BROOKINGS – Pipestone, Minnesota, native Tedd Evans had a great gig in his home state: working at the prestigious Hazeltine National Golf Club, a private club in Chaska, a suburb of Minneapolis, that had hosted the 1970 U.S. Open. But then Brookings came calling in March 1980, when he was invited to take over the job of assistant superintendent at the Brookings Country Club.
“After some hemming and hawing, my wife (Bev) and I decided to move down here,” he said. They did and they stayed. The BCC became his life’s vocation, but now he’s taking a step back. Today the couple have two daughters and five granddaughters.
Following high school, Evans had attended and earned a degree in horticulture from the University of Minnesota (Waseca), at the time a two-year technical college. From there he had gone straight to Hazeltine.
Following his first two years as assistant manager, Evans, 67, took over the helm as superintendent in 1982. Ten years later came a new role that he’d fill for decades.
More than just a golf course
“In 1992, the club decided to go to a general manager,” he explained. “They’d never had one before.” He “took that over” and stayed “until a couple years ago.”
“I oversaw the pro shop, the restaurant and the grounds,” he added. In addition to being a golf course, the BCC became and remains a key spot for sociability and fine dining.
“In 1997 we tore down our old bar and restaurant and built what we have today,” Evans said. “It really made the big difference in how we were able to manage the golf course. It started bringing in pretty good money for us, for the next several years at least.
“We were able to pave our roads and our parking lot, put in a new irrigation system. It enabled us to do a lot of capital projects that we hadn’t been able to do before. So that was the big thing for the club.
“In 2008 when the economy crashed, things got a little bit tougher. We were able to get by but not quite have all the capital projects we’d not been able to do before.
“We were constantly trying to upgrade the golf course. In 2013 we did a pretty major renovation. Other than that, it was just constantly adding a few tees, adding some sand traps, planting trees. When I got here in 1980, nine of the holes were only about three or four years old. There weren’t a lot of trees out there at the time. There are now. It was mainly just upgrading.
“Installing the automatic irrigation system in 2000 was a big project for us. It helped out a lot.”
Big changes after the war
Taking a look back at the history of the course, Evans said it “was probably built about a hundred years ago this year: a nine-hole course.
“After World War II, they converted from sand-greens to grass-greens. And in 1976, they purchased land next to the course and started building another nine holes, which opened in ’77, I think.
“We planted a lot of trees. We pulled trees out of shelter belts and anywhere we could get them from back in those days. Just trying to get some shade out there.
“Of course, things were pretty tight back then, too; that was about all we could do. Things slowly got better as the years went on and we were able to do more and more.”
One other aspect of the game has changed: Golf is no longer “a good walk spoiled.” (Source unknown) “I’m sure back in the ’60s, 95 percent of the people were still walking,” Evans said. “Golf carts were just coming in.”
Nice out there in the morning
“I always loved golf; I loved being outdoors. That’s most of the reason why I chose the job,” Evans explained. “It’s rewarding when you get the course just like you want it and you get compliments on it. Just trying to improve the course over the years. Nice to be out there in the morning when the wind’s not blowing and the sun’s coming up.”
While he’s now retired – sort of – after stepping down as GM about two years ago, he’s worked as “turf manager” for about the past two years; that has kept him busy, working on the links rather than playing on them.
“Basically, make sure the grass is healthy,” Evans explained of his duties. “A lot of people think it’s just mowing the grass, but we’re out there mowing our greens at a 10th of an inch sometimes. Keeping it alive isn’t always easy, when it’s hot out and you’re mowing it that short.”
Other duties included: “repairing equipment, dealing with the labor, keeping people busy. It’s kind of a typical management job, more than anything, making sure everything gets done at its proper time, in its proper way.”
Impact, irony of COVID-19
“Amazingly enough, it obviously hasn’t helped our restaurant business,” Evans said of the impact of the coronavirus on the BCC. “We’re closed about six months of the year. They’re still pretty slow. The golf course itself has never seen so many rounds. It’s increasing at every golf course around, maybe in the United States.
“People need something to do, still social distance, be outside. It’s crazy.”
Looking to the future, Evans looks to spend more time on the course with clubs rather than with equipment and upkeep. He’ll work maybe 10 hours a week.
“I would consider myself an average golfer,” he said. “I’m not getting any better as the years go on.” And the duties of turf manager had kept him busy.
“We built a par-3, 9-hole course this year on some land that was not being used,” he explained. “I kind of took that on: getting the irrigation in, getting it seeded, getting everything coming up. That actually took a lot of my time this summer; hopefully next summer, a lot more golf. I still help out a little bit on the golf course, if they need help.”
“It’s a good time to take up golf. It’s the sport of a lifetime,” Evans said, in some parting words of farewell. “I appreciate all the members through the years, how kind they’ve been to me.”
“I’d like to thank Bev and the kids for putting up with me being gone, working late all the time. It was a sunup-to-sundown sort of thing.”
Contact John Kubal at [email protected]