Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship acquired The Golf Club of Dallas in a move that the church’s leader and the club's former owner say will be beneficial for the entire community.
Pastor Tony Evans said he’s always felt the golf club was a special place. For 13 years, in an act of faith, he said he prayed about the property.
“I would go to our education building, which overlooks the club, and I would pray,” Evans said. “And I would sit on the back steps and say, ‘Now Lord, if you can use this to advance your purposes for the well-being of this community from a Christian perspective, then bring it about at some point in the future.”
Last year, conversations and negotiations began.
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Now, the 157-acre Golf Club of Dallas, formerly known as the Oak Cliff Country Club, belongs to Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship.
“I live in this community, raised my children in this community,” Evans said. “Our church is in the community and our ministries are for this community.”
As if confirmation he’d made the right choice, he said his wife, Lois Evans, talked to him about the club before she died in December.
“And she said, 'God spoke to me last night and said if you’re able, he really does want us to get the golf course,'” Tony Evans said.
There’s been heated debate about the club.
Evans' church has been in Oak Cliff for more than 40 years. He said no decision about the course would be made without community interest in mind.
Over the years, OCBF has invested in the community through job training and placement, counseling and a host of other community needs. The church employs more than 300 people and provides services through its family care pregnancy center and technology center.
Evans said the purchase is a continuation of the work they’ve done for decades.
“This acquisition is really a continuation of what we’ve being doing throughout the life of our ministry,” he said.
It’s also full circle moment for Pettis Norman who, as a black man, said he joined the club in a 51-to-49 vote many years ago. The activist and former Dallas Cowboys player said it’s about making a positive influence.
“Open up the system so that everybody, no matter what the color, has an opportunity to participate,” Norman said.
He said Evans is a gem in the community and that his leadership is needed and respected in Oak Cliff.
“It’s about making things better for other folks,” Norman said. “That’s what this whole life is all about.”
Evans said it’s not just about ownership, but about impact. He said he’d like to preserve the historical significance and use of the golf course, and enhance it for the benefit of families.
“We’re trusting God to do great things through it, attached to all the other things we’re doing spiritually, economically and socially in our community,” Evans said.
The club is also known for hosting the Byron Nelson Golf Tournament.
Former owner and PGA Director of Golf, Philip Bleakney said felt good about the new leadership. A letter from Bleakney to the members and patrons at the Golf Club of Dallas reads in part:
“The Senior Pastor, Dr. Tony Evans, told me in one of our meetings that he founded the Church in 1976 with 10 people in his house. They now employ over 300 employees and have about 10,000 active members. They have tremendous outreach in the community and have an interest in approximately 200 acres in Oak Cliff, not including the golf course. After many phone conversations and several in person meetings, it was clear to me that Dr. Evans and Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship was a perfect group to own the Club. OCBF made it clear that they want to see the golf course remain intact and plan to work on making it the focal point of the community like it has been in the past.
"This was a win for not only our group and OCBF, but also the immediate community and all the members and patrons that the course already serves. I have been very fortunate to work very closely with Dr. Evans and Mr. Gregory Smith, the Executive Business Manager, during this long process and I could not be more impressed with the entire team at OCBF. They are true professionals and it is very clear they just want the best for the Community and the Club.”