NISSWA -- It's not the best way to make a living, but golf professional-amateur tournaments, otherwise known as pro-ams, can be a lucrative way to keep the competitive edge, play with friends and members, or just play a new course.
The Minnesota section of the PGA of America scheduled 30 pro-ams throughout the state this golf season. The only one in the Brainerd lakes area happened Monday at Grand View Lodges' Pines Golf Course.
Twenty-eight four-person teams consisting of one golf professional and three amateurs played the Lakes and Woods Courses. The pros play for top gross score and the teams play a two-score, best ball format.
Lisa Woog watched her putt roll near the cup on the ninth hole during the fifth-annual Pines Pro-Am Monday at the Lakes Course at Grand View Lodge. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
"The location is a big reason this one is so big," said Pines head professional Eric Peterson. "A lot of other professionals' members like to come up to this area. It's a good golf course and a good way to get away from the cities. We have a number of them that stay overnight with us. It's a good draw."
Chuck Klecatsky, head professional at the Legacy Courses at Cragun's, had a team that finished second with a 120. Legacy assistant professionals Greg Kaiser and Chris Ruis also had a team. Deacon's Lodge assistant professional Nick Haag had a team as did Preserve assistant Landon Dybing.
Bill Israelson of the Vintage Golf Course at Staples finished tied for third with a 76 at the Pines. It was his seventh pro-am this season. He finished behind Don Berry of Edinburgh USA and Tom Dolby of the Fairways, both of whom played in the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.
More important, he helped his team shoot a 118 and win the pro-am. But for the pro everyone calls Izzy, it's not about money or winning.
"Over the years you start playing with the same people at the same pro-ams, whether they're members or you bring your own team." Israelson said. "I've been playing in these things for 15 years now and it's kind of a tradition where you get together with people you may only see that one time of year."
The Preserves' head professional, Jack Wawro, who is currently 12th on the Cleveland Golf MN PGA Assistant Player of the Year list, played in his fifth pro-am this season and finished with 80. Playing in pro-ams is part face time with other players and part keeping the game competitive.
"The big draw is to be able to meet some new people and let them know about our course and tell them what we have to offer," said Wawro. "The competitive part is huge too.
"For me, staying competitive is important. I put a lot of time and effort into playing well. If you waste all that time by not doing well in these tournaments, then it's a waste of your time. It's become more important as I've gotten better."
Pro-ams offer an experience to play quality golf in a low-key tournament for amateurs. Because of the two-score best ball format, a player's score doesn't count each hole. There isn't a constant pressure to score well.
For Lisa Woog, who likes to play competitively, pro-ams are fun. Woog played with her husband Tommy, Greg Wong and Peterson. The team shot a 128 -- 10 strokes off the lead.
"Myself personally, I get to play with my husband and our best friend Eric," said Woog. "It's better when you play better. I'm not a great golfer, but you don't have to be in one of these. With your handicap it doesn't matter. You don't have to play a whole good 18 holes if you contribute here and there. If you put together a couple of good holes, you're still helping the team."
For Peterson, it's simple. As a golf professional he doesn't play much. He doesn't get to play with the many members who support his course. With pro-ams he can do both.
"I think pro-ams have more to do with camaraderie with other professionals as well as being able to bring your members out to play different golf courses," said Peterson. "The competitiveness is fun and it's important to play, but I think it's more important to play with members and get out with them."
JEREMY MILLSOP, sports writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.