- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2006

David Oakley, a Washington-area golfer who realized a midlife dream of quitting his job and making a living as a touring professional, died of cancer July 2 at his home in Orlando, Fla. He was 61.

Mr. Oakley won four tournaments and nearly $1 million in prize money during a decade as a senior pro in the United States and Europe.

He grew up in Falls Church, where he learned to play the game, and attended the University of Florida, where he made the golf team despite not being recruited.

After college, he turned pro but could not manage to qualify for the U.S. PGA Tour.

After a few years, he put aside his goal of playing professional golf and built a career in the furniture business, working as a hotel furniture liquidator and a furniture store manager in Northern Virginia.

Mr. Oakley regained his amateur status, and during his 30s and 40s, he won numerous championships at Westwood Country Club in Vienna, Va.

But he did not forsake his ambition to become a touring pro.

At 50, the threshold age for senior tournaments, Mr. Oakley quit his job as the manager of the Levitz Furniture Warehouse in Woodbridge, Va., moved to Florida and declared himself a professional again.

He managed to qualify for one season, 1997, on what is now called the Champions’ Tour in the United States. A slender man who relied on grit and finesse more than power, he could not hit the ball far enough to win enough money to remain on that tour.

In the meantime, Mr. Oakley had qualified for playing privileges on the European Senior Tour, a circuit with smaller purses and fewer long hitters than the American Senior Tour. He became one of the most successful senior players in Europe.

From 1998 through last year, Mr. Oakley would leave his family in Orlando and fly to Europe for a couple of months at a time, living in bed-and-breakfasts and playing tournament golf.

He won his first event in 1999. The high point of his career came in the summer of 2001, when in the space of three weeks he won the Energis Senior Masters at the Wentworth Club outside London and the Scottish Senior Open at the Roxburghe in Kelso, Scotland.

He was a game competitor whose nickname in Europe was “Oak,” despite his slim frame.

Mr. Oakley had fought off prostate cancer just as he began his senior golf career.

In January, he learned the cancer had returned and spread quickly throughout his body.

He played one final tournament, the DGM Barbados Open, in early March. He finished 13th, and his last competitive round was a 67.

He is survived by his wife, Doris, of Orlando; and two sons, James and Christopher, also of Orlando.

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