FARGO — It was just last week when organizers of the “Bell Presents Play it Forward” golf match at the Fargo Country Club between Amy Olson and Josh Duhamel vs. Tom Hoge and Matt Cullen were getting nervous about the weather forecast. The tee time on Tuesday, May 12 was even bumped back an hour to 11 a.m.
Never fear, golf is here.
At least it was back, competitively, for one day and the local professionals who call Fargo home couldn’t have been happier. The conditions didn’t disappoint either with clear skies, light winds and temperatures doable in the 50s.
“I just said I’m free to make it work, just tell me and I’ll be there to help out,” Hoge said.
Hoge hadn’t played a PGA Tour event since the Players Championship in March was cut short after one round. The LPGA Tour’s Olson has had even a longer layoff not having teed it up since finishing second in the Australian Open in late January.
“I was all in, it was a matter of pulling it off logistically especially with COVID and everything that was going on,” Olson said.
Pulling it off was a matter of keeping the charitable event on the down low. No fans were allowed on the course, but it will be televised as a three-hour show from 6-9 p.m. on Sunday, May 31. WDAY-TV had microphones on each player, multiple cameras and on-air personalities in a production that will be aired state-wide on ABC stations across North Dakota.
It was the brainchild of Forum Communications publisher Bill Marcil Jr. and WDAY general manager Josh Rohrer, with one phone call between the two talking about the upcoming Phil Mickelson vs. Tiger Woods match.
“I said we should do a Tom Hoge, Amy Olson thing,” Marcil said. “It would be great for the community and let’s raise some money for a cause. It’s a live sporting event and we all need something to do to be outside.”
Fans at the Fargo Country Club were immediately ruled out because of social distancing rules. Marcil called Mike Solberg, the president and chief executive officer at Bell Bank, who was immediately receptive to the concept. Solberg called Olson and Hoge, both of whom are sponsored by Bell, and it wasn’t more than a half hour later he got back to Marcil saying both players were in.
A few days later, Cullen and Duhamel joined the teams. Cullen, from Moorhead, just retired after 21 seasons in the NHL and a member of three Stanley Cup teams. Actor Duhamel, from Minot, N.D., is never shy about promoting his home state.
“It came together way faster than we thought,” Marcil said.
The charities will be the big winner by the time the event is televised on May 31 thanks to Bell Bank, which is matching up to $100,000 in gifts. Each player had a cause: Olson for the New Life Center, Cullen for the North Country Food Bank, Hoge for the Village Family Service Center and Duhamel for the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. Former professional golfer and Maple River head professional Dave Schultz, who was part of the broadcast team, promoted the Great Plains Food Bank.
People can donate right now until the night of the telecast at www.givingheartsday.org.
There was no shortage of good-natured gamesmanship between the players. Duhamel, at the first tee, questioned Cullen getting an advantage of 16 shots over Olson because of handicap. He repeated the thought after Cullen registered a net birdie on No. 9.
“I wasn’t sure how it would pull together but Bell did such a great job and I was excited Josh and I got to team up,” Olson said. “It was a great event and a great idea. The problem was I was trying to hit midseason shots with offseason hands, so that’s always tricky. Every single one of us is competitive and we all wanted to win but more importantly we wanted to play for charity and raise money for great causes and we did that.”
And they played golf. A live event on a nice day.
It had been awhile.