Date: January 16, 2007
About: Oscar Miles - Class of 1957
No Change of Course
Even though he could sleep in whenever he wants, Oscar Miles' internal clock won't let him.
"I'm still up at 5 a.m. every day," Miles said.
After more than four decades of getting up before the sun rises, old habits are hard for Miles to break. His work as a golf course superintendent has made him an early bird, probably for life.
Yet, Miles still gets up early and checks on the weather every day on his home computer. Instead of heading to the course, Miles can enjoy time at home with his wife of 43 years, Mardelle. The couple is back in Quincy, the place where Miles got his start in the golf business. Unlike a lot of retirees, the Mileses had no desire to head south.
"It's a dream come true to live here again," said Miles, who made the Gem City his retirement home last February.
Growing up four blocks from Cedar Crest County Club, Miles started as a caddie when he was 13 years old and began working on the course two years later. By the time he was a Quincy High School senior in 1957, he had worked his way up to greenskeeper.
He wound up finding a job for life. He saved money for two years after high school so that he could enroll in the fledgling Penn State Turf Grass Management Program. After graduating from Penn State in 1962, Miles set off a distinguished career that saw him become one of the top golf course superintendents in America. He became a Hall of Famer in 2003 when he was enshrined in the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame.
After coming back home in 1962 to be the superintendent at the Quincy Country Club, Miles left for Olympia Fields in 1964 where he oversaw two Western Opens. After a five-year stint at Broadmoor County Club in Indianapolis in the mid-1970s, Miles returned to the Chicago area in 1979 to work at Butler National where he earned the Distinguished Service Award a the 1985 PGA Tour's Course of the Year.
Two years later, Miles encountered his biggest challenge ever. With another Western Open on tap at Butler National, Miles had to scramble to get the course ready. Summer storms had dumped millions of gallons of water on the course and two inches of silt. After saying a short prayer, Miles got the help he needed when club members helped get the course ready for play.
Water hogs were brought in to pump out the water and mud. The tournament, which was shortened to 54 holes and eventually won by Quincyan D.A.
Weibring, had to be played on two courses on the Butler National property.
"Each place I worked got me ready for my next challenge," Miles said.
After the rains, Butler National had to be rebuilt, and Miles was ready for his next challenge. In 1989, he moved on to a new Chicago-area course, The Merit Club. He was the course's first superintendent and stayed there for
16 years before retiring. He oversaw his last major tournament while at The Merit Club when the club played host to the U.S. Women's Open in 2000.
Though he's enjoying retirement, his work is still being felt on a daily basis at clubs all over the U.S., including Quincy. Quincy Country Club superintendent Matt Springer is one of more than 70 people who have worked under Miles and gone on to become head superintendents.
Miles knows he could play a lot of free golf if he wanted to do so.
"I try not to push it," he said.
Contact Sports Editor Don O'Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org or (217) 221-3365