Golfing for charity

Western North Dakota Charity Pro-Am returns to Minot

AP Photo The Vardon Golf Club, pictured Wednesday, will host the four-day Western North Dakota Charity Pro-Am starting today and ending Sunday.

It’s that time of year when amateur golfers get a chance to play with pros at the Vardon Golf Club. The Western North Dakota Charity Pro-Am begins today and runs through Sunday.

The four-day charity Pro-Am tournament has been around since the 1980s and is still going strong.

“Over the 38 years, it’s been money that’s been raised in western North Dakota and all that money stays here in western North Dakota,” said Todd Lee, the head golf professional at the Vardon. “I believe we’re getting close to $2 million that has been donated back to local charities in that time.”

With an annual event comes annual golfers who come back year after year to help make the Pro-Am what it is.

“I get several guys that have played in this amateur-wise for many, many years and they claim it’s their favorite week of the year,” Lee said.

As far as the pros who have come through the event, some have gone on to find success after winning in Minot. Tom Lehman earned his first professional win at the Vardon Golf Club. Gary Christian and Jeff LeMaster both played in Minot and went on to have notable PGA Tour careers.

“We have a lot of really good players coming here,” Lee said. “We’ll have around 70 pros this weekend.”

Even some of the amateurs only have a +5 handicaps, so the competition is expected to be entertaining and close with substantial prize money on the line with a $1,000 entry fee.

“It’s going to be a pretty good chase for the low gross,” Lee said. “Of course, we also have the net divisions as well for the amateurs.”

The event is free to the public and starts at 7:30 a.m. this morning, as golfers tee off from holes No. 1 and No. 10.

“We’re going to have a little area over on hole No. 15,” Lee said. “There will be tents and possibly some refreshments. It’s very easy to walk the course, but hole No. 15 has a set up to camp out for the day.”

There are around 15 charities that will receive donations from the Western North Dakota Charity Pro-Am.

“The emphasis has always been on youth, golf and some of the hospice things and the Salvation Army,” Lee said. “It’s kind of fun in the spring to go give them the check and see their faces.”