Tournaments keep Duluth golf legend swinging
Little has dimmed Steve Stojevich's love of golf -- not two knee replacements, arctic spring weather or the passage of time.
When the Reidar Lund Memorial convenes for a 70th time Saturday at Enger Park Golf Course, Stojevich will step up to the tee for a 42nd straight year in the tournament. He remains the event's most enduring figure, winning eight titles, one short of the record nine held by Reed Kolquist.
"I've always liked tournament golf. I'm not sure I'd play the game if it weren't for tournaments," Stojevich said Wednesday from his West Duluth home in Fond du Lac. "I still enter the championship flight because that's what I've always done. It gives me a chance to play with good young players and it gives me a chance to see what I can still do."
The 67-year-old retired in 2003 after 33 years as an elementary school teacher, primarily at Stowe. He had one knee replaced in 2003 and the other in 2006, with both surgeries coming during winter so he wouldn't miss summer golf.
He lives 11 miles and two stop signs from Nemadji Golf Course, where he plays every day during the season at 7:30 a.m. He has a 3.5 handicap. He's won 63 career amateur titles in Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin.
Stojevich claimed his first tournament in 1968, the Nemadji club title, and his second was the 1972 Reidar Lund Memorial. His best streak at Enger Park was from 1978 through 1984, winning four of seven Reidar Lund Memorial championships, and finishing second twice and third once.
"Steve's not playing for his ego, or to get his name in the paper, or to make money. He wants to prove to himself that you can work hard at something and see some reward," Nemadji teaching professional Mark Carlson told the News Tribune in 1985.
Basketball is another Stojevich passion with various high school coaching stints, including head boys coach at Duluth Denfeld-Morgan Park, and he remains a hoops junkie. But there's nothing quite like golf. He's always been a devotee of the practice range for tinkering with his game and simply just to hit golf balls.
When he earned one of his most sought-after titles in the area, the Arrowhead Invitational match-play tournament at Ridgeview Country Club in 1983, Stojevich defeated 21-year-old defending champion Joel Edwards of Denton, Texas, who went on to win more than $4 million on the PGA Tour and is now on the Champions Tour.
"I'm a competitor, but that guy (Stojevich), he just never gave up," Edwards told the News Tribune in 1983 after losing 1 up.
Duluthian Dan Moline returns as the Reidar Lund Memorial defending champion. He rallied from a four-shot deficit over the final nine holes last year to edge 2011 champion Andrew Oakes of Hermantown with a score of 71-76-182, 2 over par for 45 holes. Moline won by one shot. Also entered are Oakes, Alex Kolquist, Taylor Sundbom, Andrew Krasaway and Brian Moores.
Reed Kolquist of Hermantown won a record-setting ninth title in 2007, in a playoff, and is entered Saturday.
The final championship flight group is scheduled to begin the last nine holes of play at 2 p.m. Sunday.