BEMIDJI BONDS: Friendship and laughter on the links
Golf, kidding around, friendship and laughter. Lots of laughter. That's what happens when John Vinje, Ed LeBeau, Dave Vogel and Gary Vogel get together at Bemidji Town & Country Club. The four have been regular golf partners for several years...
Golf, kidding around, friendship and laughter. Lots of laughter.
That’s what happens when John Vinje, Ed LeBeau, Dave Vogel and Gary Vogel get together at Bemidji Town & Country Club. The four have been regular golf partners for several years, playing as many as four days a week.
“We have fun,” said Vinje, 67, a retired teacher and coach. “At the end of the day we’re paying each other off in quarters and looking forward to the next day. And we keep coming back. We all love the game. I think that’s the bottom line.”
Dave Vogel, 84, and his son Gary, 63, naturally have been playing golf together for years. Vinje joined the Vogels after he retired 11 years ago. LeBeau, 74, began playing with the group in 2007. That’s when the fun really started.
“Ed comes up with all kinds of funny sayings,” Dave Vogel said. “He keeps us laughing.”
When Vinje became a member at BTCC in 2004, he first played with a group whose stakes were a little higher than he liked.
“One night of playing with them I lost half a fortune,” he recalled, “and I decided this wasn’t a good place for me. Instead of playing for dollar bills I was playing for quarters with these guys and it was much easier. And so I said, ‘I like this’ and I’ve been here ever since.”
LeBeau also played with other groups when he joined the club in 2004. “I was kind of golfing with different guys off and on, and in 2007 some of those guys quit the club, and so I started playing with these guys. And then John and I teamed up as best ball partners, and we’ve been together since.”
The Vogels are longtime members of BTCC. Dave was a basketball and track standout at Blackduck High School. As a teenager, he started working at his family’s businesses, Lakeshore Mill and Bemidji Boat Co., later known as Core Craft. Dave and his brother, Harold, bought the business in 1965 and ran it until 1975, when they sold it. Dave moved on to work in product development for Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls and later for Classic Roadsters of Fargo. He eventually built a shop at his home in Bemidji and was able to work from home for Classic Roadsters until retirement.
Gary grew up in Bemidji and was part of the 1969 Bemidji High School basketball team that made it to the state tournament. He worked at Core Craft for about 15 years, and later worked for a tree service and for the telephone company. He worked for 29 years at North Country Business Products, retiring in 2009.
Vinje also grew up in Bemidji. He played on the BHS varsity golf team as an eighth grader, but then the family moved to Two Harbors, where he finished high school. He graduated from St. Cloud State and spent 34 years coaching and teaching physical education, the first four at McGregor, one at Northfield and the last 29 at Sartell. He was inducted into the Minnesota State High School Coaches Hall of Fame for golf.
LeBeau was born on the Sheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. He grew up in New Town, N.D., and went to college at Minot State. He played competitive golf in high school and college. After serving in the military in Germany, he got a job with Indian Health Service in Bemidji and worked as a contract project officer for 28 years. He played golf at Castle Highlands for many years before joining the country club in 2004.
“These guys impress me with their love of the game,” LeBeau said. “They like to get out here quite a bit regardless of the weather, and I’m not always the best at cold-weather golf, but they drag me out here.”
Vinje said the conversations aren’t always about golf.
“Gary and I spend a lot of time talking about nature … fishing and hunting and that kind of stuff,” Vinje said. “Dave, between me giving him a bad time and him giving me a bad time, we keep each other smiling and laughing, no matter how terrible the game gets. I played with him for 10 years and never heard him say a bad word, and I’ve had to bite my lip many times.”
The Vogels and Vinje give LeBeau a rough time about his use of rescue clubs in lieu of irons.
“He has only one or two irons in his bag,” Gary Vogel said. “So you sit there, 110 yards out and he’s got this rescue club ... we always call it a 3-wood ... in his hands. He hits the ball and, yeah, it’s the perfect club for that 110-yard shot.”
Added Vinje: “I give him my measurements with my rangefinder, and it doesn’t matter if it’s 150 yards or 100 yards. It’s that same rescue club. And then he’s looking for it to back up. Goodness gracious. He keeps talking about it, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
All four golfers have made a hole-in-one. The Vogels were there in 2004 when Vinje got his ace on No. 2 at Bemidji Town & Country Club. Dave made his on the seventh hole and Gary got his at Greenwood Golf Course some years back.
The story of LeBeau’s hole-in-one on No. 14 at BTCC has become legendary. He was playing with a different group that day in 2010. Using his deadpan sense of humor, he turned to his playing partners and said, “Just my luck. I finally get a hole-in-one and I’ve got no credible witnesses.”
Dave Vogel has a slightly different take on LeBeau’s ace. It’s customary for a golfer to buy drinks for the rest of the members after making a hole-in-one. “Do you remember a few years back when you pulled into the parking lot … that there were rubber marks all the way through the parking lot?” Dave asked with a grin. “That was Eddie leaving after his hole-in-one.”
That brought more laughs as the foursome reminisced about their years together on the course.
They have a great time, and as Vinje put it, “Nobody gets hurt. Everything is friendly.”