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

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IllustrationSouthern Hills Country Club/AP

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

Perhaps the most famous incident in Southern Hills is the call from the FBI in 1977. Hubert Green led the field on the final day of the US Open that year when a woman called the FBI and told them her boyfriend and two other men planned to shoot Green on the 15th hole on Sunday. Tulsa police somehow didn’t get the message until Sunday afternoon, but even after Green was told about the threat after the 14th hole, he shook it off and continued playing.

Surrounded by armed police, he made par on the 15th and won the US Open later that day — his first major win. The caller’s identity has never been discovered – whether it was a ploy to get Green out of his game, a very twisted joke, or a case of the would-be killers pulling back, we may never know.

But one man did not survive his time in Southern Hills. Just a few years later, notorious mobster Whitey Bulger (whom the movie the deceased is loosely based) ordered a hit on businessman Roger Wheeler† Wheeler, who had discovered that Bulger’s Winter Hill gang was embezzling money from one of his businesses, was gunned down in his car in the Southern Hills parking lot in May 1981.

A significantly less spooky but significantly more pressing Southern Hills story is the heat – some of the hottest tournaments ever held there. In 1936, the temperature at that year’s Oklahoma Open reached 115 degrees, causing several golfers to get up and down after a few holes under the unrelenting sun. And much more recently, the four days of the 2007 PGA Championship had highs of 100, 99, 99 and 102 degrees. John Daly skipped the famous practice round to gamble in an air-conditioned casino, then shot a 67 in a heat index of 108 degrees. Humidity was recorded at 85 percent. The National Weather Service issued a warning of extreme heat and 40 people were hospitalized during the championship, but the PGA played on and Tiger Woods claimed the win.

The championship starts on Thursday 19 May. The highlights are tentatively predicted to be in the 90s, but you never know what Southern Hills has in store.

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