A foursome can sometimes play a little slow.
A group of five can take forever.
Six golfers? Now that’s just pushing it.
On July 3, 1961, a group of men affectionately referred to as the “Big Six” played the first nine holes at the Oakdale Golf and Country Club. A day later the same six — who had toiled for four years to create the club — opened the course for membership play.
Fifty years later, the course built by Ed Pelucca, Al Craft, Vernon Rodden, Lawrence Gilbert, Pete Petroni and Elgin Kersten is thriving as one of the most successful, well-maintained and pristine golf clubs in the country.
On Monday, July 4, the Oakdale Golf and Country Club will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a 5 p.m. celebration expected to draw over 500 to the jewel of the Central Valley. Katie Pelucca (wife of Ed Pelucca) will be honored during the ceremonies.
“One of things I love most about this club is that it was built, created and ran by local members,” OGCC manager Rick Schultz said. “Most clubs today are built by developers who sell them off to memberships. It’s kind of cool to have a history like this.”
And if anyone knows the history of the club, it’s Schultz. The four-year manager has dedicated his time to discover the unique and intriguing history of Oakdale and its dazzling 18-hole course.
He even wrote a book combining the two, which will be released the same evening as the OGCC 50th anniversary party. The detailed chronicling includes biographies of the six founders, a synopsis of Oakdale history and incredible detail of the founding of its picturesque golf course.
According to the book, the first true efforts to build a course began over a cup of coffee at Dee’s Café in Oakdale when Perry Spaman and Merle Ingram approached Al Craft and Ed Pelucca with a proposal of creating a nine-hole golf course on the property that Ed Pelucca had purchased on Stearns Road.
The pair readily entertained the possibility, understanding the idea required the talents, energies and financial backing of many of Oakdale’s leading citizens at the time.
Stanley Wakefield, then owner and publisher of the Oakdale Leader, provided publicity throughout the campaign and documented the efforts by accountants Spaman and Ingram to tirelessly fund the project from support of locals like banker Herb Barker. Wakefield ultimately became the first president of the club.
The course was nearly built southwest of town on property purchased by Vernon Rodden, but negotiations stalled and the club was ultimately conceived on Pelucca’s Stearns Road land. When Spaman, Rodden and Craft were approved for 100-member non-profit corporation status in 1958, the Oakdale Golf and Country Club was born.
By June of 1959, preliminary sketches and photographs had been flown to Fresno by Rodden, Spaman and Barker, and a picture of the proposed nine-hole layout appeared on the front page of the Leader. A year later the club had 197 members at $300 each and the Leader published a story with a headline that read “Golf Course Assured For City.”
Construction began in September of 1960, and continued until its July completion the following summer. More land was purchased with additional holes in mind, and 15 years later a growing push to add the holes created the full 18 course that many players throughout the region enjoy today. Continued development of a clubhouse and other facilities only added to its versatility.
With popular events always on the docket and golfers littered across the schedule books, business is good. While most private clubs have struggled in recent years, the OGCC has seen a rare increase in membership on a course that is only improving in stature and prestige.
“I feel that when the guys first created the course they were especially brilliant to have the foresight to buy more land for more holes,” Schultz said. “Then they took a risk to build a clubhouse and prepared this club to thrive like it has for 50 years.
“Now we just have to prepare ourselves to keep up their tradition for the next 50 years.”