Newman tournament unique in its format, contribution to junior golf
The Russ Newman Invitational attracts a top area field with the aim of helping kids with memorial fund
FARGO — The thought just hit Fargo resident Nick Lakoduk one day last August, like the proverbial light bulb going off. How about putting together some kind of tournament in the memory of his friend Russ Newman?
It could benefit youth golf in some way. So Lakoduk got in touch with the Newman family only to find out they were already organizing the Russ Newman Memorial Youth Fund. It was meant to be.
“We combined forces and took off from there,” Lakoduk said.
It took off to form the Russ Newman Invitational, a 32-team two-man tournament to benefit the youth fund Friday and Saturday at the Fargo Country Club. It’s not about throwing a few dollars in a pot, either. The organizing committee has some grand ideas; the tournament has already raised enough funds to cover the Russ Newman Junior Invitational June 12 at the FCC.
That is the core of Newman’s legacy. The kids.
“I think when we brainstormed what the theme was, one of my brothers said helping kids compete,” said Kyle Newman, Russ’ son. “I remember saying, that’s it right there. That’s the mission.”
The mission statement indeed turned out to be “Helping Kids Compete.” And there will be plenty of competition at the Junior Newman. The tournament is partnering with the Dakota Junior Golf Association to invite the top 20 boys and girls golfers in both North Dakota Class A and Class B. That’s 80 of the state’s top players.
The top three in the boys and girls divisions will earn a ticket to Las Vegas for the World Stars of Junior Golf June 28-30. The Newman fund will help offset some of those expenses.
“It’s amazing, the tournament hasn’t even started yet and we’ve already raised enough money to sponsor kids in the following tournament,” Kyle Newman said. “We’re super touched. It goes to show how far of a reach our dad had. He had a way of connecting to people with his charisma. It’s incredible.”
The “Helping Kids Compete” theme won’t be restricted to golf, either. Plans call to use funds for other causes, like equipment, scholarships or Christmas presents.
“We like to use the term compete universally,” said Boomer Newman, Russ’ son. “Compete to be happy as a normal kid. Compete to have school supplies. Maybe somebody to have Christmas money for kids and couldn’t afford it. Dad did that for years.”
The weekend field is no slouch, with no limitation on amateur status. Former professional golfer Andy Doeden will make a rare tournament appearance pairing with Craig Palmer. Former pro Josh Persons is teaming with veteran teaching pro John Dahl. FCC head pro Dave Schultz is paired with Zach Bertschi.
Mike Podolak and Reed Olien, perhaps the most successful best-ball team in North Dakota amateur history, are back at it.
“We have some high-caliber players coming in here,” Boomer Newman said. “A lot of plus handicaps, no shortage of talent for sure. The first year we’re trying to get some of dad’s close friends and family but also elite players. It wasn’t hard at all.”
The format is unique. Friday is a basic two-man net best ball. Saturday is a two-man net total team score, meaning everybody's shot counts.
“This isn’t going to be a five-year deal,” Boomer Newman said. “This is here to stay.”