MCLB golf instructor shares history with base
Submitted by: MCLB Barstow
Story Identification #: 2004826135940
Story by Pfc. Nich R. Babb

MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif. (Aug. 19, 2004) -- Standing with his feet shoulder width apart and his knees slightly bent, Oscar Valenzuela, the Tees and Trees Golf Instructor who just celebrated his 74th birthday, focuses on his golf ball, which he is ready to hit and send soaring into the wild, blue yonder. Even though he has played golf all of his life, being the base golf instructor has not always been his job for MCLB Barstow.

Valenzuela was born on July 26, 1930, and grew up in the southeastern bayside town of Corpus Christi, Texas, he said. When he was a teenager he worked at the Corpus Christi Country Club, doing jobs, which included parking big old-time Buicks, selling bowls of ice and caddying for the members. Some of the members he would caddy for were officers in the United States Navy, Valenzuela said.

When he was 16, he started thinking about the Marine Corps, and on his 17th birthday had his mom sign his contract to allow him to enlist in the Corps, he said.

Being a squared-away leatherneck appealed to Valenzuela, he said, but being able to travel the world and overcome challenges that were set before him are among some of his fondest memories from his term.

After completing basic training in 1947 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Valenzuela went to Motor Transport School for his military occupational specialty and then to Camp Witeck, Guam his first duty station, which was still segregated, he said.

While in Guam he worked at the ice plant, he said. Even though the war was over and the Marines were trying to repair the island of Guam, they still had to maintain a constant level of cautiousness in case there was a strike against them. Also, Marines had to be very aware of their surroundings in Guam, because most of the people were still recovering from the “aftershock” caused by World War II, Valenzuela said.

Despite being segregated and in a potentially dangerous place, he very much enjoyed his time in Guam, Valenzuela said.

In 1949 after his first tour, Valenzuela was ordered to Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow, he said. When he got here, the base was big enough to rate a bakery and a chow hall located across the street from the bakery.

There was also a Marine by the name of Chief Warrant Officer Gardner here, who worked for the communications division, but was highly educated in engineering. He had chosen a plot of land that would someday become a golf course and Valenzuela’s pride and joy.

The golf course, which Gardner had laid out, was the result of the commanding officer’s wishes, Valenzuela said. Gardner only made it nine holes, because rainstorms would sometimes flood the riverbed on the north side of the course. Believe it or not, rainstorms did find their way to Barstow at one point in time, according toValenzuela.

Even after Valenzuela’s term of enlistment concluded in 1951, he stayed with MCLB. He married a local girl named Maria, and was content with the town of Barstow.

To support his family, he worked as a dispatcher for the motor transport division for 17 years, and then transferred to be a driver for the fire department, Valenzuela said. He then completed a management skills class to become an assistant crew chief.

Throughout his time working here, Valenzuela had always been asked to come out and play golf with his commanders and fellow Marines, he said.

One such person who he would play golf with was a Marine named Robert Bissit, Valenzuela said. Bissit was a Master Sergeant at the time, and a member of the Professional Golf Association. Valenzuela would play golf with him, and even caddy for him in golf tournaments, he said.

After 39 years and nine months of faithful service working for the Marine Corps, as an active duty Marine and firefighter, Valenzuela retired. Even though he was retired, he went back to school so he could qualify for his golf instructor certification.

In 1997 Valenzuela finished all of his qualifications, and became a registered golf instructor.

In addition to teaching the game of golf to the participants of Tees and Trees Golf Course, Valenzuela is an active participant in his church. He is in charge of the upkeep of the room where the robes, chalices and other holy equipment are stored, and he is the coordinator for the church’s ushers, he added.

Valenzuela said he loves every minute he works with the United States Marine Corps. He has reached a great point in his life, and said he is not planning on changing anything anytime soon.

“I am just going to live the way I am living, and just keep up what I am doing in church, and be happy.” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela said that if you have a question about the base he could most likely answer it.

Those who have come into contact with Valenzuela have seen that he is a perfect example of the saying “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

Go and meet him some time, because he would love to tell you all he knows, he said.

Oscar Valenzuela, MCLB Barstow's certified golf instructor, has dwelled and worked locally for more than 55 years. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Ashley Warden