For many years, those around Northwest golf who viewed an 1886 cigar coming through the door knew it was almost certain to be followed by Harvey Hixson.
It’s not a stretch to call the Hixson family Oregon golf's first family. Especially with a lineup consisting of the PGA professional Harvey Hixson’s sons Doug, Danny (both professional golfers themselves) and David (a former greens keeper), daughter Barbara and wife, Bridget, as the family glue.
"I decided golf would be my work and my love when I was 11 years old and growing up in Seattle," Hixson recalled. "My mother encouraged me." He learned with clubs out of a barrel and balls he found around the golf course.
"My mother had a bunch of hickory shaft clubs hanging in the garage and I finally got her to play golf with me. She hadn't played in over 10 years. She said 'what do we play for?' I said '25 cents a hole and I will give you a stroke a hole'. She beat me scratch."
Hixson keeps stories of his career in two scrap books—one amateur and one professional. "The kids used to tease him about it but now they know how important they are," said Bridget. In 1948, Hixson qualified for the USGA National Junior as an Oregon entrant along with Dick Yost, Bob Gasper, Dick Estey and Fred Mueller.
Hixson had an illustrious career as an amateur, losing in the finals of the 1954 Oregon Amateur to Eddie Simmons on the 37th hole at Rogue Valley—Simmons' home course. Hixson beat Ralph Dichter on the 36th hole in the semi’s. He won the Southwest Oregon Amateur at Coos Country Club, defeating Lou Stafford in the finals. Simmons, Dichter and Stafford are among the state’s all-time best amateurs.
Hixson’s professional playing career includes winning the Pacific Northwest PGA championship at Eugene CC in 1973, winning the Pacific Northwest Senior PGA championship at Eugene CC in 1981—which qualified him for the National PGA championship at Winston-Salem in NC, playing in the Senior Pro-Am at Ojai, CA, playing in the Senior Open at Portland and Tahoe, and playing in Bing Crosby’s clambake at Pebble Beach.
"I had the high score the first day at Pebble Beach," he recalled, "and close to lowest the second day."
Hixson’s career as a PGA professional had a blazing start.
"My first professional job came in 1954 as an assistant to Harold West at Laurelwood," said Hixson who moved to Eugene in his early teens. "After two years Harold left and I got the head job." West went on to be head professional at Longview Country Club and Tualatin Country Club.
"Harold taught me a lot," said Hixson, "including how to smoke cigars. Wendell Wood was a big influence, too. I caddied for him at Eugene." Al Cross, who worked at Eugene Country Club with Harvey, recalls one time, "Harvey came to work with this gaudy tie on. A member came in and asked him where he got it. From the background Wendell said 'Salvation Army!'"
While at Laurelwood GC, he shot 26 with eight consecutive birdies. "No one can break that record," said Harvey. "That nine is no longer there." That day he shot nines of 34-26-33 on the par-36 layout, giving him 59 for the final 18.
Hixson left Laurelwood GC for a one-year stint as assistant to Larry Lamberger at Portland GC. The Hixson family then moved to Cottage Grove where Harvey was the head professional at Hidden Valley for 17 years—with a three-year gig as professional at Springfield in the middle. It was at Hidden Valley that his sons Doug (now head professional at Quail Valley GC), Danny (Dan Hixson Golf Designs) and David (now in the landscape business in Springfield) and daughter Barbara grew up and learned to play golf.
"The kids spent a lot of time at the golf course because either Bridget or myself were there all the time," said Harvey. "Danny was a natural golfer. Doug worked at it hard. David was a natural, too, but he was more interested in cars and girls."
Hixson left Hidden Valley to become head pro at Crooked River Ranch, his last professional position. At Crooked River, Hixson started the Hickory Shaft Open—where everyone played with hickory shaft clubs. When Hixson retired, Vern Smith took the tourney over at Ocean Dunes, where it still is played to this day.
Bill Mulflur can attest to Hixson’s love of golf clubs. After playing in John Nuich's Crab Pot near Crescent City, CA, Harvey asked Bill for a ride back to Eugene. His ride down, Mickey Shaw, was going to Medford. As they prepared to leave, Harvey asked Bill to open the trunk of his small Honda. He stuffed in five sets of old clubs that he had purchased in the area. He was a mainstay of Pat Sutton's annual antique club show at Riverside.
The Hixsons, who celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary April 21, 2010, now have seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
"I played my first pro-am with Dad at Emerald Valley when I was still an amateur," said Doug, who served Emerald Valley as an assistant for 10 years before he opened Quail Valley GC as head pro in May of 1994.
"That tourney was the last time I ever threw a club," Doug recalls. "I threw my driver early in the round and snapped it in two. Dad never spoke to me the rest of the round. I learned."
"Dad never badgered us to play golf," said Doug. "He supported us by driving us to junior tournaments all over the state in the summer, but there was never any pressure."
Danny worked at Columbia Edgewater CC as head professional for eleven years before leaving in 1999 to pursue his first love: golf course design. He hit a home run with Wine Valley GC in Walla Walla. It was ranked as fifth best new golf course in the nation when it opened in 2009.
“I have been interested in golf course design all my life,” said Dan. “When I was 7 (in 1968), my dad took me to Eugene Country Club to watch as they remodeled the course. Tees became greens. I was fascinated. I took me 30 years to get to do it.”
As for playing with dad, Dan said, “He treated us like we were adults.”
Harvey Hixson’s life and career is tied to many other famous golfers in the Northwest. He played his first pro-am at Bend G&CC with Al Cross, a professional he still considers a close friend. Some of Hixson’s tournament highlights include a 62 with son Doug to win a pro-pro at Shadow Hills—where he beat Boots Porterfield in the morning and Bob Duden in the afternoon, and playing in the first Hudson Cup with Al Feldman. It was Hixson who persuaded everyone to leave the room when Bunny Mason got up to respond to a two-hour long roast at the Red Lion at Jantzen Beach. Hixson considers Boots Porterfield, Cooper Chitty, Al Mundle and Al Cross as his closest friends among PGA members.
Harvey, you have a million friends.