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26th annual Tuffy Nelson Golf Classic Friday, July 30

Of the participants of the first annual Tuffy Nelson Golf Classic, one truth was said that stands out among many of the great comments from that day, as reported by Chuck Johnson.

"There wasn't a guy out there who he (Tuffy) hadn't whipped on the golf course."

That was a quote from Tuffy's brother Arvid back in 1985.

Another brother, Bill and Tuffy's son Kenny, did most of the recruiting of that first group of golfers. Their strategy was simple.

"'You round up that that bunch of guys' and 'You round up that bunch of guys.'"

82 golfers were rounded up in 1985. Not bad for a tournament that was only an idea a fortnight before.

George Thomas saw Tuffy in late July of 1985. Tuffy had come out to the golf course to socialize with other golfers.

The sight of the cancer patient in pursuit of the sport he loved so well flicked a switch inside Thomas.

"I just said to myself, we should set up a golf tournament to honor Tuffy, with the proceeds going to the American Cancer Society. It may sound funny, but it seems like we always wait until somebody is dead to honor them. I think we should do it while he's alive, not after he's gone."

This idea had little time to come to fruition. Because of schedule conflicts the tourney had to be brought together in two weeks time.

Thomas' original idea was to have the tournament so local people could honor the man who had been so important in the town's history.

But as the idea took shape, it was decided the tournament should include Tuffy's old golfing cronies from all over the country.

Tuffy was unable to golf in the inaugural tournament. His energy levels had been decreased by chemotherapy treatments. He expressed sorrow at not being able to be out on the course playing.

"It would have been nice if I could have played," Nelson said. "But I don't expect to be able to do that for awhile. It was nice to see all the guys."

Tuffy was not down and out in spirit. He had a confident optimism looking back a few days after the first tournament.

"Hopefully, I'm going to lick this thing and am going to play golf again," he said. "I'd like to get in some golfing in Florida this winter, although, golfing doesn't seem to be as important as it used to be."

It will be important this Friday as a few hundred golfers descend on Perham to continue the tradition of honoring a man steeped in the history of Perham. A man who touched many lives while he was here and a man who summed up the first tournament with a simple but poignant phrase a few days after.

"You know, nice things happen in Perham."

For more information, contact Perham Lakeside Golf Club at 218-346-6070 or

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

(218) 844-1442