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Jim Haskell's chip into a stiff wind on No. 9 landed within two feet of the pin. Haskell and his partners, Jon Vinje and Andy Wang, were playing in the 33rd annual Gordy Skaar Memorial golf tournament. Also on the team but not pictured were Kent Porter and Bill Fulton. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Skaar golf event is a summer tradition

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Gordy Skaar had a sense of humor and Friday at the fundraising golf tournament that bears his name Skaar, who died in 1992, played a joke on the field of 200.

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The golfers did not have to contend with tornado-laden skies, large hailstones or buckets of rain. They did, however, have to adjust to winds in excess of 30 miles per hour which continually blew off Lake Bemidji.

"In all the years of this tournament we never have had to cancel it because of weather," said Dick Robbins who was a committee member for 10 years. "Each year we ask Gordy to give us good weather. Well, at least it's not raining."

"The wind was the same for everybody," Gordy's son Bob said looking out the window of the Bemidji Town & Country Club clubhouse.

Bob and his brother Gordy Jr. (Spook) were among the 27 teams entered in Friday's afternoon flight. They would hit the course after the 13 morning teams concluded their round.

The Skaar brothers look forward to this day each year and Bob is one of a handful of golfers who have played in all 33 tournaments.

"The Skaar tournament is a special happening," Bob said. "You see people here who you haven't seen in a year. Playing in the Skaar is tradition."

There are many reasons for the Skaar's longevity but foremost is the cause. All money raised is targeted toward scholarships for Bemidji State University men's athletics.

Since its inception 33 years ago the tournament has raised more than $650,000 and another $20,000 was expected to be collected Friday.

"Dad was a visionary," Spook said. "He was ahead of his time in putting together a charity golf tournament like this. It had never been done up here before and I think dad would be extremely proud of how it has sustained itself."

In addition to 200 golfers who believe in the tournament's cause, the Skaar also is funded by corporate sponsors. Among them is the main business sponsor, Wells Fargo, plus Bernick's Distributing, VenuWorks and many other businesses which sponsored holes or contributed auction items and door prizes.

"Thanks to the sponsors, everybody who plays in the event leaves with something," Spook said.

Among those who left with gifts were Bill Howe, Robbins, Wayne Thorson, Russ Strom and Don Niskanen. The fivesome represented the original member of a new Skaar tournament organization: the 400-year club.

"When you combine our ages we are over 400 years old," Robbins said.

"What a way to get some notoriety," Niskanen added.

Thorson is the elder statesman of the group at 84 years of age. Strom and Howe both are 82 while Niskanen is 78.

"I'm the youngster," Robbins, who is 76, said.

They also can boast the most collective years at the Skaar. Niskanen has played in each tournament while Robbins has missed one, Howe and Thorson have missed three and Strom has missed eight. In their 150 years of tournament experience, however, only Robbins can claim a championship as he won in 1980 and 1995.

"One of the reasons I come back every year is Gordy," Howe said. "He was good for Bemidji State University, he was good for golf and he was good for Bemidji. He loved BSU and he loved this course."

Robbins agreed.

"For me, playing in this tournament is a way for me to give back to the university through Gordy," he said. "I was fortunate enough to receive a basketball scholarship at BSU and if it wasn't for that scholarship I may not have received a college education.

"And I can help give someone else a scholarship by playing in this event."

Y pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

Gordy Skaar had a sense of humor and Friday at the fundraising golf tournament that bears his name Skaar, who died in 1992, played a joke on the field of 200.

The golfers did not have to contend with tornado-laden skies, large hailstones or buckets of rain. They did, however, have to adjust to winds in excess of 30 miles per hour which continually blew off Lake Bemidji.

"In all the years of this tournament we never have had to cancel it because of weather," said Dick Robbins who was a committee member for 10 years. "Each year we ask Gordy to give us good weather. Well, at least it's not raining."

"The wind was the same for everybody," Gordy's son Bob said looking out the window of the Bemidji Town & Country Club clubhouse.

Bob and his brother Gordy Jr. (Spook) were among the 27 teams entered in Friday's afternoon flight. They would hit the course after the 13 morning teams concluded their round.

The Skaar brothers look forward to this day each year and Bob is one of a handful of golfers who have played in all 33 tournaments.

"The Skaar tournament is a special happening," Bob said. "You see people here who you haven't seen in a year. Playing in the Skaar is tradition."

There are many reasons for the Skaar's longevity but foremost is the cause. All money raised is targeted toward scholarships for Bemidji State University men's athletics.

Since its inception 33 years ago the tournament has raised more than $650,000 and another $20,000 was expected to be collected Friday.

"Dad was a visionary," Spook said. "He was ahead of his time in putting together a charity golf tournament like this. It had never been done up here before and I think dad would be extremely proud of how it has sustained itself."

In addition to 200 golfers who believe in the tournament's cause, the Skaar also is funded by corporate sponsors. Among them is the main business sponsor, Wells Fargo, plus Bernick's Distributing, VenuWorks and many other businesses which sponsored holes or contributed auction items and door prizes.

"Thanks to the sponsors, everybody who plays in the event leaves with something," Spook said.

Among those who left with gifts were Bill Howe, Robbins, Wayne Thorson, Russ Strom and Don Niskanen. The fivesome represented the original member of a new Skaar tournament organization: the 400-year club.

"When you combine our ages we are over 400 years old," Robbins said.

"What a way to get some notoriety," Niskanen added.

Thorson is the elder statesman of the group at 84 years of age. Strom and Howe both are 82 while Niskanen is 78.

"I'm the youngster," Robbins, who is 76, said.

They also can boast the most collective years at the Skaar. Niskanen has played in each tournament while Robbins has missed one, Howe and Thorson have missed three and Strom has missed eight. In their 150 years of tournament experience, however, only Robbins can claim a championship as he won in 1980 and 1995.

"One of the reasons I come back every year is Gordy," Howe said. "He was good for Bemidji State University, he was good for golf and he was good for Bemidji. He loved BSU and he loved this course."

Robbins agreed.

"For me, playing in this tournament is a way for me to give back to the university through Gordy," he said. "I was fortunate enough to receive a basketball scholarship at BSU and if it wasn't for that scholarship I may not have received a college education.

"And I can help give someone else a scholarship by playing in this event."

pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

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Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200
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