Laurel — The 36th-annual Mississippi Oilmen’s Invitational Golf Tournament takes place May 13-14 at Dixie Golf Club amid signs that, in Mississippi, “Oil production is on the upswing.”
“And the future appears to be good,” according to Bill Bryan, an account manager with Hughes Christensen and chairman of the committee organizing this year’s event. “There are companies that have never drilled in the state that are now considering drilling here.” (Bryan declined to name the companies.)
Hughes Christensen is a division of Baker Hughes, a worldwide manufacturer of oil drill bits.
Bryan said that the only problem with the upswing in production is a shortage of drilling rigs, “because when things were slow, they were moved to other areas.” He added that the local oil firms hope to get the rigs back soon.
Registration for the tournament begins on Thursday, May 12. “Dog fight” (practice) rounds are offered by Dixie Golf Club Thursday, but the rounds are not part of the tournament. Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., the Halliburton Companies will provide breakfast in the Dixie Dining Area.
At 7 a.m., there’s a shotgun start and medal play begins in all 10 flights. The tournament dance, held on Saturday night in past years, will take place this year on Friday. Starting at 9 p.m. at the Ramada Inn, the oilmen and their guests will dance to the music of “Meet the Press.”
The Halliburton Companies will again provide breakfast Saturday, with another 7 a.m. shotgun start and, while the men play golf, the there will be a women’s champagne brunch at the Ramada. Jones Onstage will provide entertainment.
Saturday lunch under the pavilion at Dixie is courtesy of the City of Laurel, Reagan Equipment and Stokes Distributing. There will be women’s bingo in the Dixie dining rooms.
Following the end of play, cocktails will be provided by Kelley Bros. Contractors and Country Cooks. Supper is courtesy of the American Petroleum Institute-Mississippi chapter, Central Hydraulics and the Jones County Board of Supervisors and the Economic Development Authority (EDA) of Jones County.
Prizes will be awarded Saturday night under the pavilion at the Dixie Golf Club.
“Basically, the tournament is simply a way for service companies to provide a weekend outing for oil and gas producers,” according to Jim O’Neil, district manager of operations for BJ Services and last year’s tournament chairman. “We get together with the oil producers and we foot the bill.”
BJ Services is primarily a pumping company, supplying such things as cement.
The service companies supply oil and gas producers with supplies and services vital to production, such as auger mud, pipe recovery, perforation, fishing tools, waste oil services, pipe cleaning, sand blasting and completion. There are some 90 such businesses in Laurel and the surrounding area.
“These oil service businesses are extremely important,” according to Kerry Allen, Mississippi operations and production manager for Denbury Resources Inc. “It makes no sense to have specialized oil services within a large company. The company couldn’t afford it.”
“What I’m looking forward to most at the tournament is being able to spend time with customers and friends in a relaxing, low-keyed environment,” Bryan said.
As for any business being conducted during the tournament, he added that “there’s a bit of both relaxation and business. We talk about drilling and about products that have worked well. Most of it is setting up future business.”
A date change
In the past, the tournament has been held over the Memorial Day weekend. This year’s tournament is taking place earlier because, “oilmen are family oriented,” according to Sherry Buckhaults, president of Deck & Derrick, a club composed of people in the oil business. “Oilmen want to spend Memorial Day weekend with their families.”
Desk & Derrick helps put out the souvenir program book each year. They sell all the ads and the money goes to provide a scholarship at Jones County Junior College for a student studying petroleum or related fields.
“We’re holding the tournament on Friday and Saturday this year, instead of on Saturday and Sunday,” Bryan said. “This way, people can travel on Sunday. Or go to church.”
Bryan estimated that this year’s tournament will draw some 300 oilmen plus their guests. Most of them live in Jones, Jasper, Wayne and Clarke counties.
“But they also come from all over Mississippi,” Bryan said. “And from Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma and Florida.”
Members of the tournament committee in addition to Bryan are Larry Foggert of Baroid/Halliburton, Duane Mitchell of Powerlights & Equipment Inc, Jerome Harless of Flarestack Inc., John Crosby of Advanced Products Inc. and T.O. Napier of BJ Services.
Important economic impact
Mayor Susan Vincent said that Laurel gets half of the sales tax on oil drilled within the city limits. She emphasized the economic importance of oil to Laurel’s economy since the first wells were drilled in the 1940s.
There are some 2,000 people in Jones County alone employed in the oil industry, according to Mitch Stennet, president of the Jones County EDA.
When all the long leaf yellow pine was cut and the sawmills that had brought prosperity to the area shut down, and before diversified industry moved in, oil helped sustain the economy in Jones, Jasper, Wayne and Clarke Counties. In September, 1943, oil was struck in Eucutta, in Wayne County. Other strikes followed and by the end of World War II, there was wild speculation and oil people began to move to Laurel. The first oil well was drilled in Jones County in 1954.
Laurel was nearest city and it became headquarters for Eucutta and five other nearby oil fields.
These days, there are some 1,400 oil and gas wells in Jones, Jasper, Wayne and Clarke counties, according to the Mississippi Oil & Gas Board. These produce some 11 million barrels annually.
Mayor Vincent proclaims the week of the golf tournament as “Mississippi Oil Week” in Laurel, and people from the oil industry speak at civic clubs.
Contact MBJ contributing writer at George McNeill at email@example.com.