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Golf: Tianna hosts 75th annual shortstop Sunday

WALKER — The Tianna Country Club on the west side of Walker will stage its 75th annual shortstop tournament Sunday and tournament officials are proud that the event has survived while other shortstops have folded.

A generation ago shortstops were common but within the past 20 years the allure of the shortstop faded and very few have survived.

“While growing up in Walker, shortstops were the most popular type of one-day golf tournaments,” said Ray Sauer who has been instrumental in the continued success of the Tianna Shortstop.

“Every course had its Sunday throughout the summer when the annual shortstop was held and everybody chased them down and would play on the shortstop trail. But now there are very few of them in Minnesota.”

There was a time when each course in the Bemidji area would host a shortstop but the Tianna event is the lone survivor. And Sauer and his wife Kathy have been key components of that survival.

“When it looked like it (the Tianna Shortstop) was going to fizzle away, I told the older guys that we had a tradition and we needed to keep it going,” Sauer said.

Sunday’s event will feature Men’s, Seniors, Super Seniors and Women’s Championship brackets plus at least four flights of eight golfers (based on handicap).

The Men’s Championship participants will play 27 holes of medal play while the other Championship divisions will feature 18 holes of medal golf.

The golfers in the flights will square off in a series of nine-hole matches.

The Men’s Championship usually attracts about 30 golfers while another 25 to 30 golfers play in the Senior Championship (50 years of age and older).

Another 16 to 20 play in the Super Senior Championship (65 and older) and the Women’s division includes about 16 golfers.

“In the Senior, Super Senior and women’s divisions I award prizes for both the champion and low net so golfers are also able to use their handicaps. The emphasis is low gross but also using the handicaps gives others a chance to win prizes,” Sauer said.

Bemidji golfers have made their mark in the Tianna Shortstop and starting that trend was Felix Barthelemy who won his first of eight Men’s Championships in 1941. Other Men’s champs with Bemidji ties include Ed Nordheim (1951), Glen Fleisch (1958), Keith Spindler (1960), Joe Mayer (1961), Gerry Douglas (1966, 1969), Bill Israelson (1974, 2007, 2008 and 2013), Joe Aitken (1984), Gordy Skaar, Jr. (1985), Andy Brink (1994, 1995, 2001 and 2002) plus Bob Brink (1997).

Ray Sauer claimed the title eight times between 1968 and 1998 while his twin brother Ed captured the title in 1973 and 1975.

In 1978 Sauer added the Senior Championship to the tournament and Bob Brothen of Bemidji was the initial winner. Other champs include Bemidji golfers Bruce Simenson (2003, 2005 and 2008) and Jeff Wiltse who claimed the crown last summer.

The Sauer family also has deep ties with BSU and on Saturday Ray and his friends will host the Ed Sauer BSU Memorial tournament which is an annual fundraiser for the Beaver men’s golf program.

“I’m confident that we can raise between $7,000 and $8,000 during the Ed Sauer tournament for BSU golf,” Ray said. “We have 80 golfers in that tournament and Tianna gives us 90 minutes of tee times for the No. 1 and No. 10 tees.”

Registrations are still being accepted for the Tianna Shortstop and anyone wishing to play in the event can contact Tianna at 218-547-1712 or Ray Sauer at 320-251-3351 or via e-mail at

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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