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Willmar notebook: The golfing life

Tribune photo by Rand Middleton The newly-named “Eddie Pirrotta Bridge” spans a creek bed near the No. 9 Pines green at the Little Crow Country Club.

Dan Ridler, Sr., has had quite a ride.

Golf has been a big part of it.

He played in 47 straight Lakeland Tournaments. The 83rd, in June, he sat out.

“I got through 13 holes just the other day. That was enough,” he told me over the phone.

He sounded lively, like always, a voice that is both gruff and warm.

He has colon cancer and there is not much, at this point, that can be done about it. He takes pain pills, which usually help.

He played in a foursome with two sons and a son-in-law at the 19th Heinie Ridler Golf Tournament, a fundraiser for Rice Hospice. Dan’s wife, Heinie, who worked at the golf club, died of cancer.

Twenty-seven fivesomes signed up for this year’s scramble. The fundraiser is closing in on $200,000.

His son, Dan Ridler, Jr., retired from the Alexandria volunteer fire department after 20 years. Every year the fire department sent down at least two teams to the event honoring his mother.

Dan, Jr., looked fine for someone coming off a punishing eight month ordeal battling throat cancer (no, he was not a smoker). He has received a clean bill of health but remains on guard for a re-occurrence.

A fundraiser this spring in Alexandria drew over 600 people, I’m told. Fifty-five of his Willmar High School classmates showed up. Dan, Jr., wrestled and was a hard-hitting two-way starter on Bill Hansen’s next to last team in 1976.

Dan, Sr., has remarried. Sue is “wonderful” and he is grateful for her companionship and the love of his five children and their families. Wednesday morning, while we visited, Sue played her regular round with a small group of friends. “I’m dog sitting,” he said with a laugh referring to a valued pet.

With gusto, he recalls his early days playing in the Lakeland. “I joined in 1965, after 11 years away from golf, and I think my first Lakeland was 1967. It was huge then, a lot of big-time golfers. Lefty Ranweiler ran it. All match play with big money on the line, betters coming out of the Cities. There was something like 20 flights. I was in the 14th flight that first year.”

Pilgrim’s progress

World-class walker Bruce Maynard, 79, blogs he spent Tuesday night in a Valley City, N.D., motel, where “I nearly passed out three times from hunger and exhaustion.” His coast-to-coast journey, pushing a three-wheeled stroller, passed through west-central Minnesota a week ago.

“Tomorrow [he wrote Tuesday] is projected to be even hotter and more humid than today. For that reason, I plan to use the Interstate for most of the 25 miles we must walk and roll. The city of Bismarck, N.D., some 133 miles from Valley City, has a bicycle shop, where we have made a reservation to repair SAM’s wheel spokes ... hopefully, we will reach Bismarck by this Saturday in time to have the work completed and not have to wait until Monday which would mean extra expenses.”

Steinhaus surgery

Kevin Steinhaus of the Minnesota Gophers wrestling team, had closed-knee surgery to repair a torn ACL tendon last Thursday. That was the day before he was scheduled to teach at the Cardinals wrestling clinic, as the three-time state champion at KMS did last year.

“It happened while playing soccer,” he said, “during the Edinboro, Penn., wrestling camp.” He noted that pick-up soccer is something the clinicians do often for fun and exercise.

He’s in the Twin Cities starting rehabilitation guided by an athletic trainer. “I think I’ll be wrestling competitively by January,” he said.

The surgery was done by Gophers’ physician J. Patrick Smith at the TC Orthopedics Edina clinic.

Kevin is a fifth-year senior with a major in kinesiology and a coaching minor.

Steinhaus, who wrestles at 184 pounds, achieved All Big Ten Honors again but failed to repeat as an All-America.

“I had a good season but it was a disappointing ending,” he said. “I don’t feel that I wrestled up to my full potential. I’m glad I have one more year.”

Tribute to Eddie

The annual Little Crow Memorial Tournament, honoring members who have passed away in the last year, had 223 participants on July 11. That compares to 75 the first year, in 2005, when member Darrell Hannaman, a retired Willmar teacher, and friends, got it going.

Since then over $100,000 has been raised for improvements, reports club pro Sam Drodofsky. In an email to club members, he made special note of the passing of Ed Pirrotta, a master carpenter, who died at age 69 on April 3: “There was nothing that Eddie couldn’t build or fix.” His tireless efforts are recognized on a plaque, just off the No. 9 Pines green, where the bridge he built not long ago now bears the name “Eddy Pirrotta Bridge.”

On the fly

n The old track around the Dragons’ high school football field at Litchfield has been excavated. Activities director Mike Sundin said the new track is expected to be completed by the football opener. The project has a cost $512,000, he stated. The original track is believed to date to 1964 when the new high school opened.

n There will be a two week break between the 2013 state football semifinals and Prep Bowl. That will keep the seven Prep Bowl games on Thanksgiving weekend, which is what works best for TV. The 2014 and ’15 Prep Bowls are being planned for Target Field before returning to the west side of the river again and the new stadium. The stadium authority has guaranteed the MSHSL the needed dates for football (5) and soccer (3).

n The 2013-14 basketball seasons will flip-flop with the boys starting early and holding their state tournament prior to the girls. Boys start practice Nov. 11 and girls one week later. The switch was made necessary for the next three years due to availability of Target Center, which has committed to hosting the National Collegiate Hockey Tournament late in March. The boys, which draw more, will have all semis and finals at Target; the girls will start at Target but finish at Williams Arena.

n The new Viking stadium is being built in a partnership of the Vikings, the state’s Stadium Authority and the city of Minneapolis. A building manager will be hired whose responsibilities will include delivering events to the new venue, which has a roof 60 percent made of a special glass. Viking’s executive Lester Bagley, V.P. in charge of Stadium Development, said the stadium will be connected to the downtown skyway system. He’s thinking big. On the horizon could be bids for a Super Bowl, Final 4, Frozen 4, Big 10 Championships, bowl games, major league soccer and plenty of college baseball. The short fence in right is planned for 300 feet.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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