FARGO — The summer grind for most of the players in the Bobcat North Dakota Open this weekend at the Fargo Country Club started in mid-June at the South Dakota Pro-Am in Vermillion, S.D. Brady Calkins began his Dakotas Tour season a week later and he’s rarely cooled off.
The 24-year-old from Chehalis, Wash., tied for 10th at the Fox Run Pro-Am in Yankton, S.D., June 28-30, which turned out to be his worst performance of the tour to date. He produced three victories and three runnerup performances over the course of the next nine tournaments.
He’s dominating the league.
“He is on fire,” said Fargo Country Club head professional Mark Johnson. “He won last week at Minot at 22-under-par over the course of four days. These guys can play, too.”
Most of these guys are young players trying to make a living on a minor tour. There’s a faction of experienced club pros who play the summer tour like former Bobcat champion Tim Ailes from Delaware, Ohio.
He’s sixth on the Dakotas Tour money list at $24,339, which pales in comparison to Calkins’ $68,575. If Calkins continues his hot streak and takes the Bobcat, that would be worth $10,000 more plus $4,500 that would pay his entry fee to PGA Tour Qualifying School.
“It’s a top-heavy tour,” Johnson said, referring to the money leaders. “At our event, you net out $14,500. The last place check might be $1,000. That’s a pretty big swing in 20 guys.”
The Bobcat is a full tournament field that starts Friday with a pro-am event. The second and third rounds are Saturday and Sunday with the leaders teeing off on Sunday late in the morning.
“I’ve said it before and I believe it: the last couple of groups on Sunday afternoon at the Bobcat North Dakota Open are playing to a level that would be equivalent to a (PGA) Tour player making the cut on that tour,” Johnson said. “Probably not winning on the Tour that week. But the Dakotas Tour player is playing to a high enough level where they would be playing on the weekend in the PGA Tour.”
There have been some notable North Dakota Open winners over the years like Tom Hoge in 2017, Kane Hanson in 2007 and David Schultz in 2006. Mike Podolak won competing as an amateur in 2003.
Schultz is making a return to pro golf, at this point on a limited basis, and is entered this weekend.
Unlike a lot of players who stay in hotels from day to day at different towns and cities, Schultz has a house in the area.
“With tournament golf, these guys are trying to put bread on the table,” Johnson said. “Every stroke, although they’re not living and dying with it, has serious consequences. When you’re asking that of yourself 13 out of 14 days, that is a grind. And then factor in sleeping in foreign towns, hotels, traveling in their car and simple things like getting laundry done, it’s a grind and it’s not for everyone.”