Weather Forecast


Everyone benefits from Bemidji Lumberjack Scramble

Bemidji High School athletes Cole Mitchell (left) and Caleb Hess caddied for Dustin and Jared Gangelhoff during Friday's Security Bank USA Lumberjack Scramble. Over 300 golfers participated in the event which is a fundraiser for the Bemidji High School and middle school activities. MONTE DRAPER \ BEMIDJI PIONEER

BEMIDJI -- If you plan on golfing in the 2014 Lumberjack Scramble, don't wait too long before contacting the event officials.

Friday at the Bemidji Town and Country Club, Security Bank hosted the 19th edition of the Lumberjack Scramble and a maximum field of 61 teams and 305 golfers took advantage of the opportunity to play 18 holes while helping fund various Bemidji School District activities.

"We have to limit the field to 61 teams," said tournament committee member Sylvia Wilgen. "Once again this year we had a maximum number of golfers. The afternoon session was filled in February and the morning session was filled in May."

During the previous 18 years the Scramble has raised $418,000. Last year's event generated $37,000 for the school district's activities and Wilgen believes that this year's figure will be even greater.

"We're at the maximum in terms of number of golfers but I expect that we'll raise more money because we have more hole sponsors," Wilgen said.

At the beginning of the afternoon session Bemidji superintendent Jim Hess was at the halfway house between the No. 12 green and No. 13 tee box where he greeted the golfers who stopped for a free brat and soda.

Hess was sporting an ear-to-ear green and soaking in the aroma of the brats and the event.

"The Scramble is so successful because of the community support of the student activities and athletics," Hess said. "I've been here 10 years and this event has gotten bigger and better each year. There is a fantastic partnership between Security Bank and the school and because of that this tournament is something special."

Prior to each activity season Bemidji Foundation members Troy Hendricks (BHS activities director), Brandon Bjerknes (middle school activities director), Chris Leinen (district business office), Jan Reierson (First National Bank) and Tiffany Paine (Security Bank) meet to decide the best way to allocate the money raised through the Lumberjack Scramble and the Lumberjack Bonspiel.

Prior to those meetings the high school and middle school coaches present their needs to Hendricks and Bjerknes and the foundation committee members weigh the pros and cons of each request.

"We usually allot between $8,000 and $9,000 per season," Hendricks said, adding that the middle school programs are often in more need of funding than the high school programs.

"The middle school has only $1,000 budgeted for all of its athletic needs so much of the (Scramble) money goes to help with those programs," Hendricks said.

Kyle McMartin teaches sixth grade science and he also coaches junior varsity football as well as middle school track and wrestling.

"Our goal at the middle school level is to bring as many kids as we can into our programs and make sure that they all have fun," McMartin said while grilling brats and hot dogs at the halfway house. "Money from the Scramble has helped us purchase jerseys and equipment when it needs to be updated.

"The Scramble has had an incredible effect on the middle school programs and I don't mind a bit giving up a day to help out."

Bjerknes also was busy at the golf course on Frida. Part of his day was spent transporting lunch to the many athletes who were promoting their sport.

"Many of the middle school programs don't have booster clubs and any additional funds we can generate that help us with supplies, equipment and uniforms are appreciated," he said. "For example, last year we had 240 kids in track and we had only 200 uniforms. I don't have a pool of money I can access to help buy those extra uniforms but with the help of the Lumberjack Foundation we were able to buy them.

"We are the feeder programs and the successes I see happening at the middle school will benefit the high school," Bjerknes added.

Bjerknes was among many school district administrators, coaches and athletes who were represented in the Lumberjack Scramble's workforce. Also included in the labor market were Morgan Miller and Morgan Williams of the BHS girls golf team and Kole Pankow, Isaac Bleser and Jack Johnson of the Lumberjacks boys golf squad.

Miller and Williams spent the entire day on the No. 6 tee box where they offered to hit tee shots for the groups. Pankow, Bleser and Johnson were offering the same service on No. 10.

"It's fun hitting tee shots and it is really important for the school," Pankow said.

"I like to give my time and I like this event because the community has the opportunity to meet the athletes," Bleser added.

"I've been looking forward to doing this," Johnson said. "I'm always at the golf course anyway so being able to hit tee shots for the golfers at the Scramble is a great way to spend an afternoon."

Hendricks wore a pair of hats Friday. In the morning he was among the Scramble golfers but in the afternoon he took the time to experience the event from the perspective of an administrator and a beneficiary.

"Every year I am amazed at the commitment the Security Bank staff gives to this event," Hendricks said. "They always make sure that everything goes off without a hitch.

"This is our top fundraiser of the year and we are grateful to everyone who has a hand in its success."

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200