Okay, trivia fans, answer this one:
Who is the only golfer to win the British Open, Scottish Open and Tapemark Charity Pro-Am?
I bet my typewriter more than one of you answered correctly with, “Tom Lehman.”
Minnesota’s pro-am hasn’t been around as long as the British Open and Scottish Open, but in more than four decades the event has commanded a lot of attention including memories of Lehman winning the 1990 Tapemark.
That was before Lehman, the Alexandria, Minnesota native, made it big on the PGA Tour. Bob Klas Sr., who along with Tapemark company partner Tom Cody started the charity tournament, remembers Lehman was “flat broke” in 1990.
“He asked how long it would take to get a check, if he could win one,” Bob Sr. said. “He was very concerned about his lack of funds. It was interesting. That was really the launching of his pro career. That was the pint of blood that kept him going.”
Klas said he thought Lehman earned a check for about $3,000 by winning the 1990 tournament. Years later Lehman made a commercial promoting the event with this message: “Who won the British Open, the Scottish Open and the Tapemark Charity Pro-Am?”
This year’s Tapemark will be the 42nd and involve men and women — pros and amateurs — in early June at Southview Country Club in West St. Paul. Golfers, volunteers and spectators are all welcome at the event that raises funds for agencies serving Minnesotans with developmental disabilities. Through the years nearly $7 million has been donated to nonprofits. More about the tournament online at tapemarkgolf.org.
Klas and Bob Jr. shared stories with Sports Headliners about the famous and not so famous figures associated with the Tapemark. Tournament followers from the 1990s remember Denny Hecker was the major sponsor for two years. He contributed about $70,000 in cash, plus promotional considerations. “I will say for all the things he was in the news for, everything he promised that he would do for us, he actually delivered on,” Bob Jr. said.
Hecker’s promotional assistance included bringing baseball great Pete Rose to town. Rose played golf on a Friday afternoon and that night Hecker hosted his famous guest and a large group of Tapemark supporters at Manny’s Steakhouse.
Rose was the attraction after drinks and dinner, and his remarks were not exactly boring. As a former player and manager for the Reds, Rose was well acquainted with franchise owner Marge Schott — a controversial figure even now after her death.
“She thought…Adolph Hitler did some pretty good things,” Bob Jr. recalled Rose saying about Schott. “He improved the roads in Germany. He started off okay but maybe toward the end (of his regime) he wasn’t so good.
“Pete tried to defend her (saying) ‘you need to understand that Marge has no friends. The only thing that might be close to a friend is her dog. Marge likes to drink. Night games are particularly hard because she spends most of the day drinking before the game.’
“Basically the defense of Marge Schott from Pete Rose was she’s not really a bigot. She’s a drunkard.”
Through the years there has been some great golf played at the Tapemark. For championship consistency nobody was better than Don Berry who won the tournament six times. George Shortridge won five times. Last year’s men’s and women’s pro champs were Craig Brischke and Martha Nause.
Long time Tapemark followers have fond memories of four-time champion Dave Tentis who first won the tournament in 1998 with his “miracle shot” at Southview. The final day Tentis trailed Aaron Barber by one shot on the last hole, No. 9. The hole is surrounded by challenges including a pond, parking lot and road. Despite the tight fairway, Tentis pulled out his driver, hit the ball about 330 yards and made it stick on the green. “The best shot I’ve ever seen in Minnesota tournament golf,” said Gregg Wong, the former golf writer for the Pioneer Press.
Tentis two-putted for birdie and went on to win the tournament in a playoff. No doubt he never looked back on his decision to use a driver, and not the five iron he contemplated.
Skill sometimes encounters luck at the Tapemark. When those two forces meet, the result could be a hole-in-one and winning a new car. Among the winners over the years has been Phil Johnson, son-in-law to Bob Sr. Johnson’s hole-in-one on No. 15 was reported the next day in the Star Tribune along with these somewhat painful words: “On his way to shooting 104.”
Sometimes there’s no avoiding a tough day on the course, particularly when the strokes pile up for amateurs. Years ago the tournament was on local television and the late Pete Boerboon, a great friend of the event, was really struggling on the course.
“His ball was in a bunker near the green and on his first shot he could not get out,” Bob Jr. said. “On his second shot he knocks the ball across the green and into another bunker.
“By his ninth shot he was on the green. Pete thought his saving grace was that the TV cameras had only been covering him from the start of playing No. 17, not all the way through his shots near and on the green.
“A few days after the tournament, he was taking the garbage outside when a neighbor said, ‘Hey, Pete, I saw you on TV and you had a rough time.’
“Pete replied, ‘Yeah, I had nine blows.’ The neighbor disagreed and countered, ‘No, you had 11.’ ”
Television coverage, other publicity and simply word of mouth has helped tell the Tapemark story over the years including the important purpose of the event. The inspiration for the tournament was Frances Klas, born in 1951 and mentally retarded. Her dad and mom, Bob and Sandy Klas, learned about organizations available to assist children like Frances, and they wanted to help.
Today society is much more aware and accepting of those with developmental and learning disabilities than decades ago. “The aware factor can’t be overemphasized because when we started out 42 years ago mental retardation was still in the background,” Bob Sr. said. “We’ve done a lot of good. Much of it has to do with the publicity we generated.”
Done a lot of good including fundraising…and had a lot of fun.
Washburn High School four-star running back Jeff Jones is still verbally committed to the Gophers but there is no guarantee yet he will play for Minnesota, and Iowa State is a school of interest, too, according to Millers’ coach Giovan Jenkins.
“I would consider it a soft verbal,” Jenkins said about the Gophers. “He (Jones) went to coach Kill and told him he committed too early.”
The Washburn junior first verbally committed to Minnesota coach Jerry Kill last year but since then realized he wants more time to decide on the college he will enroll at next year. Jenkins told Sports Headliners on Saturday that Jeff’s father is “getting out of jail” and wants to be part of the recruiting process, so that is also a factor.
Jenkins believes Iowa State is a “soft” No. 2 behind the Gophers on the list of possible choices. “He likes the staff and proximity (of Ames) to Minneapolis,” Jenkins said.
In addition to Minnesota and Iowa State, Jones has offers from Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan State, Syracuse and Wisconsin. Although Wisconsin has a great tradition of running backs, Jenkins believes Jones is likely to choose Minnesota if he decides on a Big Ten school.
Rivals.com labels Jones a four-star prospect and ranks him No. 17 among running backs in the class of 2014. Jenkins said Jones is a “once-in-a lifetime talent.”
The 6-foot, 190 pound prep is the first four-star running back to commit to Kill since he started coaching at Minnesota in 2011.
Jenkins described Jones as “big, strong, (with) excellent vision, great burst, very explosive — kind of a one-stop shop.” But the coach said Jones has to determine how close he will come to fulfilling his potential. If the desire and hard work are present, Jenkins projects Jones as a 220 pound runner in college. “If he works hard, he could be the best at that level, too,” Jenkins said.
Jones has been a starter for Washburn since ninth grade and a major contributor to the Millers’ success. In today’s world of transfers, Jones has been a target of other high schools. “He gets approached every year,” Jenkins said.
Jones lives in the Washburn district and likes playing for the Millers. He heard from former Miller David Gilreath that he regretted leaving Washburn for Robbinsdale Armstrong, according to Jenkins. Gilreath is now in the NFL with the Steelers after a college career at Wisconsin.
“Everything he’s got (Jones), he’s got from Washburn,” Jenkins said. “He is a loyal kid.”
Washburn coach Giovan Jenkins has two other players he expects will have college offers following summer camps, running back Raymonte Maynard and defensive end Clayton Burton. Maynard could end up at a MAC or WAC school, according to his coach, while he identifies Burton as a “BCS kid.”
Bruce Feldman, writing yesterday for Cbssports.com, put Gophers defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman No. 2 on his annual college football “Freaks” list that recognizes players for their extraordinary athleticism. Feldman wrote that Hageman can do a “360 dunk” and is the Big Ten’s most athletic defensive lineman. “Not only does he have the 36-inch vert, but he also has bench-pressed 465 pounds and clocked an electronically timed 10-yard sprint in 1.57 seconds. For comparison sake, no DT at this year’s NFL Combine jumped higher than 33 inches, and Terron Armstead, the offensive tackle who ran the blazing 4.71 40 at the combine, did a 1.64 in his 10.”
Former Vikings coach Bud Grant turned 86 on Monday. Rick Reilly, writing for Espn.com yesterday, ranked Grant No. 11 on his list of the 20 greatest NFL coaches ever.
The basketball Gophers are looking at Rivals.com four-star center Dominic Woodson who no longer is committed to Baylor for next season. Incoming Gophers freshman guard Daquan McNeil played with Woodson in 2011 at Vermont Academy in Saxtons River, Vermont.
Quinton Hooker will be presented with the Mr. Basketball trophy on May 29 at an invitation only reception in Brooklyn Park. Mr. Basketball chair Ken Lien will make the presentation. Hooker, a shooting guard, scored 2,147 career points and will attend North Dakota. He is the 39th recipient of the award recognizing the best boys senior player in the state.
Last night’s NBA Draft Lottery telecast prompted memories from years ago when league commissioner David Stern mistakenly referred to the Minnesota Timberwolves as the “Minnesota North Stars” on national TV.
The Gophers baseball team plays its opening game in the Big Ten Tournament today against Illinois at Target Field, a facility Minnesota used for one game last year and the entire 2011 season. How much of an advantage is that for the Gophers?
“None,” assistant head coach Rob Fornasiere told Sports Headliners. “The tournament is wide open. The league has improved so much the last five years. Teams one through six are so evenly matched.”
The Gophers, the No. 4 seed, have lost six of their last eight games. “We haven’t hit or caught the ball very well (lately),” Fornasiere said. “We’re second in the league in ERA but have struggled on offense all season. We’re second to the bottom in hitting (average) and home runs.”
Fornasiere predicted the Gophers “will play hard” and be in close games during the double elimination tournament. The Gophers’ pitchers in their first two games will be Tom Windle and DJ Snelten. Fornasiere expects Windle will be taken in the first or second round of next month’s MLB amateur draft while Snelten will be among the first nine players selected.
Next year’s Big Ten tournament will be in Omaha before returning to Target Field in 2015.
A respected baseball source who has been involved with and followed major league baseball e-mailed Sports Headliners after reading Monday’s column about the length of MLB games. He asked that his name not be used but wrote the following:
“MLB should demand that umpires enforce the rule of pitchers having to deliver the next pitch within 12 seconds of getting the ball back from the catcher with no runners on base, as it states in the rules. The umpires never enforce this. For example, (Jose) Valverde, the Tigers’ closer, takes about 30 seconds between every pitch, even with nobody on base.
“It’s a joke how umpires break up conferences on the mound: They walk slowly out to the mound, tell them their time is up and then jog back to the plate to make it seem like they are hustling and that will speed up the game — which it doesn’t.
“They also need to cut down on players stepping out of the box after every pitch. Remember (Chuck) Knoblauch stepping out after every pitch and readjusting his batting gloves?”
Expect an announcement soon by the city and Timberwolves regarding a $100 million renovation of Target Center.
Former Wayzata High School tennis player Karl Gregor is the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Northeast Region Assistant Coach of the Year. He is an assistant at Tufts.
I am back in a familiar spring habit regarding the Twins who after a laborious day at Target Field yesterday have now lost five consecutive games. The first several games of the season I am locked in for all nine innings but by this time in May my interest borders on apathy.
Here’s the problem: not only are many games too dang long, but the Twins don’t win enough games and hit enough home runs (next to last in AL). Translation: if the action isn’t compelling, then a three to four hour time commitment is often too much for me.
Major League Baseball knows despite the solid popularity of its sport, lengthy games are a concern. Yeah, other entertainment like football and basketball have increased dramatically in game times over the years but baseball is more problematic because it’s a very deliberate endeavor and the season is the longest of any in American sports.
In the 1970s the average MLB game was two hours and 30 minutes, according to a July 27 story last year by Bleacherreport.com. The article said since 2007 the average has not fallen below two hours and 50 minutes. Twins games dating back to May 11 of this year have clocked in at 2:45, 2:55, 2:51, 2:44, 3:26, 3:24, 3:53 and yesterday’s 3:15 which was 6:15 if you count a three hour rain delay.
Now compare that with the game times for the 1965 World Series between the Twins and Dodgers. Four of those seven games were played in less than two hours and 16 minutes. The longest was two hours and 34 minutes.
Patrick Klinger was vice president of marketing for the Twins through last season and was asked about baseball’s slowdown. “Twins games used to start at 8 o’clock on week nights back in the 60s. Even when I was an intern with the Twins back in 1986, games started at 7:35. Now they start at 7. They take so long.”
What happened? Innings breaks are longer to allow more TV commercials to pitch products and services, but the game has changed, too. Years ago starting pitchers often finished the game, working all nine innings. Now baseball has become a parade of pitchers. Managers even change pitchers more than once in the same inning. Add to that meetings at the mound between the pitching coach, pitcher, catcher and infielders.
Pitchers also work at various paces, including slow and slower while hitters can be cautious about looking over the pitches thrown at them. Think about Joe Mauer who seldom swings at the first pitch. Hitters often review five or more pitches before the ball goes into play.
MLB doesn’t want games played at a leisurely pace. Umpires are instructed to do what they can to make sure games are played efficiently. MLB obviously knows games lasting beyond three hours are a time commitment problem for fans including those attending a week night game. And it’s more than a three hour commitment because fans sometimes arrive an hour or so before the game and travel time has to be added in as well.
“What we wanted to do (at Twins games) was to provide the very best entertainment experience possible,” Klinger said. “We wanted people coming back often. If there was a long game (that) kind of slogged along I am not sure that provided the best entertainment experience. Are those people going to be as likely to return?”
Klinger said more likely to bring back the fans is a “good, crisp well played game” lasting about two hours and 30 minutes. He suggested that template is likely to have fans saying, “You know what? That was a lot of fun. Let’s go back next week.”
Klinger wrote in an e-mail that technology at the ballpark has enhanced the entertainment experience and during long games made the trip to the stadium more fun for fans. “Technology…now allows for huge video replay boards and social media opportunities inside the ballpark. In addition, there is much greater attention being paid to pregame ceremonies, between innings entertainment and music. It’s all designed to improve the in-ballpark experience by keeping fans engaged when the action slows.”
Klinger said complaints from fans about the length of games weren’t that numerous when he was with the Twins. “We didn’t get a lot but it was something we were always concerned about because this is a society now that wants instant gratification,” Klinger said. “Baseball is a deliberate game, and people’s attention spans aren’t maybe what they once were. Too many other distractions. We wanted to keep the game moving along. … Keep them (fans) interested and not looking at their cell phones, doing other things.”
Of course it’s not just the fans who attend games that baseball wants to attract. Audience development means attracting new followers and turning casual followers into passionate fans. “If there were ways to move it along, make it a little bit more dynamic, I think we’d pick up some fans,” Klinger said. “Too many people just sit in the stands (not engaged), or they try to watch a game on television and they think that it’s just too deliberate, too slow for them.”
Even Klinger, still a baseball fan after leaving the Twins and starting his own consulting company, knows his baseball focus is sometimes challenged. “I find myself, frankly, sometimes sitting on my sofa flipping channels. It’s so easy now with the remote control in your hands and a hundred stations or more on your television. There’s a break in the action, or if things are just deliberate, it’s so easy to hit a button and you’re watching something else.
“To flip to something else and then maybe flip back. So staying focused for three, three and one-half hours on a game I think is a little bit harder than it used to be. There are just too many options.”