ALEXANDRIA, MINN. – The Alexandria Golf Club opened with nine holes in 1916. The interest was such that it was soon expanded to 18 holes. The decision was made to start a tournament in 1922.
There were people with money from Texas, Oklahoma and elsewhere who discovered the supply of glacial lakes in the vicinity and migrated to resorts and lake homes to escape the heat.
A large share of these families joined the golf club, and reveled in the idea of a festive week in which talented players would descend on the course. The tense matches of the day would turn to partying in the evening.
A good time was had by all, particularly those who had invested in the correct players in the pre-tournament Calcutta — a betting event that took place on Tuesday night, after the championship flight had been reduced to 32 players.
The tournament gained the name "The Resorters.'' Visitors from other resort towns, Detroit Lakes and Bemidji, were impressed by the atmosphere.
The Pine-to-Palm started at the Detroit Country Club in 1926, and the Birchmont started at the Bemidji Town and Country Club in 1931. And it has been thus for decades:
The Resort circuit, the vacation circuit, means the Birchmont on the last week of July, the Resorters on the first week of August, and the Pine-to-Palm as the windup on the second week of August.
There were so many club members from the Southwest — "oilmen'' was the legend — that Alexandria designed greens in the shapes of states.
"It's hard work for our grounds crew to keep those shapes, with other grasses sneaking in,'' Jerry Rose said. "We had a few more, Kansas, a couple of others, but now we're down to three 'state' greens: No. 7 is Minnesota, No. 8 is Oklahoma and No. 17 is Texas.''
Rose was born in Alexandria. His father, Hap, was the groundskeeper for a time and then the pro. "Then, we moved to California when my dad took a job as a pro there,'' Rose said. "But we always came back for a long summer … mid-May through September.''
He smiled slightly and said: "This is my 46th Resorters.''
Rose is a three-time champion: 1979, 1983 and 2000. He was attempting a repeat in 1980 and reached the semifinals, where he encountered 21-year-old Tom Lehman.
"He wasn't playing great that day and I thought I had him beat,'' Rose said. "And then he flipped the switch and made some great shots. I remember thinking, 'This guy's going to make it big someday.' ''
Rose, 62, remains a scratch golfer and was in the 32-player championship bracket again this year.
"I was 73-69 in the qualifying, but I got knocked out right away by Jacques Wilson,'' Rose said. "He's really good. There are so many good players now, young guys shooting 66s, 67s.''
Rose was given a chance to further prove his devotion to the Resorters five years back when he was nominated as tournament director. The Resorters had been in some decline. The club had an eye on 2021 and wanted to make sure No. 100 would be something special.
Seemed to work. Entries opened on April 15 and there were 530 in the 10 categories (men, women, juniors) signed up in six hours.
Club pro Kyle Lee and his wife, Ashley, have been in charge of much in-tournament organization, including shuffling over 200 carts — for many players, for operations and rentable for spectators.
One gentleman watching from a cart was Lehman, using a week off in the Champions Tour to be back home for the Resorters.
"The first one I played was in 1977, right out of high school,'' Lehman said. "Jerry Gruidl beat me 1-up in the final.
"The Resorters always has been a great family event. We almost always get back. My brother Jim, he has that event for senior women's pros in the Twin Cities this week.
"I said, 'Jim, what are you doing? This is Resorters week.' ''
There is also a No. 100 being marked 30 miles to the east in Sauk Centre. It was 1921 when banker Dave Caughren and doctor Julian DuBois rallied local businesses to build a golf course a short distance from downtown, near the long and narrow Sauk Lake.
Caughren was a childhood friend of Sinclair Lewis. When the famous author of "Main Street'' came to town, he often stayed with Caughren. Initially, there was some community angst about Lewis' depiction of Smalltown, USA, when the book was released in 1920, but Sauk Centre soon embraced it to the point the high school teams became the "Mainstreeters.''
Caughren's interest in golf came after a visit to John Harvey Kellogg's Battle Creek Sanitarium trying to cure stomach ulcers. If Kellogg was half as zany as depicted by Anthony Hopkins in the awful movie ''The Road to Wellville,'' it had to be quite an experience.
Kellogg ordered exercise and Caughren decided golf could be it. Tom Vardon (Harry's brother) was brought in to design nine holes. It was home to the Sauk Centre Country Club through 2013.
Jim Umhoefer, a Sauk Centre resident, freelance travel writer and photographer, has captured stories of the characters that populated the course and clubhouse in a book released in June (available on Amazon):
"The Old Course on Main Street; A Century of Life and Golf on the Minnesota Prairie.''
The book is dedicated to Harry Hanson, who died last year at 95, and is No. 1 on most lists for Sauk Centre characters. He taught social studies, coached and, famously, wrote for the Sauk Centre Herald for 64 years.
Ken Nelson had a long run as Sauk Centre's athletic director and as a highly successful golf coach. Sauk Centre's boys, trained on the nine-holer, won four Class A team titles from 1983 to 1988.
How about Harry?
''There were four of us playing our usual game and we started walking off the tee,'' Nelson said. "I said, 'Harry, I don't think you hit yet.' He reached in his back pocket, took out two balls and said, 'You're right.'
"What I wanted to know was, 'Harry, why do you have a second ball hidden in your back pocket?'"
The Sauk Centre Country Club members bought Greystone, a modern 18-hole course on the other side of the lake, and moved there eight years
Businessman Steve Klick purchased the nine-holer and renamed it the The Old Course. It now can be played reversible for 18 holes.
The Old Course was lonely on Thursday, but Nelson will tell you proudly, "Seven PGA Tour players have played here: Pat Beste, Dale Douglass, Lumpy [Tim Herron], Chris Perry, Dave Haberle, Howie Johnson and Tom Lehman, including for our high school matches with Alexandria.''
Nelson smiled and said: "Lumpy's sister, Alissa, married one of my players … Cory Super. There was a reception here. We had a golf event the day before and I put Lumpy in with my son-in-law. Slowest player ever.
"I wondered how long Lumpy could take it. He made it to the second tee, and then said, 'I'm not going to watch this 'you-know-what' all day.' We got our laugh quick that time.''