KOTTSICK: Tears shed at the Wee Links

Rudy Zupetz, Wes Plummer and myself sat down on a cold, rainy day in 2000 and we came up with the idea of a golf course just for kids. At the time, we had no idea what we were doing and made a lot of wrong turns in our journey to build a course for youth.

Thankfully, the Minot Park District had some land that was in a convenient location and were nice enough to give us a chance to build the course. Well, it would take money and Jack Hoeven, after one phone call, stepped up to the plate.

He was not looking for recognition, that was Jack’s way, but we decided to name it the Jack Hoeven Wee Links in honor of him. Another grant from the United States Golf Association (USGA) for $100,000 and we were jumping in with both feet.

We were very lucky and the community stepped up in a big way.

We were advised to hire a professional fund raiser and we didn’t. Zupetz was our fundraiser and did one heck of a job. And it was great for us that Senator Hoeven, Jack’s son was the Governor at the time, really helped our mission.

We got it built and things were going pretty darn good and then the flood of 2011 hit. Heartbreak. Six feet of water in the clubhouse and all the grass was dead.

It was a huge challenge, but the Minot Junior Golf Association rolled up their sleeves and went to work. Rudy and Mary Zupetz rebuilt the inside of the clubhouse and Mike Morley and the Aasen boys reseeded the course. David Lang babysat the new grass until it was established.

It has been a roller coaster ride and, with more work happening now, here we go again. But, we will not give up.

With the movement of the levy toward the Wee Links, we will have to change some of the holes. Holes No. 8 and No. 9 and the practice putting green will basically be under the new dike. New holes will be built and moved to the south of the current course. The course will still have 9 holes and I really feel it will be a little more interesting for the young golfers.

New holes will include No. 3 (122 yard), No. 4 (81 yards), No. 5 (100 yards), No. 8 (92 yards) and No. 9 (92 yards). The new practice green will be north of the clubhouse and the pump house will be on the dry side of the levy.

The clubhouse will remain in the same location with the new entrance on Forest Road. The parking lot will also be accessed from Forest Road. The current parking lot will be gone.

There will be a type of ring dike that will help protect the course and the clubhouse. It will not be a mammoth dike, but it should help in most high water situations.

This has been a challenge for all parties involved and, in the big picture, homes will be protected and recreation areas will not suffer if there is another major flood. Let’s hope we can manage the dams and the river so that does not happen again.

So yes, there were some tears shed on Sunday, August 19th. That was the last day of the season for the Jack Hoeven Wee Links.

Sharon Lippincott was the manager and did a wonderful job and hovered over the kids like a protective mother. She also really stressed the rules of etiquette that will stay with the young golfers for their entire lives. She was quite a Facebook guru and really kept the kids and parents informed about the happenings at the Wee Links.

She was one of the first to shed tears and expressed how much she would miss the kids.

Why tears? Well, if you could see the kids smile and having fun at the Jack Hoeven Wee Links you would understand. The kids are the future and we have to make sure they stay active their entire lives and golf is a game they can play until their 80’s and up.

It is also a game that adults and kids can share together. Some of my fondest memories of playing golf are with my mother and father.

We cannot thank folks enough that have been involved in our journey with the Wee Links. Market Place foods have been a wonderful partner with us for tournaments. The Optimist Club has also been involved with youth tournaments. Pepsi of Minot has been a contributor since Day 1. Trinity Health has backed us with a special Club 25 for kids.

The Minot Park District has been with us on the entire journey. The biggest supporter has been the Minot Junior Golf Association. The MJGA pays all the expenses for the Wee Links and thus we are not a burden to the taxpayer.

If I missed some folks for recognition of their contributions to the Jack Hoeven Wee Links, I sincerely apologize. But, it has truly been a community effort. Thanks to all of you and thank you to Minot.

We will be back.