Thursday, Oct. 1, was to be the start of a golf trip of a lifetime. Arranged by Chris Foley, teaching professional at Cragun’s Legacy Courses in Brainerd, 12 avid apostles of the god of golf were to spend two weeks playing some of the best courses in Ireland and Scotland.
Twelve rounds on some courses with iconic names such as Ballybunion, Doonbeg and Tralee in Ireland and Lundin Links, Muirfield and the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented this pilgrimage to the places where golf started more than 600 years ago.
My primary goal was to play St. Andrews before the grim reaper makes his inevitable and appointed appearance. The course is the birthplace of golf, where the 18-hole round of golf was created in 1764.
Three courses were on my list to play before that time. One was Augusta National, which was played in 1995; Pebble Beach in 1982; and St. Andrews was the final one to complete the trilogy.
At age 77, there is still time, but the sands of time are slowly sinking. Possibly next year if this pandemic can be contained, and safe air travel can be resumed into both countries.
Congratulations to former Cokato and three-time all-conference selection at St. Cloud State Tyler Koivisto, who won his first European Challenge Tour event at the Northern Ireland Open and its $38,000 first prize on Sept. 5. The 27-year-old taught third and fourth grade for three years in Monticello before he quit teaching to chase his dream of making it as a golf professional.
Territory Golf Club held its club championship on Sept.12-13 and here are the winners. Men’s champion: Adam McArthur. Men’s net champion: Paul Hans. Women’s champion: Amber Daniels. Women’s net champion: Cindy Kunkel.
Kudos to Wapicada’s Cindy Kunkel for winning the Minnesota Golf Association’s Women’s Net Amateur Championship-Overall Division with a quota points score of 31-32. She bested another Wapicada member Sally Deyak (35-28) in a scorecard playoff. This event was played at The Preserve and Pines courses in Pequot Lakes and Nisswa on Aug. 8 and 9.
The Meadowlark Country Club Four-Person Scramble was played at the Melrose course on Saturday, Sept. 12. Winning the gross event was the team of Andy and Mike Cleland, Steve Johnson and John Lieser with a score 55 (-17). The net champions were the quartet of Brad and Corey Wiehoff, Mike West and Jason Ahrens with a score of 48.3.
Course superintendent Dustin Wessel had the greens and tees (cut down to greens height) in superb shape. If there is a course in Central Minnesota that presents its floral arrangements as an aesthetic compliment to the golf course proper as well as Meadowlark, I have not played it. Ninety-five-year-old Luz Jung and her cohorts Carol Klaphake and Char Westendorf should be applauded.
According to Jonathan Nietfield, Meadowlark’s club manager for the past 12 years, the course is running a Fall Special – $25, which includes the cart, to play all the golf you can squeeze in for the day. If you have not played the course, give it a try before winter arrives.
Speaking of fall specials, Angushire Golf Club in St. Cloud is running one that allows a player who walks and wants to pay a $10 fee to play an unlimited number of holes. I took them up on the offer and found the course a treat to play. The greens were superb, the fairways were immaculate and the overall aesthetics of this niche course was a delight to play.
I would rate the par 35 course an eight out of a possible 10. If the co-owners, course superintendent Lynn Richert and the manager Terra O’Neil, could in some way cajole Mother Nature to do its lightning best on the trees which front the greens on Hole 3 and Hole 7, the course would add two points to my rating and would be a perfect 10.
Wapicada member Tom Peterka, Pierz Golf Course member Joe Bell and Albion Ridges’s Dave Greve qualified for the finals of the MGA Senior Tour Championship held at White Bear Lake Golf & Yacht Club on Sept. 21.Greve shot 76, Peterka 80 and Bell 83. The White Bear club was designed by the famous Scottish architect Donald Ross, who also designed Northland Country Club in Duluth.
Mike and Andy Cleland and this columnist motored to the scenic Headwaters Country Club in Park Rapids on Sept. 13 for its annual Three-Person Scramble. Our trio finished third in the gross division but won the scramble event’s net division with a -13 score. This course is one of my five favorite courses to play in northern Minnesota.
According to Tad Usher, Headwater’s head professional, play has been so brisk this summer that the club has run out of carts during the day and offers specials for those willing to walk. Retired Sauk Rapids High School Activities Director Tom Conzemius, works in the pro shop. If you are ever in the Park Rapids area, this course is a must play.
Former Apollo golfer and 1995 graduate Todd Tourand captured the 2020 club championship on his home course in Mountain View, California, on Aug. 23. Tourand fired rounds of 71-69 at Shoreline Golf Club to prevail.
Many Central Minnesota sports fans remember Mark Haugejorde, the 1974 graduate from New London-Spicer High School. He won the state golf championship in his junior year. He played for legendary coach Dave Williams in Houston, and his teammates included Fred Couples, Jim Nantz and briefly, Sir Nick Faldo.
I last met Haugejorde at the opening of Bearpath Golf & Country Club in Eden Prairie in August 1996, as he worked for Nicklaus Design from 1995-02. The next time I ran into him was at the Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo earlier this summer and he informed me that he and 50-year-old senior tour player Tim Herron are in a partnership (Caddie U) to run golf tournaments for young and inspiring golfers who want to earn Evans Scholarships.
Wapicada held its Member/Guest tournament on Sept. 19-20 and the winners of the over-all two-day quota points total were Joe Sauer and Ryan Berg. Sauer fired an impressive 71 from the blue tees on the final day with birdies on 16, 17 and 18.
As this is the final golf column for 2020, I would like to share these words of wisdom from Wapicada’s wizard of the fairways and 81-year-old golf guru, Roy Lommel: “When it’s breezy, swing easy.” Stay well.
This is the opinion of Times golf columnist John Lieser. Contact him at [email protected].
This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: Pandemic postpones golf trip of a lifetime