Then we realized pretty quickly that we were onto something.”
A quarter-century later, their vision has grown bigger than they ever imagined. Today, some 400 golfers play on three courses, raising more than $50,000 annually for chapter scholarships. More than 120 volunteers register players, stuff envelopes and gift bags, conduct raffles and giveaways, and otherwise ensure that the tournament remains a well-oiled machine. Players routinely travel from out of state for the event, and on Friday, more than a few will tee off for their 25th consecutive year.
Players look forward to beloved tournament traditions, including a high-caliber honoree. This year Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds will be recognized; in years past, Texas greats from Earl Campbell to Darrell K Royal and Tom Landry have all been guests of honor.
Another tradition is the choice of an extra-classy, unique players’ gift each year—no cheap T-shirts here. Players have gotten golf shoes, monogrammed balls, and sturdy duffel bags. One year, members of the last-place team each received a garden hose and a gift certificate for tennis lessons. “They loved it,” recalls Capps. “We’re all about having a sense of humor.”
Some of the tournament’s finest moments were among the least expected. In 1994, members of UT’s 1969 national championship football team were the guests of honor. Remarkably, almost the entire team showed up, along with their former coach, Darrell K Royal. When a pounding rain made play impossible, all seemed lost–until someone pulled out a VHS tape of the nail-biter 1969 national championship game. Capps gets emotional just talking about it. “At least 300 people crowded into this little room with Coach Royal and the players, all cheering and watching the game like they’d never seen it before,” he says. “It was magical.”
While the event is steeped in tradition, it hasn’t been untouched by change. Current event co-chair Jenn Timmer, BJ ’97, Life Member, (with Ryan Smith, MS ’04, Life Member), is the first female tournament chair in Dallas Chapter history—bringing a fresh perspective to an event that has long been somewhat of a boy’s club.
And technology has transformed the event’s logistics. “We started out before email,” laughs Capps. “We kept every player’s file on an index card.” And the advent of transportable credit-card technology has revolutionized how the tournament raises funds. Players now enter raffles right on the course, with a quick card swipe.
On the eve of the 25th-annual tournament, it’s clear that one thing will never change: the Texas spirit. “At the root of the tournament is the love people have for UT,” says Timmer. “We’ve had volunteers and players who didn’t go to UT, but maybe their friends’ kid went, and they just love the University. The Longhorn pride is really strong.”
Video by Jeff McWhorter (2011).
Left photo: Earl Campbell and members of the Silver Spurs at a past tournament.
Right photo: Members of the 1969 National Championship team at the 1994 tournament.
Photos courtesy Ken Capps.
I can hardly believe the last line of the piece. Hook 'Em!...
Kay Gresham Szabo:
Amen. What a great idea. No one will ever touch his record or legacy....
Susan Sanders Guyett:
What? They're moving the game?...
Michelle Sierra Cuellar:
If you don't know what a Fletcher's corn dog tastes like I just feel sorry for y...