The Jim Hitch Memorial Golf Tournament has been a calling card for golfers from Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas Colorado and the central region for the US for almost five decades. Former participants of the Jim Hitch Memorial represent more than 36 PGA Tour wins. Some of the past and current PGA Professionals include Ryan Palmer, Bob Estes, Bob Tway, David Edwards, Greg Winter, Jim Woodward and Steve Braley, former Senior Director PGA of America.
Jim Hitch was the son of a prominent Oklahoma Panhandle ranching family that arrived in the Oklahoma Panhandle in 1884. Jim was also a proud member of the Guymon, Oklahoma Class of 1971. To say Jim was an outstanding young man is an understatement. He was an exceptional basketball player and very gifted musically. But Jim’s first love and greatest skill was on the golf course and he became one of the highest ranked junior golfers in the country in 1969 and 1970. Jim began playing golf to enjoy with his friends but it quickly turned from fun to a passion. However there were obstacles Jim had to overcome when learning to play the game. In one of his very first rounds of golf Jim was with his buddies and in an unfortunate turn of events he was hit in the face by a golf club and Jim was sprawled on the ground bleeding and semi-conscious. Jim’s jaw was broken and teeth were missing. The friends carried Jim to a nearby house of a local doctor and for the next six months Jim had his jaw wired shut and all activity were eliminated. Golf and other sports were out of the question for almost a year. To know one’s surprise, as soon as it was allowed, Jim was back on the golf course learning the game that he came to love. As time went by more young men in Guymon High School took up the game to enjoy with friends.
A few years later Jim was a picture of health at age 17. After working on his putting well into darkness that day Jim headed home and that night Jim tragically and unexpectedly died in his sleep. His family and friends were devastated from this loss and at such a young age. Jim Hitch’s parents, Lad and Lala Hitch, were not golfers but they understood Jim’s love of golf so in his memory they founded the Jim Hitch Memorial Golf Tournament and the first event took place in June 1972. Mr. and Mrs. Hitch started this event in their son’s memory but also to give the junior golfers of the region a quality tournament to enjoy the great game that their son loved and excelled at. Almost immediately the tournament became very popular and attracted junior golfers from around the country.
Today the tournament is one of the oldest junior golf tournaments in the country and has been played consecutively for 48 years. The tournament lost its founders, Lala and Lad Hitch, many years ago and their far-reaching support. The perpetuation and constancy of the tournament is now in the hands of the childhood classmates of Jim Hitch, the Guymon High School class of 1971. However the stability of this Guymon tradition is only possible because the dedicated support by the citizens of Guymon and the supporting businesses.
The theme for the tournament was created from a letter written by a close friend, whose words inspired Lala Hitch.
To Jim, a friend that cannot be replaced
I got to know you real well about the beginning of Junior High. You and I took guitar lessons for a long time together. We played our guitars together in school, and at home. I always admired you for your honesty, and leadership. Two very important factors of which you possessed. During our freshmen year we started playing golf, and that’s when I really got to know you. Out on the golf course you get to know a person real well, because you’re with them practically every day. It’s going to be hard to continue on in Golf this season without you there to help us. I really think that you would want us to keep going, and win State. That’s what you wanted most of all.
I suppose if there’s a Golf Course in Heaven, you’ll be on it night and day, “Striving for Perfection”.