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Tuffy's Classic turns 25

Charlie Nelson takes a swing for the green as his dad, Kenny, looks on from the cart at the Tuffy's Golf Classic a few years ago.

By John George

Believe it or not, it's been 25 years since Tuffy Nelson began his annual golf outing at Perham Lakeside. By the time the 2nd Annual Tuffy's Classic rolled around in 1986, the Perham legend had passed, but his memory lived on.

The 25th Annual Tuffy's Classic will be played Friday, Aug. 6 at Perham Lakeside Golf Club, and as usual, Tuffy's son Kenny Nelson wants to do it right.

"This tournament is a great way to highlight the legacy my dad established," Kenny said. "He was a great man who did great things, and it's a pleasure to honor his memory at this tournament each year."

Darrell Douglas "Tuffy" Nelson was born in Aldrich and graduated from Staples High School in 1938. He went to work for Cass Clay Creamery in 1941 before moving to Cokato in 1944 to run a small feed mill. In 1947, with wife Muggy and his five children (Kenny, Patty, Greg, Debbie and Lisa) in tow, Tuffy moved to Perham and started the Pine Lakes Feed and Hatchery.

In 1964, Tuffy and son Kenny started Tuffy's Pet Foods. They sold the business in 1971, but Kenny purchased the company back in 2001. Meanwhile, KLN Enterprises got Barrel O' Fun and Kenny's Candies rolling.

Tuffy had a very active in life in Perham. He was instrumental in the building of a new hospital and putting lights up at the baseball field. He helped build Perham Lakeside, he was an active fireman and served on the school board for one-term.

"Dad was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 1985," Kenny said. "We started the first outing as a fundraiser for the Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo."

Tuffy passed away on March 7, 1986, but on August 4 of that year, the 2nd Annual Classic took place and a tradition was born.

"This one should be the biggest and best ever," Kenny added. "The course is absolutely perfect. The clubhouse looks great. We're going to jazz it up a bit. It should be a good time."

A portion of the proceeds raised will once again be donated to various cancer charities and for the beautification at Lakeside. Some of the money raised this year will also go towards the new Perham hospital project.

There will be special games and awards on all par three holes. But one prize will trump all others.

"We're cranking it up a little bit extra this year," Kenny said of the fundraising golf outing.

In honor of the 25th Anniversary, KLN Enterprises is going big. Every golfer in the field will have a chance to win a Chrysler PT Cruiser. Each player in the field will have a chance to win the car on Oak 2 in a closest to the pin contest. If you're not happy with your first attempt, you can purchase a second shot for $50. Someone playing Friday will be going home with a PT Cruiser.

"It's a great testament to the growth of the tournament and our company," Kenny said of the car giveaway.

"The development of KLN is a direct reflection on the vision my dad had," Kenny continued. "He was such a hard worker and very sharp for someone who barely graduated high school. He loved life and lived it to the fullest. Hunting, fishing, golf. He worked hard and played hard. This tournament is for friends, family and to the great people we have here at KLN. We are where we are because of the hard work of everyone here, and this is one way to help celebrate that. We've been so blessed with what we've been able to accomplish."

What they have been able to accomplish at KLN is obvious to everyone in Perham. Barrel O' Fun is closing in on completion of yet another expansion. The new portion of the plant is expected to be open by the end of this year, or early in 2010. The same goes for the new production and distribution plant in Phoenix, AZ. Kenny's son Charlie will be in charge of the Phoenix plant.

Kenny said that the success of KLN Enterprises has bucked the trend of the recession because they products they put out are recession proof. Snack foods, candy and dog food.

"People are always going to feed their dog," he said with his magic smile. "But it's about more than that. We have good people and put out good products."

The expansions KLN has undertaken in recent years has expanded the workforce to more than 1,000 people company-wide.

"We've been blessed. Truly blessed. And I know when Tuffy looks down he'd be proud of what we've been able to accomplish."

The 25th Annual Tuffy Nelson Golf Classic will have two tee-times Friday: 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. This year's four person event will be a two-out-of-four best ball format. The $150 entry fee includes breakfast (or lunch), a golf shirt and Arvig's Grill Team prime rib dinner. Also new this year, they will have music from the "Front Fenders" on the patio from 7-10 p.m.