Jeff Nelson was assisting Bemidji head boys golf coach Larry Perkins 23 years ago when a few girls approached him about the possibility of competing in a meet.
"Some girls wanted to come out for golf, so I took them to a co-ed meet in Detroit Lakes," Nelson remembered. "We finished second of 11 teams in the tournament."
The next day Activities Director Jack Luoma approached Nelson about the logistics of creating a girls golf program at BHS. They talked about the timing, Title IX and the pros and cons of starting a new program. By the end of the conversation, Luoma asked Nelson to be the coach.
"That's how it all began," Nelson said. "And, after five years of assisting with the boys program and 23 years with the girls, I'm still coaching."
During his tenure, Nelson has directed Bemidji to a state championship in 2004 plus a runner-up finish. His success guiding the program was documented among his peers and Tuesday morning his fellow coaches, through the Minnesota Golf Coaches Association, announced that Nelson will be honored as a Hall of Fame inductee.
"Current Hall of Fame members and past presidents of the Coaches Association selected your name from a list of well-deserving nominees," wrote Minnesota Golf Coaches Hall of Fame committee member Rich Aulie in his official announcement letter to Nelson.
"We are reserving a place for you and a guest at the head table, compliments of the Golf Coaches Association."
The Hall of Fame ceremony will be conducted during the MSHSL Class AAA girls golf team banquet at 7 p.m. June 15 at the Earle Brown Center in Brooklyn Center.
Nelson's friends are also invited and they may purchase tickets from Tim Kallevig at 763-569-7600, extension 88539.
"Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is very humbling," Nelson said. "It just came out of the blue. I never expected any accolades such as this.
"The best thing about it is you are selected by your peers," Nelson added. "This is quite an honor. There are many deserving people who coach golf and why I was chosen, I don't know."
In this day and age, when pressure from outsiders can collapse the foundation of a high school sports program and break the enthusiasm of coaches, long-time mentors like Nelson are rare. For successful programs, however, coaching stability is vital.
"Over the years we've done all right," Nelson said. "I remember in the early years if we broke 400 (the cumulative score of the top four golfers) it cost me a pizza. But we worked hard as a program and we've had our share of success.
"I have had the privilege of working with nice kids and that's why I keep coaching," Nelson said. "Hopefully, you are making some kind of impact on the kids, both on the course and outside of golf. It's fun to watch the kids improve and start to love the game. It's the people you meet and the people you get to know who make coaching fun."
That sentiment is shared by Nelson's peers and their appreciation for his dedication will forever be recognized by his induction into the Minnesota Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame.