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Fairmont golf coach’s birthday wishes come true

WEATHERING THE WEATHER — Fairmont head golf coach Brad Haugen holds his umbrella during rainy conditions at the Class AA state golf meet at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan last June. Haugen will celebrate his 42nd birthday by hitting an area golf course today. (Photo by Greg Abel/Sentinel Archives)

FAIRMONT — Fairmont High School head golf coach Brad Haugen received the one birthday gift that he wanted more than anything else on Friday — golf courses throughout the state of Minnesota being reopened.

“It actually happened. Incredible,” said Haugen, who turned 42 on the day that Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued an executive order that allowed golfing, boating, fishing, hunting and hiking to resume after being shut down due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The above activities will be allowed as long as they “follow outdoor recreation guidelines — including 6-foot social distancing, avoiding crowded areas and staying close to home,” according to Walz’s new decree.

“I am definitely going to try to sneak out (today) and Sunday to calm the itch that’s needed scratching since we got a few days with warm temperatures in late February,” said Haugen. “I’ll definitely walk the course, so I won’t violate the one person-to-a-cart rule.

“Maybe the second part of my birthday wish will come true and I can get my daughter Anika (Haugen) to play a round with her old dad.”

The Cardinal varsity program’s father-daughter golfing tandem will have their choice of Fairmont-based courses to play on as both Rose Lake and Interlaken will officially be open to the general public today.

“I don’t think we’ll venture out to the course at 5 a.m. like the governor’s executive order stated being the official starting time of the reopening,” Brad Haugen said with a laugh.

“Ever since he (Walz) signed it (executive order) earlier (Friday morning), the clubhouse’s phone has been ringing off the hook,” Rose Lake Golf Club general manager Bonnie Gilliam said with a chuckle. “We’ll be scrambling to get the course ready due to it having some snow on it, but we’ll be open.

“We’re supposed to get some warmer temperatures (today), so hopefully that’ll help thaw things out.”

Gilliam said golfers can call the Rose Lake clubhouse for tee times and prices for either 18 or nine holes of golf and a cart.

“We’ll have to figure out how far apart we’re supposed to schedule groups in order to comply with the social distancing regulations, and that’ll be a work in progress,” said Gilliam. “Once we get open, people can play every day, weather permitting.”

Across town, Interlaken Golf Club also will be teeing off today.

“We could open as early as 8 a.m. if someone wants to golf, but we’ll have to see if the course will be ready to play after receiving 7 inches of snow earlier this week,” said Interlaken operations & office manager Micaela Ellefson. “We’ll have to see how tee times work out, but golfers can sign up for them on our website.

“We, of course, will follow the state provisions and policies to make sure that everyone involved stays healthy and safe.”

Both Ellefson and Gilliam are encouraging residents who have been diligently following the statewide shutdown protocol to use the opportunity to get outside to get some fresh air and exercise.

“I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve been going nuts in my house,” Ellefson joked. “You don’t have to be a member to golf and you don’t have to be good at the sport either to try it.”

And, after Brad Haugen cards 18 holes on an area golf course today, the Fairmont swing coach will trade his driver for a tennis racket to complete the next phase of his birthday wish.

“I challenged my son Blake (Haugen) to a tennis match. After I pulled a hamstring while playing him a week ago, he took mercy on me and said we could play another day, so that’ll probably happen Sunday,” said Brad Haugen. “He had never beaten until last year. Now I’m trying to win one more time against him while I’m still competitive.”

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