My Nickel’s Worth by Randy Ooney
Each Summer, the Twin Cities are treated to a professional event in Blaine, the Champions Tour 3M Championship, known to many of us as the “Roger Blads of Golf”. The event, now in it’s 17th year, has acquired some history. For eight years it was held at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids where we viewed the golf talents of Arnold Palmer, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Lee Trevino, and even Johnny Bench. In 2001 the venue was moved to the TPC in Blaine, a top quality course designed by the King himself, Arnold Palmer. This year, in an unprecedented move, sufficient sponsors were enlisted to allow free admission to all who wished to attend. Since free is one of my favorite words, my wife and I ventured to the TPC on July 10 to take in a Championship round. We were directed to park (free of charge) in a field near the Anoka County Airport. Took a shuttle bus (free of charge) to the gate, and just walked right in.
The holes on the course could be named after Minnesota cities. Long Lake, Big Lake, Lake of the Woods, Lake City, and Watertown seem appropriate. The pros handled it beautifully, although there were a few Titleists that got wet. I don’t have the finances or the connections to play the course, but if I did, I would not have enough golf balls to complete the round anyway. The field of players included many top stars from PGA days gone by. Bernhard Langer, Nick Price, Ben Crenshaw, Mark O’Meara, Tom Kite, and Hale Irwin, to name a few. You may remember Scott Simpson, who battled Payne Stewart through 5 rounds at Hazeltine before coming up short in the 1991 US Open. My wife had a short conversation with last years Champion, R. W. Eaks, noting that his name was a favorite among crossword puzzle constructors who need a four letter word that starts with two vowels.
Once on the course, you could purchase a hot dog for $4.50, and a non-alcoholic beverage for $3.50. The big tent was loaded with sponsor booths peddling their wares and promoting their products, and you could purchase a nice logo golf shirt for $52.00 - $67.00. There were no bowling shirts or wrist braces available, however. Bernhard Langer, with a chip in eagle on the final hole, prevailed in the tournament and proved his mettle as a true “Roger Blad of Golf.”
Overall, it was a great event and fun to watch. So if you cannot afford the hundred dollar tickets for the PGA Championship at Hazeltine, wait ten years. You may be able to see the same guys, with longer teeth and graying temples in Blaine, free of charge.