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When golfing is healing

On Monday, golfers from as far away as Iowa, the Twin Cities area, and the Iron Range gathered for the fourth annual "Moose" Cancer Golf Fundraiser at the Cloquet Country Club. The event is named in honor of Gary "Moose" Pastika, who died of colon cancer in 2018. Moose was a CCC member for over 50 years. The fundraiser benefits the infusion therapy center/oncology department at Community Memorial Hospital and a portion also goes to the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank.

The tournament stands out for the number of hugs shared. Most players had a tie to Moose or me (the fundraiser director) and were graduates in Carlton County. Many were athletic competitors and former teammates and friends. Being an annual event, it's our only chance to catch up on news and unfortunately, medical updates, from the past year.

After missing a year due to the pandemic, the following event had men hugging men, men hugging women, women hugging women, and yes, some avid golfers even were witnessed hugging trees.

Moose was my golf partner for decades. We probably won as many matches as we lost, which was fine with us. He was nearly a scratch golfer. When my kids were growing up, Moose was Andrew's adopted godfather in the CCC Parent Child Tourney, while Ryan was my partner. Other sports we participated in as young adults included civic center basketball, softball, touch football, broomball, hunting, fishing, moonlight bowling, watching the Twins and Vikings. He was my best friend but also admired by my wife and children and, eventually, daughter-in-law and grandkids.

It was a big loss for me, but I was glad I was in the hospital room with his brother and sister when he passed. I said goodbye to him privately. He would have hated, I think, if he knew we had a golf tournament now in his name and honor. He was humble. It's therapy for me to see our old friends each year. I appreciate all of the players who come and give their support and contributions toward the cause. Cancer sucks.

The winning team Monday, at 15 under par, included Adam Stowell, Jake Comnick, Andrew Salo Korby and Matt Carlson. It was a windy, partly cloudy, chilly July day, so a very impressive score indeed. It is this team's third win in a row.

The champs consist of a bunch of big hitters that turn CCC par 5s into par 4s by hitting drives surpassing 300 yards. Highlights included Matt Carlson making a 20-foot putt for Eagle on hole 6, Comnick 20- and 50-foot birdie putts on 12 and 13, and Korby a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 15. On No. 9, a par 5 over 500 yards long, Stowell's drive had the team hitting their second shot from 140 yards in the scramble format ... now, that's power.

Prior to teeing off, CMH Foundation director Laurie Korby thanked the players, hole sponsors, and many who contributed door prizes for the golf fundraiser.

"From this event, the Foundation has been able to assist the Infusion Center in purchasing special chairs that can be temperature-adjusted for patients having to sit for lengthy periods of time getting mainly cancer treatment," she said. "We've also aided in the buying of special machines designed to more easily find patient arteries strategically for IV infusions. All dollars granted are associated with patient care and comfort."

Hole sponsorship signs were located on all the 18 holes. Many businesses and individuals bought signs that recognized loved ones who had passed, in most cases, from cancer.

"Gee, it's hard now for anyone not to know a relative, friend, or acquaintance that has or had cancer," solemnly said new player Steve "Knots" Johnson, whose mother and brother both have had the disease.

Even with the serious subject and purpose of the event, laughter could be heard from all the tees and greens. It was another great success, with thanks to Cloquet Country Club manager Bill Manahan and his supporting clubhouse and greens crew staff.

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. He welcomes ideas for human interest stories and tales regarding Carlton County residents, projects, history, and plans c/o [email protected].