They come, they socialize, they golf: Highland Senior men

HYDE – They come to socialize and enjoy a round of golf.

The Highland Senior Men’s League, comprised of approximately 40 golfers, meets each Thursday at about 8:30 a.m.

Outings begin with a social hour, during which the guys enjoy coffee and rolls, visiting with each other and a prize drawing.

Then, about an hour later, they begin their 18 holes of golf.

“I’ve been playing in this league for about five years,” said Len Skrobiak of Bark River. “The camraderie with the guys is great. Nobody gets too serious. Some weeks you win. Some weeks you don’t. It’s a great outing.”

The league is open to all Highland members age 55 and over. League outings include individual play, scrambles and blind bogey. Players are asked to donate $5 to the pot, which provides payout for the top three teams or individuals.

“Most of us are retired,” said league vice-president/treasurer Dave Nordin. “It’s just a good experience and a great, informal event.”

League play usually begins in late May and continues through October, weather permitting.

“Everybody signs up (each week) and teams are determined,” said league president Terry French, who organizes the league’s tournaments. “We try to even things out the best we can.”

Annual major events include the Spring two-man scramble in mid-June and the Senior four-man scramble in early September.

“Both tournaments are U.P.-wide and they’re well attended,” said Nordin. “We usually draw 100-150 golfers, which enables us to raise money for our league. Membership costs $20 and members get much more in return.”

Members sometimes get free pizza after golf, and on Aug. 1 they’ll be treated to a free steak dinner following a $5 scramble.

Also on this year’s schedule are the Green Jacket tournament Aug. 22 and annual banquet Sept. 19.

“Personally, I’ve made many friends in this league,” said French. “I enjoy seeing everybody at least once a week. I also enjoy directing a league which runs well and people enjoy themselves. We have such a friendly group of people who get along well. I think we put on a good event each week.”

French, Nordin and golf coordinator Bob Stenfors are currently serving for the seventh straight year in their respective positions.

“Dave, Bob and I enjoy each other, and we get good participation,” said French, who underwent knee surgey on June 10 and hopes to resume in August.

Gil Bittner, at age 89, is the most senior member.

“The league was organized by Leo Brunelle and Levi Etlamaki about 30 years ago,” said Bittner, who became a member in 1943. “We had a lot of fun over the years. Everybody is cheerful, and I really enjoy the camraderie.”

In 1965, Highland members George Walters, Ben Douglas, Einar Beck and Hazen Hengesh visited the Bittner farm, asking the family to sell the land to aid in the course expansion plans.

A short time later, the Bittner family and Ernie Klein sold approximately 29 acres to the club for $6,500.

Three years later, Highland became the first 18-hole course in Delta County.