I’m planning on changing my name to Jeff.
All I heard Monday during the MGA Northern Senior Tour’s stop at the St. Cloud Country Club was “Nice shot Jeff,” or “Great drive Jeff,” and a lot of “That’s a good birdie Jeff.”
Not a lot of those phrases were followed by a Jeremy. But then I’m not as good as Jeff Wiltse of the Bemidji Town and Country Club or Jeff Tweeton of Perham Lakeside Golf Course.
Those two happened to be in the foursome I snuck on with to play the former site of the Class 1A state boys and girls golf tournament. The course, which was in immaculate condition, played at 6,431 yards according to the scorecard, but throw in the wind and the soft conditions because of rain and the course was a beast for this senior wanna be.
Not so for the two Jeffs or the fourth player in our group, John Lieser of the Territory Golf Club and head boys golf coach at St. Cloud Apollo. It was the two Jeffs who pelted the fairways, peppered the greens and made the bottom of the cup seem like a popular place to be. They played so well they found themselves in the money at the end of the round.
They’ll have to take my word that the rough was punishing and the sand traps were penalizing. They wouldn’t know because they didn’t go there very often.
It’s the second time I’ve hopped on the Glen Hasselberg caravan and played an MGA senior tour event. Hasselberg, of course, is the head golf coach at Staples-Motley and one of the top salesman of the three-year-old tour. With the blessing of the MGA, I get to play golf with Hasselberg and a bunch of other old guys. After watching all the young bombers during the high school golf season, playing with the old guys seems to be more my style. That is until they ask what my score was. Then all I hear is “Good score Jeff,” or “Nice birdie Jeff.” Again, not too many of those coming my way.
This was the first time I’d ever played with Wiltse and Tweeton. But it brings to the forefront one of the top reasons someone might want to play on the senior tour. You meet a lot of good, quality guys, who already have a common interest — golf.
Wiltse as it turns out is a 1974 Brainerd graduate. He played baseball with now Brainerd Hall of Famer and my boss Mike Bialka. I learned a lot about Mr. Bialka and hopefully when I see him again in late August I will remember those stories.
Wiltse was dropping names like he was dropping birdie putts Monday. Tom Kintzle, clubhouse manager at Madden’s Pine Beach Courses was one such name. Apparently Kintzle is not only a solid golfer, but he played pretty well in net for the Warrior hockey team back in the day.
Tweeton is an English teacher at Perham High School. So with the Yellowjackets winning the Class 2A state boys basketball tournament there was always something to talk about, not to mention the now cliché phrases of “nice shot Jeff.”
Now I’m as social and outgoing as a monk honoring a vow of silence, but mix in a little golf and some name dropping and basketball and I can ease into most conversations. If only my golf game would follow.
The number of players has been holding steady for the Northern side of the senior tour. Which is OK, but there is room for more players.
One promising thing I did notice while scanning the players list was a bit more area names. Guys like Gary Lippo playing out of Cragun’s Legacy Courses, Bruce Markey and Paul Beilfuss of Whitefish, Joe Carlson and Rich Aulie out of Cuyuna Country Club, Neal Bailey of Crosswoods, Daniel Shire of Eagles Landing, David Peterson of The Pines at Grand View Lodge and Bob Kutsi of Breezy Point Resort were names I didn’t see the last time I played a senior tour event.
There is room for more lakes area seniors to join the fun. And who knows you just might get to play with a good player named Jeff and then you can feel my pain.
jeremy millsop, sports writer, may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5856.