ERIN, WIS. – They are known as the Minnesota 10, although, like the Big Ten, they have expanded.
Every year a band of volunteers from Minnesota helps run the media center at the U.S. Open. The current crew, which has grown to 14, worked this week at Erin Hills, helping the USGA, often otherwise known for stuffiness, run one of the friendliest operations in sports.
At 1 p.m. on Sunday, the Minnesotans donned Helga Horns — those hats with horns and braids worn by Vikings fans — behind the desk in a show of state pride and solidarity.
“No one booed us,” said Bruce Bahneman.
Bahneman is one of the group’s leaders and has been helping at U.S. Opens since 1990. The Open would be held at Hazeltine National in 1991, so Bahneman and crew worked at the Open at Medinah to prepare.
The Minnesotans’ enthusiasm and good humor caught the eye of someone preparing for the Pebble Beach U.S. Open in 1992. They were invited to the Bay Area, played a lot of free golf and became fixtures in the event’s operations.
They chase players for interviews, help reporters and help the USGA staff with menial tasks. They started off paying their own way to sites but eventually asked for their transportation, housing and car rentals to be paid for.
The USGA eventually offered to hire them. The group declined.
“The only thing we’ve ever asked for is Gore-Tex rain suits,” Bahneman said. “We’ve never gotten them. So we asked for tickets to the British Open and tickets on the Concorde. No go. We were a little upset about that.”
He was kidding. The Minnesotans make the trips to play golf and help at the national championship. They’re in it for the laughs and life experiences.
In the old days, they would man landline phones and often answer questions for callers who were obviously gamblers seeking an edge. One bragged that he was betting on Ernie Els’ scores, and calling from South Africa allowed him to beat the delayed broadcast in his country.
The Minnesota 10 now includes: Bahneman, Pat Logan, Bob Seeger, Tom Hagel, Craig Manson, Darrol Mason, Bob Melander, Jim Wilson, Dave Brucks, Joel Hanson, Gary Korum, Dean Miller, Jay Donlin and Tom McDonald.
“We have a blast,” Bahneman said.