One of the best bargains around kicks off Monday when practice rounds and pro-ams for the 3M Championship kick off at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. It’s the annual stop for pro golfers 50 and over sanctioned by the PGA Tour Champions. And every last second of the action is available free of charge.
Food, beverage and merchandise still cost money, as do those cushy skybox seats nestled close to the finishing holes. But if getting a glimpse of pin-seeking pros is your bag, then head on over to Blaine this week.
What’s the schedule?
Practice rounds and pro-ams Monday and Tuesday vary. It’s a good bet some players will be on the course most of the day. Pro-ams are typically in the early afternoon. On Wednesday and Thursday the pro-ams begin at 7 a.m. The 54-hole tournament begins Friday. Tee times will be announced midweek.
How do I get there?
Traffic is restricted this week around the residential area of the golf course. Instead, free spectator parking is located at the Anoka County Airport. From the south and east find your way to 35W North (or, from the north go 35W South) to Exit No. 32 (95th Ave.) Take a right at the top of the ramp (95th Ave. will turn into Radisson Rd.) Go through two sets of stop lights. Take a left on North Airport Rd. and follow the signs. From the west, take Highway 10 East to Highway 65. Go North on Highway 65 until you come to 109th Ave. Take a right on 109th, and another right on Radisson Rd. Take a right on North Airport Rd. and follow the signs.
After you park, hop on a free shuttle to the golf course.
OK I’m on the course – now what?
Pick up a free pairings guide from a volunteer or one of the green boxes around the course. This will tell you who is playing when on any given day. After that, head to the driving range. Where is it? Turn around from where the shuttle buses drop off, and head over the hill and across the street. Look for the bleachers and kaleidoscope of flags. That’s the driving range.
Why the driving range?
This is your best chance to see the most golfers at one time. Generally, players head to the range 30-90 minutes before their round to warm up. Keep your ears open. It’s fascinating to listen to the banter on the range. A senior tour golfer who chipped in to defeat his buddy at the 1991 Greater Greensboro Classic is likely to still talk about it all these years later.
But I want to see the course
Absolutely. Here are some of the best viewing spots at TPC Twin Cities: If you’re not lucky enough to snag some top-row real estate on the bleachers above the No. 1 tee box, shimmy on over to the hill just below that. It’s a great scene for the opening hole. The rest of the front nine is pretty flat, until you get to No. 9 which has a spectacular viewing opportunity behind the sunken green. On the back nine, be sure to spend some time on No. 12 – the long par-5 – then scoot over to see players throw darts into the short par-3 at No. 13. If you’re ready for some refreshments after that, the walking path behind the 12th tee box takes you right to the beer garden along the 18th fairway. If you’ve gone that far, keep going toward the 18th green and watch players aim for eagles across the massive pond guarding the final hole.
And that’s when I get autographs, right?
Yes. The hill behind the 18th green is known as “Autograph Alley” (there’s even a banner). Most – if not all – players will spend some time there after signing their scorecards. Be polite – and for the love of William Ben Hogan - let the kids get to the front of the line.
Saturday’s Greats of Golf Challenge – the exhibition that features Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Annika Sorenstam and other legends of the game – is also a fantastic chance to get autographs. Each participant has a set window to sign Saturday in the large expo tent behind the 18th hole grandstand before their round begins. Look for the stage inside the tent and listen for announcements.
Is that where I see the trophy presentation on Sunday?
No. The 3M Championship winner will receive his prize – the silver cup trophy and an oversized check for $262,500 – on the 18th green after the final player putts out.