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No stopping to rest at the Tuffy Nelson Golf Classic

Bob Nietzke hits an approach shot to the green.1 / 2
Bob Cavanagh launches a drive at the 26th annual Tuffy Nelson Golf Classic Friday, July 30.2 / 2

People are drawn to enigmatic individuals and Tuffy Nelson was obviously that.

So much so, many of the participants of the 26th annual Tuffy Nelson Golf Classic, friends or family, did not want to share stories of the man.

It was almost like they wanted to hold onto those tales for themselves. Don't get me wrong, from what I heard, some of those stories were not safe to print, which is a viable excuse.

Not everyone was tight-lipped and many people who were asked had a finger pointing to one guy. Buzz Nelson.

Buzz had a story.

"10-12 of us were up north hunting deer and I shot one. Norm Shaski said, 'We better drag this out.' We started dragging and before long I said, 'we better stop. I need a rest.' 'You can't take it," said Norm. So, I grabbed the deer and said to myself, 'I'm going to drag until I drop.' We dragged for some time before Norm said, "Hey, we better stop. You need a rest."

While Tuffy was on the hunt, this was not necessarily the Tuffy story I was after. But Buzz soon filled me in. The phrase that pays was one of Tuffy's.

This hunting tale coincided with a story about a year later when Buzz was visiting Tuffy, who was ill at the time.

"He was pretty weak but asked if I'd go for a walk with him. We went a ways and after awhile he stopped and said, 'we better stop. You need a rest.'"

Tuffy was quite the golfer. He played with more than a few big names.

Ed Hartman recalled a golf tournament at the Country Club in Detroit Lakes.

"Tuffy was golfing with Fuzzy Zoeller and Harry Salminen. He had just started becoming ill, at that point, and it was a really hot day. I was in a cast and had a golf cart to ride around and watch. I asked Tuffy, It's really hot and you look really worn out, why don't you ride with me?"

"I'm gonna tough it out," Tuffy said. "I want to walk and be out with here with the guys."

Seems like Tuffy was a good moniker for the man.

"I caddied for him every Wednesday," said Mike Maloney of Detroit Lakes. "I always liked him because he was a big tipper. He would gamble on putts some days and I'd make anywhere from zero to a pot of money, like 10 dollars, which was a lot of money back then."

An array of people shows up for the Tuffy Classic each year and for a multitude of reasons. Friends have introduced many, who never even knew Tuffy, to the tournament.

Mike Vettel, of Jamestown, N.D., was attending his tenth tournament.

"It used to be a two-man and expanded to a four-man tournament and Kim Anderson asked if I wanted to play. I've enjoyed it ever since and wouldn't miss it. It's a great group of friends getting together for good cause."

Many of the participants seem like celebrities for the day at the Tuffy Classic, especially, those related to the Nelson family. But real celebrity was present as well, in the form of Phil Verchota, a member of the 1980 Gold Medal Olympic hockey team.

Verchota has been participating in the Tuffy for the last four years.

"I work at Deerwood Bank in Bemidji and Ben Miller, owner of bank at the time, got me involved. We've been coming down ever since; it's just a really nice afternoon. Great people. The Nelson family is a wonderful family and does a lot for the community. This is great tournament."

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. 

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