Albany Golf Club is one of the finest 18-hole courses in central Minnesota
The marriage of golf and public service is alive and thriving in the city of Albany. Tom Kasner, 59, has been the course superintendent at Albany Golf Club since 1987. Over the past 35 golf seasons, he has seen the course become one of the best 18-hole courses in central Minnesota. Additionally, he was a member of the Albany City Council for 13 years before becoming mayor five years ago.
Kasner grew up in Foley, learned the art of growing weed by being apprenticed for 10 years to his brother, Mike, who was the accomplished course superintendent at Wapicada Golf Club. Around this time, the idea of a weed grower evolved in the 1970s-80s into a proper profession and a fitting job title – today golf course superintendent.
During his tenure at Albany, Kasner faced many challenges and the most daunting was the flooding of the course in 2011 and most recently in May when over 6 inches of rain flooded the course and closed it for more than a week. .
However this year the course has bounced back nicely as the greens and fairways at 12-13-14-16-17 were raised in 2011. Having played the course last month with Joe Hasbrouck, Steve Schiffler, Jon Herges, Jeff Herges and Brad Andvik, one would struggle to find any residual damage after torrential rain hit the course two months ago.
During my one-on-one chat with Kasner, my first question was what was the biggest challenge he faced during his long tenure at Albany Golf Club? First, he mentioned the change in irrigation methods. When he started at the club, he would come home after a day’s work and get up in the middle of the night to water the thirsty greens and parched fairways. Now automation has replaced watering by hand and it falls asleep at night.
On reflection, Kasner cited the change in greens maintenance as today’s most drastic development. “The biggest change is how we handle the greens,” he said. Golfers love fast greens. Now we apply plant growth regulators and liquid fertilizers every two weeks instead of just applying granular fertilizer every 30-45 days. Additionally, mowing heights used to be 5/32″ to 3/16″. Now greens are mowed less than 1/8″ per day and sometimes twice per day.”
Kasner continued, “Dressing, vertical cutting, brushing and green rolling are all examples of tools used regularly to deliver the results demanded in today’s world of golf. In addition, these tasks are performed by a passionate and dedicated Albany grounds staff. We superintendents seem to get all the credit for their diligent work, when in reality, without them, there would be no credit due.
Often, the people who work tirelessly to maintain a golf course are anonymous people. Here are the named Albany Golf Club staff who make golf fun: Assistant Superintendent Ben Kasner, Equipment Manager Kuba Feia, part-time clippers Dennis Korte, Craig Baggenstoss, Kenny Petron, Tony Ebnet and Dan Boom, crew members Carter Birr, Joe Hoff, Zach Birr, Dominick Winkels, Mason Bierbaum, Devon Schaefer and Noah Voz, and the flowers and gardens are tended by Gretchen Smoley.
Aaron Kleinschmidt has been the manager of the Albany Golf Club for four years and his capable assistant, Mary Lauer, has been with the club for 26 years. Staff continuity is important to the success of the club.
The Top Tracer facilities have been a boon to the club for the past two years. “We have a great golf course, a great restaurant and a Top Tracer facility,” Kleinschmidt said. “Revenues from Top Tracer and Greenside Grille helped our bottom line. With additional revenue from these two facilities, we were able to purchase a $52,000 mower that improved fairway playability for our 400 members.”
The 119th MGA Men’s Amateur Championship was contested at Olympic Hills in Eden Prairie from July 18-20. Former Annandale golfer Ben Greve won the championship with rounds of 66-71-72. Three local golfers competed but not all of them made it to the final round. Daryl Schomer of Wapicada had the lowest score of the trio with rounds of 80-82, Joe Sauer of St. Cloud shot rounds of 83-80 and Scott Shosted of Blackberry Ridge shot 85-82.
Last Friday I attended the 3M Open in Blaine and followed the 12:33 duo of Fargo’s Tom Hoge and 2018-19 PGA Rookie of the Year Sungjae Im. Hoge had won back-to-back MGA Men’s Amateurs (2009-10) and won his first PGA tournament in February when he won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with a final round 68 to triumph by two strokes over Jordan Spieth.
He had missed six consecutive cups heading into the 3M Open and finished 17th in the Fed-Ex Cup race. Hoge finished the 3M with a total of 271 over four sets, tied for fourth, four strokes behind winner Tony Finau, and won $315,625. Hoge has earned $4,271,347 this 2021-22 golf season and his career earnings are $11,375,619.
Hoge won the 2009 Pine-to-Palm Championship contested at Detroit Lakes. This week, the Birchmont in Bemidji begins followed by the Resorters in Alexandria and ends with the Pine-to-Palm in Detroit Lakes. Many local golfers will participate in this three-week resort tour.
— That’s the opinion of Times golf columnist John Lieser. Contact him at [email protected]