Golfing in North Dakota
Ten years after its construction raised eyebrows and drew more than a couple of chuckles from the locals, the Links of North Dakota has not gotten any closer to anything or anybody. It is 28 miles east of Williston and a few miles west of the boondocks, hard by the shore of a shriveling Lake Sakakawea.
In a business in which location is everything, the golf course known as Red Mike was left behind.
'It's just hard to get people out here,' says third-year pro Matt Bryant, sitting in an empty clubhouse overlooking a near-empty parking lot on a warm, sunny and calm evening. 'It's so remote.'
Which remains just as unfortunate as always, because it is one of the purest tracks golfers will ever play, a little piece of the British Isles within a couple of tanks of gas. It continues to garner national recognition, checking in this year at 53rd on Golf Digest's list of top 100 public courses.
'It is as good as anything you'll find in Scotland,' says the magazine's course critic, Ron Whitten. 'People will spend thousands of dollars to fly over there to play when all they need to do is drive to North Dakota.'
Isolation has cost Red Mike. It's never been a moneymaker, and the original investors auctioned the course for the bargain bin price of $467,000 in 2002. A group of 15 buyers, most with ties to Williston, have kept the course afloat since then. The annual losses have not been huge -- about $20,000 to $25,000 last year, Bryant said -- but it is red ink. And with businessmen being businessmen, wealthy or not, that's not good.
'The biggest question I get is, 'How do you make it work?' Bryant jokes. 'I always say, 'Well, we have guys who need a tax write-off.'
The course isn't going away anytime soon.
'We're still real optimistic,' says Williston attorney John McMaster, an investor and member of Red Mike's three-person board. 'We can't say we've made any money on the deal, but we view it as a great asset to the area. And we didn't really get into it to make a lot of money, although it would be nice to at least break even. We view it as a positive for people in the area.'
Paid 18-hole rounds at Red Mike climbed last year to 8,200, up from 7,800 in Bryant's first summer. That's still a thousand or more short of what the course needs to break even.
As a comparison, the municipal courses in Fargo-Moorhead do about 20,000 rounds apiece each year. Bryant came to North Dakota from Colorado, where he worked at courses that had 60,000 rounds a year.
So he seeks out positives while working in a pro shop that on a great day sees 75 people walk through the door.
'We had a good start in April this year. Rounds were up 50 percent over a year ago,' Bryant says. 'We had 250 rounds last year in April and 375 this year. You can laugh at those numbers, but that's huge for us.'
A decade after renowned designer Stephen Kay completed this minimalist layout to rave reviews, the course itself is a bit ragged around the edges, but wholly playable and enjoyable. McMaster is proud the course's conditioning the past couple of years improved with the new investors.
Drought has hit western North Dakota hard, and Red Mike is no exception. The course, which drew its irrigation water from Lake Sakakawea, had to drill its own well last fall because there is so little water left in the Missouri River reservoir. Some greens at this early date are crispy.
The most expensive part of Red Mike is the gas getting there. Green fees prior to May 15 are $30 for 18 holes. After that it will be $50 on weekends, $40 on weekdays. For that, golfers are pretty well guaranteed to have the place to themselves.
This is not assembly line resort golf, with bag boys and valet parking. This is a gravel parking lot and ball washers maybe every fifth hole. But the holes are fun and memorable, and the views of the lake are still pretty good.
There is no lodging on site, only a functional clubhouse.
'It would probably be helpful to have something right at the course, but there is nothing in the plans for that right now,' McMaster says.
If only the course wasn't so far from everything and everybody.
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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings
Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.
Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.
As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.
"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."
Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.
Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.
Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut
If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.
Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.
But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.
Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.
Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:
Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180
Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70
Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5
Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450
Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200
Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000
Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.
Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.
“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.
“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”
Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.
“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.
Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.
Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim.
Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.