Paul Bunyan Vacationland is alive with fine golf courses and since it expanded to 18 holes and even more recently rebuilt its burned-out clubhouse into something more closely resembling a plush palace, the Brainerd Country club is right up there with the best of them.
Managed since 1955 by John Beyer, a number of improvements have been made, starting with the installation of new watering and drainage systems in that same year and moving on to the building of a swimming pool in 1957.
Professional golfers have served as instructors at the course since 1952 when Paul Pehier became the first. After he moved to Fergus Falls, Gordon Longville came here in 1955 from Grand Forks and then gave way to Jerry Krueger in 1958.
Krueger, the former head greenskeeper at the White Bear Lake Country club, later moved on to Redlands, Calif. and Frank Bland and then Art Ingleston, the latter pro at the Rochester Golf course for 25 seasons, took charge of the pro shop while making private lessons available and conducting junior programs, as well as tournaments for the adult members of the club.
Brainerd has had a strong summer league, the Paul Bunyan Twilight circuit, operating Thursday's during the summer since 1954 when Gorham's Agency claimed the championship. Following with titles in the league which has numbered 18 teams for several seasons were Rotary 1955, Lake Region Sign 1956, Lindsay Soft Water 1957, Brainerd TV 1958, Club LaGuyal 1959, Abel Cable 1960, Land OLakes 1961, Schlitz Beer 1962, Benson's Oil 1963. Riverview Motel 1964-65-67, Russell's Creamery 1966-68-69 and Brainerd Daily Dispatch 1970.
Most points scored to date was 123 by Riverview in 1964, just enough to squeeze out Russell's, 123 to 121. Last year's championship for Daily Dispatch came out of a three-way parlay which found the newspapermen nudging Russell's by one point (104-103) and Minnesota Natural Gas by two.
Big early summer tourney is the Brainerd Mens Shorts top 27-holer, won by mill citian Roy Widstrom by four strokes over state prep golf king Joe Hasbrouck of Albany, 102 to 106, last summer. Other winners include Tim John, Grand Rapids, 1969; Chuck Chalberg, Brainerd, 1961-63; Roy Shortridge. St. Paul, 102; James (Skeeto) Peterson, Brain-erd, 1964-65; Brian Egersdorf, Bemidji, 1966; Gerry Douglas, Bemidji, 1967; Pat Gallivan, St. Paul, 1968; and Leo Marchel, Brainerd, 1969.
Chalberg's 101 in 1963 is the low score of the contingent although Widstrom and Shortridge were only one stroke off that pace in 1970 and 1962.
Marchel, a former pro whose amateur status was returned to him a few summers ago, also claimed the City championship and repeated last year, beating Joe Ahlers and Al Kramer in the finals.
Through the years, these titlists have included Gene Bierhaus 1946, Gene Wright 1947-48, Frank Wright 1949, Don Bennyhoff 1950, Tom Thorsen 1951, Al Olson 1952, Glen Larson 1953, Knute Preston 1954, Ray Belisle 1955-58, Vint MacDonald 1956, Tom Belisle 1957, Chuck Chalberg 1959-60-61-63, Skeeto Peterson 1962, Frank Bland 1964, Bill McCollough 1965, Ray Shortridge 1966, George Nagorski 1967 and John Beyer 1968. Women's champions since 1961 include Georgia Benson (now Lyscio) 1961-62, Beatsie Fieldman 1963-64-66-67-68-69-70 and Enid Fitzsimons 1965. Mrs. Wally Engebretson, who aced No. 9, and Mrs. Fitzsimon was frequent earlier champions.
First stock for the Brainerd Golf course was issued on a plat of land 74 acres in size April 24, 1922. A small caddie house was the only building on the property for some time. A clubhouse finally was built in the 30's.
Dr. Norton was first president of the corporation which was set up. Charlie Hoffman was the first secretary and a later one, John Carlson, served for a number of years.
One of the by-laws proclaimed that any money made was to be put back into the course. Brainerd's Jaycees took over the club after the war (1945), assuming a mortgage. Heading this group were Dr. William Fitzsimons, Bob Alderman, Elmer Peterson, Ray Bang, Bill Hendrickson, Gil Tuttle, Dick Ebert, Les Hage and Jake Prindle. The Brainerd Golf Club Inc. was organized.
Recalling some of the leading golfers and events of by-gone days, Leo Lee, head greenskeeper from 1937 to 1943 and then from 1945 to 1951, recalled: "Wally Engebretson, longtime high school golf instructor, and the Wright boys, Frank and Gene, usually were challenging each other. The course hadn't been kept up, so when the Jaycees first took over, it was just about all rough. It was under water and the weeds were high. We did a lot of ditching. The locker room and shower house were built."
Champion in the Women's division in 1957 was 18-year-old Mary Jeanne Johnson (now Monsamith, who defeated defending titlist Mrs. Enid Fitzsimons.
On the high school level, Brainerd had a number of district and conference champions under Engebretson and several state tourney qualifiers. In recent seasons, the Warriors, now coached by Vein Moore, have been on the upswing and challenging the leaders in the Mid-Minn league.
Bill Harris, Jr. was 18th in the state high school tourney as a sophomore with a 155 while Clyde Anderson shot that score in 1970 and was 14th while Harris fell back to 34th with 159.
Brainerd, which captured nine straight District 24 golf crowns from 1952 through 1961, got its highest finish in a state tourney from Skeeto Peterson in 1961- 62 as he claimed fourth place with a 153 total, just two strokes off the medalist's pace. A year earlier, he went to the state but recorded a 167.
In 1958, Gary Zech and Ray Imgrund both qualified for the state, the first time that the Warriors had two competing in the big event. Chuck Chalberg was fifth out of 60 players in the 1959 state meet and he was 11th the following spring.
Reproduced from the Centennial Edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch (1871-1971).