Evenson retires from the golf course …Sjostrom retires–to the golf course

This sextet represents the “modern history” of Birchwood Golf Course in Pelican Rapids. Center, Marlan and Marlene Evenson–who bought a golf course in 1975, after playing his very first round of golf. At left, Brain Evenson and wife Connie. It was Brian who learned the trade, from groundskeeper up. The sale of the course enables Brian to golf more fequently…finally.
At right, Terry, 65, and Connie Sjostrom, who decided to buy a golf course–instead of actually retiring.
The couples are pictured here at the change of ownership open house May 6 at Birchwood Golf Course.

One of the 100 oldest golf courses in the state marked another milestone this year–a change of ownership.

The roots of Pelican’s Birchwood golf course date back to 1930. But the “modern history” of Birchwood trails to 1975, when the Evenson family bought the nine hole course.

An open house May 6 celebrated the change of ownership, to Terry and Connie Sjostrom.

It is an odd evolution, because Terry Sjostrom is retiring after a career in trucking and business–by purchasing a golf course.

Brian Evenson, meanwhile, is retiring to the golf course–by selling his golf course.

“Finally–I can start golfing now,” laughed Evenson.

Sjostrom, of course, assumed he was buying a course so he could golf more.

“He (Sjostrom) won’t have time to golf,” chuckled Evenson. Sjostrom wasn’t informed of that minor detail when they were negotiating the transaction.

Also odd was the chain of events that brought the Evensons into the golf business.

It was October of 1974, and for the first time of his life, Marlan Evenson tried a round of golf.

Marlan had barely strolled off the fairways when Bud Hallstrom offered to sell him the course.

“I didn’t want the place…I had two trucks to pay for,” said Evenson, a trucker–more adept with monkey wrenches than nine-irons.

Local Pelican Rapids banker Clyde Thorfinson assured Marlan that money was no object. After a winter of back-and-forth discussions, Marlan finally made the deal. That was spring of 1975, not long before season opener–which propelled everybody into deadline mode.

There was one important condition in the deal: Son Brian Evenson, a wet-behind- the-ears Concordia College kid, was required to join the operation.

“My contribution was sweat equity,” laughed Brian, who made the transition from student to a career running a golf course that spanned over four decades.

Brian had golfed–a bit.

But as far as horticulture, turf management, herbicide, fertilizer pesticide, fungicide and all that other scientific stuff necessary to manage 90 acres of fairway–well, he had to go across the Red River. From the liberal arts halls of Concordia in Moorhead; Brian crossed over to North Dakota (Agricultural College) State University in Fargo, where he learned about growing–and mowing.

So, while Brian did the grunt work; mom and dad, Marlan and Marlene developed–very slowly–from rookies to respectable golfers.

“Average hacker,” is how Marlan described his game. “I played one good round once. I shot a 36,” he smiled, recalling his two-over round on the par 34 course.

As for 65-year-old Terry Sjostrom, well, maybe he’ll squeeze in a bit of golf. After the mowing; the trimming; the maintenance; the chainsaw-wielding; the accounting; the counter work; the cleaning; the garbage detail…

And there’s KP duty, just like Terry’s days in the U.S. Army. With the remodled kitchen Sjostrom initiated at Birchwood–Terry will be cooking pizzas and grilling hot dogs.

Meanwhile, his wife Connie describes herself as a “substitute” who will jump in as necessary. She’s not exactly retired, either, working overtime at the family’s Muddy Moose restaurant business downtown.

Fortunately, Terry Sjostrom grew up as a farm boy in rural Pelican. Maintaining a golf course is a little like farming. It’s just a matter of transitioning from cow pasture to pasture pool.

Perhaps it’s the Swede in him, but Terry has some peculiar notions about retirement.

Now that he owns a course; and with a bit of luck; he might actually play a round of golf every now and then.