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It will be a special weekend of golf for John Dahl and Josh Persons

Legendary instructor will team with his longtime student at Russ Newman Invitational

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Decorated swing instructor John Dahl, left, and his longtime student Josh Persons will play in a rare tournament together this weekend in the Russ Newman Invitational at the Fargo Country Club.
Jeff Kolpack / The Forum
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FARGO — It was one of those great Fargo moments that makes for a good story in the John Dahl golf archives. The Director of Golf at Oxbow Country Club was at the TPC Potomac course near Washington, D.C., for a 2012 Web.com event as the swing coach for both Tom Hoge and Josh Persons.

The three of them found themselves sitting at a table with head club professional Jay Dufty and former PGA professional Lee Janzen. Dahl knew Dufty from St. John’s Lutheran Church in Fargo.

“Lee was a nice guy and he says, ‘Josh, where you from?’” Dahl said.

The answer was Fargo. Janzen asked Hoge the same question. It was the same answer. He asked Dufty his hometown. Same answer.

“Janzen says I haven’t even met anybody from Fargo, North Dakota,” Dahl said. “It turned out (Hoge and Persons) played in the last group on Sunday so that was fun.”

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Whether Dahl and Persons make the top of the leaderboard this weekend in the Russ Newman Invitational at the Fargo Country Club remains to be seen, but the fundraiser for the Russ Newman Memorial Youth Fund has very little to do with winning and more about the moment.

Dahl, 69, has tutored the 38-year-old Persons since he was in seventh grade, but the two have never played in a tournament format together. Moreover, it’s a rare tourney appearance for Dahl, who in his day was as good as anybody around.

“Oh boy, it’s been quite awhile,” Dahl said. “Honestly, when your game is slipping in speed and strength, it’s not that much fun. I tell the 20 handicappers who are going to 10, that is fun. Try to be a scratch going to 5. That is no fun.”

Hold on, Persons said.

“Don’t let him fool you,” he said. “He can still get it around just fine. He hits it right on the center like you’re supposed to and you can tell.”

The two are paired with Mike Podolak and Reed Olien in what will be the most nostalgic foursome of the first round. Podolak and Olien were almost unbeatable in their prime in North Dakota best-ball tournaments.

Persons is still playing at a high level despite regaining his amateur status. He was one of five players to advance from the first stage of qualifying for the 2022 U.S. Open at a recent qualifier near the Twin Cities.

Persons still gets occasional swing tuneups from Dahl, especially with the early June second stage not far away. Another lesson in a coach-player relationship that is about 25 years and counting.

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“Had to make sure I get scolded once or twice on the things I’m doing wrong,” Persons said with a laugh.

Said Dahl: “He thinks I yell at him. I just strongly suggest.”

“I just like to call it that to razz him a bit,” Persons said. “But he’ll tell you exactly what’s going on. He’s not going to lie to you. Why do you need to go anywhere else? He knows what he’s doing and he shows you. Like he always says, it’s not reinventing the wheel.”

Dahl already helped Persons get to one U.S. Open, the 2015 event at Chambers Bay near Seattle. Hoge was also in the tournament and the two had opposite tee times on the first day.

Dahl didn’t back down. He walked 22 miles that day on terrain that was less than friendly.

“I remember the first hole,” Dahl said in reference to Persons. “I said I played in the ‘84 PGA and said I wasn’t going to mess up. I made a triple on the first hole.”

Dahl then turned to Persons.

“That’s exactly what I did,” Persons said.

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Both busted out laughing.

There is sure to be plenty of that this weekend.

“I’m lucky enough to be paired with the old school boys,” Persons said. “I’m just going to enjoy the weekend. We don’t get to play together much, maybe once or twice a summer.”

Related Topics: GOLF
Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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