The Dark History of the 2022 PGA Championship Southern Hills Country Club website


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illustration: Southern Hills Country Club/AP

Death threats, mob executions, unbearable heat — the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, home of the 2022 PGA Championship next week, has had a pretty spooky history. In honor of Friday the 13th, let’s dive into the spookiest stories the club has had to offer in its 86-year history.

Perhaps the most famous incident in Southern Hills is the FBI call in 1977. Hubert Green was leading the pack before the final day of the US Open that year, when a woman called the FBI and told them her boyfriend and two other men were planning to shoot Green at the 15th hole on Sunday. Tulsa police somehow didn’t get the news until midday Sunday, but even after learning of the threat after the 14th hole, Green shrugged and played through.

Surrounded by armed police, he made par 15 and later that day won the US Open – his first major win. The identity of the caller was never discovered – whether it was a ruse to knock Green out of his game, a very twisted prank call, or a case of the would-be killers backing down, we may never know.

But one man didn’t survive his time in Southern Hills. Just a few years later, notorious gangster Whitey Bulger (about whom the film The departed is loosely based) ordered a hit on the businessman Roger Wheeler. Wheeler, who discovered that Bulger’s Winter Hill gang was embezzling money from one of his businesses, was shot dead in his car in the Southern Hills parking lot in May 1981.

A much less spooky, but far more pressing story of Southern Hills is the heat – some of the hottest tournaments of all time have been held there. In 1936, the temperature at that year’s Oklahoma Open reached 115 degrees, resulting in several golfers getting up and quitting after a few holes under the relentless sun. And more recently, the four days of the 2007 PGA Championship had highs of 100, 99, 99 and 102 degrees. John Daly famously skipped a practice round to play in an air-conditioned casino and went on to shoot a 67 in a 108-degree heat index. The humidity was measured at 85 percent. The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning and 40 people were hospitalized during the championship, but the PGA played on and Tiger Woods went on to claim the win.

The championship begins on Thursday May 19th. For now, peaks are being predicted in the ’90s, but you never know what Southern Hills has in store.

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