Great State: His Career as a Photographer Started at Oak Tree

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NORMAN, OKLAHOMA -- He never shoots any pictures right away.

Mike Klemme wears out golf carts.

He checks Google Earth before even setting foot on a golf course.

He looks at tree height and where shadows will fall.

"And when the golf hole will be at its best and most dramatic," he adds.

The camera might be in his hands but Mike will still wait for those golden hours in the late afternoon or early morning when the light is best.

He says, "I want that golfer to stand here and think about what club he would pull out of the bag and how he would place his shot."

Klemme was a young nature photographer in the early 1980's.

It was a crowded field, but he had a friend who worked at the Oak Tree Country Club who asked him to come and take a few pictures of the new mens course.

"So I did," he recalls, "And they used my photographs to decorate the club house and for calendars, and to promote the 1984 U.S. Amateur."

That was the start of a 25 year career that took him around the world.

He's been to Augusta many times, Pebble Beach, Doral, Royal Birkdale, Hilton Head, Shinnecock Hills, Dubai, and Hawaii.

You name the course and he's probably been there to take pictures of it.

"Over 25 years I photographed 1,700 golf courses in 40 some countries around the world."

Klemme rode the wave of golf course construction until his business dried up with the recession.

He's always been a nature photographer.

"You're still a nature photographer," observes a golf course visitor.

"I'm still a nature photographer," he agrees. "I just don't take as many pictures with flag sticks in them anymore."

On this late afternoon he's back at the Jimmie Austin Golf Club in Norman, Oklahoma, scouting out tomorrow morning's work, and still marveling at his good fortune.

Speaking of the Oak Tree Club that gave him his first job, Klemme says, "I'll be forever grateful to them and my good friend Steve Brailey who first invited me to come out and shoot the golf course."

If a picture contains a thousand words, then this is a story that contains thousands of pictures.

All of them started at a golf club in Edmond, way before the 2014 U.S. Senior Open a generation ago.

Klemmeis based in his hometown of Enid, Oklahoma.

He still takes pictures of golf courses but over the past few years his photography business has seen him expand to coffee table books and art prints.

To see more of his work go to

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