OPINION: Kudos to all on a terrific Birchmont week

·4 min read

Aug. 6—When late July rolls around, we in the sports department are often itching to cover live competition again. For us, that's why this time of year is tailor-made for the Birchmont Golf Tournament.

You may have read the stories, browsed through all the pictures or even heard from the champions. But what you didn't see was the behind-the-scenes work that went into our coverage.

I'm here to brag about the folks who made it happen.

In all, we had six members of our newsroom play a part in our coverage. Pioneer sports reporter Christian Babcock tackled his first Birchmont with a number of great stories — most notably, in my opinion,

his heartwarming feature on the father-son duo of Mike and Jackson Fogelson.

Behind the lens for the photos of that story was Madelyn Haasken, our multimedia editor who has one of the best eyes for photography that I've ever seen.

She crushed it all week, and her picture of Bryce Bye teeing off in Monday's gallery — with the alluring Lake Bemidji resting in the background — was particularly impressive.

Not to be outdone, reporter and photographer Maggi Fellerman was undaunted — as usual — by the idea of zipping around an unfamiliar golf course throughout the week.

She too

strengthened our coverage

with her instinctive knack, and her photo of Brennan Hockman putting on Thursday, as dark clouds loomed behind him, captured a vivid and somewhat eerie scene.

All three of them were Birchmont rookies this year, but you'd hardly guess it based on what they produced.

Editor and photographer Annalise Braught was also more than willing to pick up a camera and help out, especially when Madelyn or Maggi were off filling other sections of the newspaper.

Her collection from Wednesday featured a wide variety of action and she was also

in perfect position to capture a big upset

in the women's division as it unfolded.

And then there's the name that local golf circles likely know best. Dennis Doeden, our former-publisher-turned-reporter and the biggest golf fanatic of us all, was valuable to our reporting again this year.

You won't see his byline on any photos or articles, but he's always been willing to offer unrivaled expertise and a story idea or two, much of which

materialized in the content we published.

On Saturday, the Pioneer had a crew of four out at the Bemidji Town and Country Club for the Birchmont's finals. We bolstered this year's championship coverage with more stories and more photos, which resulted in the best package I've seen us produce since joining the paper in the fall of 2015.

I was proud to be a part of it and offer all that we did to our readers.

Big recognition also goes to BTCC head professional Rick Grand and his staff, who put on a first-class tournament year in and year out. It's no wonder why golfers and fans alike keep coming back every summer, and it starts right there.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the dedicated Chaz Mootz, Lakeland News' own ace in the hole. I overheard a group of spectators chit-chatting during Saturday's finals, discussing how "Chaz Mootz" is a great name for a sports anchor. And I can tell you, from firsthand experience, that he lives up to the name.

Finally, I'm not talking about any of this if not for the golfers themselves. A whopping 344 signed up this year, and seven stood out as champions by week's end.

I got to witness

Abbie Kelm's triumph

in the women's division, plus

first-timer Josh Galvin

taking the men's field by storm.

Congratulations are also in order for

fellow champs

Jeff Thompson (men's executive division), Jeff Tweeton (men's masters), Jeff Wiltse (men's seniors), Jack Hanson (junior 13-17) and Beckett Grand (junior 10-12).

Now reflecting on another successful Birchmont, I'm confident that our body of work doesn't happen without skillful journalists or helping hands. Thankfully, the Pioneer has them in spades.

Micah Friez is the sports editor at the Pioneer. Readers can reach him at

(218) 333-9789