Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Friend Freddy

Sitting in Alabama and thinking about Minnesota and how lucky we are that Freddy is a part of golf in our state.
by Charlie Leck

I am sitting down here along the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (RTJ GT). You don't need to be a golfer to appreciate this project and the marketing chutzpah behind it. Somebody had a good idea and they executed the idea to perfection. Now, thousands of golfers travel to Alabama to savor the wonderful golf along the trail. It's a big part of Alabama tourism. Cudoes to whomever came up with the idea. (If you're interested, you can visit the trail's web site here!)

Preparing to play my first round of golf on the trail makes me think of my friend Freddy. I've written about him here before in terms that he didn't find too flattering. First and foremost, before I say other things about him, he is, quite surprisingly, one of my really good friends and it is a friendship I cherish. Nevermind that he's quite directly the opposite of me in most respects; that is, he's a fundamentalist religious zealot (evangelical and saved) and he's pretty far out on the right when it comes to politics.

Before I go further, the question is what makes me think of Fred as I sit here on the RTJ GT? Well, Fred knows a thing for two about marketing and (though sometimes he plays the game of it) he no man's fool. Lots of people think of Fred when they think of Minnesota Golf. He's an avid player, but that's not the reason he's so closely associated with the sport in our state. As a resort owner and manager, he spotted the genius behind the trail down here in Alabama and how it drew golfers from Minnesota in the winter time. He asked himself (and other resort owners) a simple question: If it will work in Alabama in the winter time, why won't it work here in the summer time? Surely Alabama golfers (and players from other southern states as well) wouldn't mind escaping the dense heat and humity of deep south summers in exchange for the moderate climate of northern Minnesota.

So, Fred advocated that his resort build the first really top-notch resort golf course in the state. It took some convincing because the investors in his resort and its Board of Directors were a bit on the conservative side. They were doing all right as it was. Why go down this potentially slippery slope.

Fred managed to convince the Board; and the The Pines at Grandview Lodge was built. We're taking our grandchildren and children up to Grandview this summer to spend a week together. They'll all get to meet Fred and I'll be proud to introduce him. Some of us will get to play on Freddy's golf courses -- not only The Pines, but also at Deacon's Lodge and The Preserve.

Fred's project inspired other resort owners in the Brainerd Lakes area to follow-suit. A number of handsome, challenging and enjoyable new golf courses were built and (voila) the Brainerd Golf Trail was created. And, Minnesota tourism was given a booster shot when golfers across the deep south heard about the courses and the mdoerate temperatures in northern Minnesota.

As my family will find out, there's more than golf in this remarkable resort area. There's plenty of other fun as well -- fun on the wonderful lakes and family fun in dozens of spots throughout the region (horseback riding, amusement parks, water parks, hiking and biking trails and plenty of good, little summer stock theater and fine, fine restaurants). Plenty of local businesses up there benefited from Freddy's big idea.

Freddy has been touted as Mr. Golf in Minnesota by many people and organizations. You can read about the Brainerd Golf Trail here. You can read about Grandview Lodge here.

I wish I was at home so I could post a photo of Fred for you -- along with this blog -- but that will need to wait for another time. Perhaps it's a break for you, because Freddy has a face that can frighten small children and women. (Just kidding, Freddy!) In spite of my mistreatment of you, you are a dear and worthy friend.

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