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Minn. golf courses reopen Saturday; BTTC eyes return for late next week

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The Bemidji Town and Country Club aims to open for the summer late next week, an opportunity it has thanks to Gov. Tim Walz signing an executive order on Friday to reopen golf courses across the state. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Editor's note: Bemidji Town and Country Club announced Saturday that its golf course will open for the season at noon on Sunday, April 19.

BEMIDJI -- Minnesota golfers are getting their wish.

Gov. Tim Walz announced Friday morning an executive order to reopen golf courses across the state, effective at 5 a.m. Saturday, April 18. Fresh out of the waiting game and all the unknowns that accompany it, Bemidji Town and Country Club can continue preparation with specifics in mind.

“No. 1, that’s going to accelerate all of our plans,” BTCC head professional Rick Grand said of the executive order. “But we’re excited. I’m a little bit surprised. I was hopeful for closer to May 1, so this is a nice surprise.”

Grand said the course itself isn’t quite ready to open just yet, which is not uncommon versus an average year. Staff has been busy working on the grounds, though, which he hopes will allow for tee times to come late next week.

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“I don’t believe that will allow us to open tomorrow; we’re not quite ready,” Grand said Friday. “But certainly, I could envision sometime within the next week. … The golf course, coming out of winter, is not quite ready to play, but we will be open as soon as possible.”

Grand encouraged the public to keep tabs on the club’s website, bemidjigolf.com, for updates regarding an official opening date. Decisions will be made on a daily basis, he said.

When golfing does resume, things still may look a bit different. Walz’s order called for commonplace guidelines such as no-touch rules, social distancing of at least six feet and avoiding crowded areas. Grand said BTTC will discuss what that means for things such as golf cart use, ball-washing stations and sand trap rakes, among others.

But, more importantly, the community will still be able to tee off.

“I think it’s going to be tremendous,” Grand said. “Not only are people excited this time of year under normal circumstances, but when they feel like they’ve been cooped up for the last three, four, five weeks, the news that they’ll be able to get outside for something they enjoy, I think the excitement factor is going to be huge.”

Birchmont on as scheduled

The Birchmont Golf Tournament, the club’s marquee annual event scheduled for July 27 through Aug. 1, is still on as scheduled.

Grand said that, understandably, uncertain times result in uncertain scenarios. Possibilities include no tournament or hosting it under different parameters, but Grand noted he doesn’t want to rush into any decisions with the event still more than three months away.

Grand said that he doesn’t believe a decision needs to be made until at least June 1, when more information regarding the remainder of the summer will be at hand.

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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