Now We’re All ‘Less Than 24 Hours From Tulsa’.

I can remember the occasion clearly, and it took place 21-years-ago at Southern Hills GC and then venue for the 2001 US Open.

We were in the media centre, escaping the sweltering June temperatures and just standing around chatting amongst ourselves when the conversation turned to the ’60s hit song made famous by Gene Pitney.

It just seems, and even this week, you mention Tulsa and someone mentions Pitney’s hit tune – 24 Hours from Tulsa.  It was a song that launched Pitney’s career in the UK.  It was a huge hit.


Gene Pitney singing his hit song – ’24 Hours From Tulsa’

Without remembering the exact question while hanging out with my journalist colleagues but I threw out to the group a question along this line:  “24 Hours from Tulsa is a great tune but what’s the first line of the song?”

My good friend Peter Higgs, then golf writer for the London-based Sunday Times, and now retired and underataking a great job as Treasurer for the Association of Golf Writers, was quick as a flash with the answer.  Though to find you out the answer head below

I travelled to Tulsa, as I said, for the 101st hosting of the 2001 US Open.  South African Retief Goosen and Mark Brooks were tied for the lead from day two and then ended after four rounds locked at four-under.  In 2001, it meant an 18-hole Monday play-off which ruined the travel plans of many.

Goosen went on to post an even par score of 70 to Brooks who shot a 72.  The win saw Goosen join fellow South Africans Gary Player and Ernie Els as a US Open champion.  Among the first to congratulate Goosen was his Belgian-born ‘mind man’ Jos Van Stiphout who Goosen, and I also still remember, singled out in his victory speech.

Goosen also remarked: “It’s been a long week, it feels like a year out here” and also saying:  “When I got up this morning, I was more comfortable than I was Sunday morning. I knew I had a 50 percent chance of winning.”

In the field that week was Tiger Woods, who finished T8th and played a fifth straight major without a win.  Woods was quoted as saying:  “To be honest with you I played as hard as I could, I tried on every shot, and there’s no regrets.”

Finishing one place higher in that 2001 US Open was Phil Mickelson.  Michelson said after his closing round of 75:  “It’s certainly not the finish I would have liked, but out of playing (36) majors now, and not winning any, I’m tired of beating myself up time after time”.  Mickelson would have to wait another 11 majors before finally breaking through at the 2012 Masters.

Th 2001 US Open was my first and still only visit to Southern Hills and Tulsa.

The Southern Hills club itself was established in 1935 thanks to land donated by multi-million dollar oilman Waite Phillips and, whose brother Frank founded the Phillips 66 oil company.  Another famed resident of Tulsa was Cyrus Avery known as the “Father of Route 66”. He created the route while a member of the federal board appointed to create the Federal Highway System, then pushed for the establishment of the U.S. Highway 66 Association to pave and promote the highway.

In 1936, Route 66 became the first nationally paved highway.  It starts (or ends) in Chicago, passes through the middle of Tulsa in a fourth state of Oklahoma in a total of seven US states before ending (or starting) at Santa Monica Beach in suburban L.A.  A journey of some 2,449 miles.

And while Southern Hills GC may not feature often on the rota of men or women majors, it does enjoy a strong history of hosting golf at it’s highest level as Wikipedia outlines:-

Looking at the Southern Hills honour roll, the club has produced some fine champions.  Also, as you will also see above, Southern Hills also played host to the 2007 PGA Championship won by Tiger Woods.  It was a fourth PGA Championship victory and the 13th of his 15 major championship wins.

So, I’ve kept you waiting long enough.  The opening line to Gene Pitney’s smash hit, Twenty-four hours from Tulsa, and with thanks all those years ago to Peter Higgs ….. Dearest darling I had to write to say that I won’t be home anymore

And just to get you in the mood, here’s Pitney’s hit song from 1963 – all of a year nearly 60-years ago!

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