The rich heritage of the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club dates back to the mid-1940s when the land was home to a U.S. Navy recreational facility. Once called “South Base,” the facility served as an annex to the Norman (Okla.) Naval Air Station.
Behind the leadership of University of Oklahoma president George Lynn Cross and with the assistance of the Navy, construction began on the OU Golf Course in 1949. Renowned architect and Oklahoma resident Perry Maxwell, whose designs include Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., and Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., was commissioned for the project and the course opened for play in January 1951.
Born in Kentucky to Scottish parents in 1879, Maxwell studied classical literature in college and worked in an Ardmore, Okla., bank before turning to golf course architecture after his wife showed him an article about The National Golf Links of America, site of this year’s Walker Cup Match. After consulting with C.B. Macdonald, the man behind NGLA, Maxwell laid out four holes on a dairy farm he owned just north of Ardmore, a course that would eventually become Dornick Hills C.C.
When his wife died in 1919, he toured all the great courses in Scotland and he was inspired, incorporating the naturalistic elements of Scottish layouts with Macdonald’s philosophy of creating template holes that incorporated those strategies. He would eventually join forces with Alister MacKenzie, whom he met during that Scottish visit and was with the legendary architect until his death in 1934.
Following World War II, Maxwell continued to work even though he lost one of his legs from below the knee due to cancer. Maxwell became known for designing challenging green complexes, and was a genius at routing courses to take advantage of their natural beauty.
Maxwell’s OU Golf Club remained unchanged until 1996 when, thanks to a variety of generous contributions, including from that of namesake Jimmie Austin, the course underwent an extensive renovation by Robert Cupp. Cupp’s redesign remained true to the features envisioned by Maxwell some 50 years earlier.
The Jimmie Austin family has enjoyed a long association with golf and the University of Oklahoma. Austin was an oil and gas drilling contractor and independent producer from Seminole, Okla. He didn’t take up golf until his late 40s at the urging of his sons, but he cherished the many friendships he gained from the game.
Both his sons attended OU and have been devoted golfers since high school. His three grandsons also started playing golf from the time they could pick up a club. Jimmie and his wife, Marie, who died in 2004, loved OU and were proud to provide the lead gift for the OU course renovation project. Son Paul D. Austin was an OU regent from 2000-2007, serving as chairman at the end of his tenure. He also was a founding member and longtime president of the OU Men’s Golf Chip In Club. Another son, Jimmie Lynn Austin, has been a member and chairman of the Golf Coordinating Committee at the club for more than 10 years.
Unfortunately, Jimmie Austin died at the age of 90 two years before his club hosted the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, won by Brad Benjamin, who defeated that year’s U.S. Open low amateur, Nick Taylor, of Canada, in the 36-hole final, 5 and 3.
Sons Paul and Jimmie honored their parents by providing a matching gift through the Jimmie and Marie Austin Foundation to support the championship.
This past year, the club hosted a men’s NCAA Division I regional, while the women will be playing a regional at the site this spring, a few weeks before the 2013 Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.