Golf Guide: It all began at a home course
June 11, 2021
The Scanlon Open. In Scanlon’s long history, it is the most prestigious recorded golf tournament held within its boundaries.
The story begins in 1968. My folks had a summer cabin on Eagle Lake near Cromwell. Just north on Highway 73, the city of Floodwood was celebrating its 75th year since incorporation. My dad asked me, while we were at the lake, if I wanted to accompany him to the festival. Sure, why not, I thought — with three other siblings I didn’t get many opportunities alone with Dad.
Never had I seen Floodwood so abuzz with activity. My dad wanted to browse at the old car show and there were some beautiful jalopies. There were food and beverage vendors and some carnival rides and games. They even had clowns.
We went and visited for a while with my dad’s brother, who was managing he Gambles store. Heading back outside, there was a live auction in progress. The auctioneer was standing on a flatbed truck trailer picking up or pointing to items that he was selling and then barking out his purchasing process. Competitive bidders encircled the trailer.
After several monkey wrenches, a set of dishes, and a used banjo were sold, the auctioneer held up four hickory-shafted, antique golf clubs. Opening bid was $1. Without warning, my dad bid $1.50, and soon the auctioneer said “going once, going twice, sold.” My dad went and picked them up from the trailer and handed them to me. Funny, my dad didn’t golf or, for that matter, have much time for sports. Little did he know, he’d created a golf monster.
Jumping into our 1964 Mercury, we went back to Eagle Lake, and thoughts were running through my head on how I could best utilize this gift. In those days, there weren't many opportunities to watch golf on TV, but when it happened, I was part of Arnie’s Army … not a Jack Nicklaus fan.
I enjoyed watching the game and figured I could build a “little “Augusta” course by the lake garage. I got a pineapple can from my mom, cut the bottom out, and used a screwdriver to dig an appropriately sized hole in the ground. Then I gently placed the can inside.
In the lake garage, there was an antique push mower. I lowered the cutting blade as far as it would go. With some effort, and making a back and forth pattern, I made the initial green look pretty good. I’d spend hours putting the balls into the pineapple can. Tramping on the green made the putting surface fairly smooth, tolerable and fair.
When the family returned to Scanlon, I figured it was time to expand this golf links idea. The Korbys had a large yard and the first thing I did was cut a good-sized green. I started the golf course by the plum trees, which were beyond what Dad considered mowable grass and yard. It gave me a chance to use my “mashie,” a hickory club from the Floodwood purchase similar to the modern pitching wedge, and start chipping the ball from further distances.
After hearing no objection from my folks, I figured it was time for course expansion. I next created a raised golf hole similar to miniature golf tracks. Then there was a hole with a couple of sand traps, a new hole required going over a small bridge, and one hole even had a dogleg. The course expanded from three holes to nine, and eventually to 18 beautiful holes. It did not have an irrigation system in its design, so the greens did dry out somewhat. The holes averaged about 30 feet with most being par twos with a couple of par threes.
The Campbell's soup cans were smaller than the few stewed tomato cans, a variety in challenges.
After a couple of seasons, it was time to host a major golf event.
The Scanlon Open was planned. Scorecards were developed. An old car seat was pulled out from the chicken coop to offer first-hole patron seating. Some colorful pennants from my dad's gas station grand opening were hung from the plum tree branches. The greens were cut, rough trimmed, and traps raked.
The open’s inaugural date was advertised in the Jack Pine, the Cloquet High School newspaper. Most golfers who committed were from Cloquet and planned to traverse to Scanlon via bikes or carpooling. Some of the famous competitor names included Moose, Pistol Pete, Cal, Beach, Chumbly, Tay Tay, Ollie, Reefer, Yuks, Doc, Wennie, Paavo, Jase, Baz, Maynard, and the Hawk. Speedy and Kraut couldn’t get releases from their parole officers (Scanlon humor) so were unable to attend, and kindly sent their regrets.
Of course, I — the tournament host and course designer — won the first four-round tournament. It was my first major. Moose won the second and last open because after 1971 we were playing on real golf courses.
I wonder if archeologists will someday be digging in northwest Scanlon ruins and discover tin cans placed about 30 feet apart in the ground and scratch their heads wondering the meaning and significance.
Please enjoy the 2021 Pine Knot Golf Guide. Don’t forget to support youth golf programs at your local course. If you have some hickory or steel-shafted clubs in your garage collecting dust, donate them to a kid. Golf is a game that lasts a lifetime.
Writer Steve Korby’s interest in writing goes back to when he was in fourth grade and editor of the Scan-Satellite school newspaper in Scanlon. Steve loves sports, especially golf. He also welcomes human interest stories and tales regarding Carlton County residents, projects, history, and plans.