Established in 1972 by Wilbur and Larry Suhre, Oak Brook has a long history of providing golfing enjoyment in the St. Louis area. Wilbur Suhre, a life long entrepreneur, spent his entire professional life creating businesses. From a grocery store, to propane, to banking, to countless other ventures, Wilbur Suhre lived the American dream. His first love in sports was baseball. As he got older, he fell in love with golf. Larry, his youngest son, started playing the game in high school. He played on the very first Edwardsville High School golf team. He turned professional and played full time professionally in the 60’s. Larry’s playing ability fed Wilbur’s desire to play and build a course where his son could hone his skills. Larry became frustrated with the “mini-tour” life and wanted an outlet. Wilbur found some land that no one else wanted on the outskirts of Edwardsville. With the last dime they had in the bank, Wilbur and his wife Ida, and Larry and his wife Nancy, put their heart and soul into building the first nine holes. Even though many thought it was a bad idea, they forged ahead with a bulldozer, dynamite, and blood, sweat and tears. The family worked countless hours moving dirt, cutting down trees, and doing everything they knew how to make the unwanted bottom ground into a player friendly golf course. Along the way, Edwardsville native and family friend, Harold Patton came up with the name Oak Brook and the rest is history. Many of the people who helped the Suhres along the way still play at Oak Brook. This is a testament to Wilbur and Larry’s vision and perseverance to finish the job.
Completed in 1972, the East Nine was the first nine holes. Originally holes 1-9, today it plays as holes 19-27. The tree lined layout doesn’t require as much length as it does accuracy. Built in a flood plane, the East Nine has caused the business problems in the rainy spring seasons. The East is a tranquil nine with large oak trees lining the fairways. Construction to improve conditions has been a life long venture for Larry. Every year, the East gets a little bit better, and drier.
In 1974, one day after the largest rain they had seen in the first 2 years, the West Nine opened at Oak Brook. The more open West Nine played as holes 10-18 until 1981 when it was changed to holes 1-9. The player friendly layout gave golfers variety and gave the Suhres a little more stability. Built on higher ground, the West Nine allowed the course to be open, even in the rainy season. The West has become much tougher over the years but is still the best nine to score. Larry’s love of trees has tightened the once, wide open fairways.
In 1976 Wilbur Suhre passed away. Wilbur’s dream would be left in the hands of his son and family. With 18 holes completed in 1974, Wilbur was able to enjoy the fruits of his labor for a couple of years. Larry and Nancy had built a home on the course so they were always close by. They both worked tirelessly to make Oak Brook what it is today. Oak Brook became life to Larry and Nancy. Nancy, an elementary teacher, became a stay at home mom when they adopted their first son, Steven in 1973. In 1977, their youngest son, Michael was born. With their family complete, they were able to focus all of their time into improving the course.
As years passed and business began to improve, Larry had his eye on the property north of the course. The Wehling Farm was prime property to build another nine holes and would give Oak Brook 18 holes on high ground.
The land for the north nine was purchased in 1996. Soon after, Larry started working to build the North Nine. With more financial resources and less desire to do everything on his own, Larry hired Henke Construction to do the landscaping work. Steve Bopp, with the help of Larry, designed the North Nine’s layout. A former EHS golfer, Steve is a landscape architect with degrees from the University of Illinois and the University of Georgia. Don’t be mistaken, even though Larry had outsourced some of the tasks, he still worked from sun up to sun down on his new venture.
On June 24th, 2000, one day before Nancy’s 59th birthday, Oak Brook was hit with over 7 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. This was the largest amount of rain they had ever received in their 28 year history. Within the next week, the North Nine was opened for play. The links style course is a much longer layout than the other nines. Modern day equipment and financial success allowed for more resources to be used in construction. The North is one of the best nine holes in the bi-state area. Its mounds of amber native grass, zoysia fairways, and plush bent grass greens are popular among local golfers.
From humble beginnings, to a 27-hole golf course on over 260 acres, Oak Brook and the Suhre family have come a long way. Larry and Nancy have dedicated their lives to give local golfers a place to call home. There is not a place on the course that Larry has not touched and a face in the clubhouse Nancy has not greeted with a smile. For now, there are no real plans for any future expansion but with a large amount of rain and some heavy equipment, you never know.