We had a group of people on the St. Paul sports staff interested in meeting at midmorning to beat around a golf ball. There would be discussions as to who would call to see if the pro at a fine local track (maybe even private grass) had room to sneak in a foursome.
Often, the conclusion would be, “Ah, I don’t want to work that hard and lose a half-dozen balls. Let’s meet at the Valley at 10 o’clock.’’
This was Fountain Valley, a course created out of farmland not far from downtown Farmington in the 1970s. I referred to it as the Valley of the Tree, because there was a large one that wasn’t really in play, and then a collection of pines and other trees that were just starting to grow.
This is fact: I never had a bad day at the Valley. The laughs were endless, the pace was fast, the anguish was minimal and all you needed was a sleeve of balls (maximum).
The Valley also became home to the Great Grudge Matches of the mid-’80s. The partners were Jimmy and Billy Robertson, the twin brothers of Calvin Griffith, against Sherm Seeker, the Twins’ cook from Met Stadium days, and me.
Calvin had sold the Twins officially to Carl Pohlad in September 1984, so he often came along in a third cart as the gallery. Jimmy did the arithmetic, and you paid for lost holes as partners, as well as individual crimes such as three-putts. Sherm and I invariably were on the wrong end of the money exchange.
On Thursday, Fountain Valley’s importance was expanded when Sammy Schmitz, 35, won the U.S. Mid-Amateur in Vero Beach, Fla. — and with it, an invitation to the 2016 Masters.
Schmitz lived in a house across the road and started playing the Valley as a kid. “Sammy was here every day,’’ co-owner Carol Olson said. “He even worked for us for a while.’’
Schmitz’s Facebook page included this message from a friend: “From Fountain Valley to the Masters … it doesn’t get any better than that.’’
Nor does it get much more amazing.
PLUS THREE FROM PATRICK
Favored tracks for Prior Lake beer drinkers of the ’70s:
1. Scottdale. A nine-holer in Credit River that you played in sneakers and with a six-pack. This great piece of land is now the Legends.
2. New Prague C.C. When we wanted to go uptown, we’d play here. Good course, good bar.
3. Edenvale (now Bent Creek). I threw a putter upward in disgust and it stayed in a tree. My brother said: “You’re better off with it there.’’