Basten, Bro, Clayton honored during 100th Resorters
Trio with deep roots in Resorters' history to serve as honorary chairman, starters during a ceremony that will take place on Aug. 3 at 11:30 a.m. in front of the first tee box at the Alexandria Golf Club.
The Resorters match-play golf tournament has a long history of players returning year after year for what many say is their favorite week of the summer.
The competitive golf is part of that, but many friendships have formed through this tournament. Faces become familiar as people return for one week each summer, and the honorees for the 100th Resorters certainly fit the description as fixtures in this tournament’s history.
John Basten is this year’s honorary chairman, while Betsy Bro and Ron Clayton are the honorary starters. Basten, who lives in the Phoenix, Ariz. area, helped run the Resorters Tournament as the head golf professional at the Alexandria Golf Club for 35 years. Bro and Clayton are longtime veteran players of the Resorters who have a combined 17 championships.
Alexandria’s Gordy Anderson, who was the 98th Resorters honorary chairman in 2019, will also be honored again as a starter this year as he turns 100 years old ahead of the tournament.
The honorees will be recognized near the No. 1 tee box on Tuesday, Aug. 3 in a ceremony that starts at 11:30 a.m.
30-plus years of history
Head golf pros have many responsibilities when it comes to organizing tournaments at their club, and one would think that John Basten’s week of the Resorters during the 35 years he served as the golf pro at AGC would have their stressful moments.
If they did, Bob Basten does not have that as a memory that stands out. John and his wife, Barb, had two sons, Bob and Ken. The kids grew up in Alexandria, and like their dad, spent almost every minute of Resorters week out at the course. There was work to be done. For Bob and Ken, there was playing golf, but there was a lot of catching up to do as well.
“One of the coolest memories for me as a kid from the Resorters was the influx of people that you saw once a year for a week and got to hang out with,” Bob said. “I think some of that was the same for my dad -- relationships with people who were in once a year for the Resorters. He saw them for 30 years or more. That’s probably what I miss most about not being back there is the energy and the influx in the summer of people. I think he kind of thrived on that.”
John, 80, has Alzheimer’s that will not allow him to travel to Alexandria for this year’s ceremony.
“Golf to him was always, I don’t want to say it was the most important thing, but I really feel like for him, his identity came from being a golf pro in a lot of ways,” Bob said. “I just remember as a kid that even if it was winter he would often go off and do stuff at the golf shop. It was just kind of where he was happiest.”
John worked as an assistant golf professional at the Oneida Golf and Country Club in Green Bay early in his career.
“When he worked at the golf club in Green Bay, a lot of the (Packers) players and coaches were members, so he would have interaction at that time with guys like Bart Starr and Paul Hornung and the old-time Packers,” Bob said. “He is a huge Packers fan.”
An opportunity to work as a head pro at the Alexandria Golf Club was enough to make him leave Green Bay as he became a fixture at the club in Alexandria. After moving to Phoenix upon retirement from AGC, he taught lessons for 17 years.
Golf and the Resorters were a big part of John’s life. That made him a natural fit for the honor of being this year’s honorary chairman.
“I think he’d be proud,” Bob said. “I think he’d probably be a little bit humbled by it...Knowing him he’d probably laugh about it or joke about it, but it would be the kind of thing that would be really special to him.”
A dominant decade
Betsy Bro was the player to beat in the Resorters Women’s Division for nearly a decade.
She won eight championships from 1968 through 1979, including four straight from 1974-1977. She also had runner-up finishes in 1973, 1978 and 1983.
Bro looks back on her time in Alexandria with incredible memories that stem from a lot of different emotions. The competition was great, she said. Players like Peggy Kirsch, a Duluth golfer who went on to play in nine Women’s U.S. Open Championships, competed in Alexandria. Bro beat Kirsch in a 7-5 match to win her 1979 Resorters title.
“Every tournament that you have good players, when you win it’s a real victory,” Bro said. “You don’t necessarily say this tournament was better. I played the U.S. National Seniors and went to the semifinals in extra holes and lost because of a technicality. That was the best amateur competition for your age in the world. I worked just as hard in that tournament as I worked in those Alex tournaments and you were just as nervous. You win and you lose, so every victory you savor because you lose so much more often than you win.”
Bro, who grew up in Minnesota before moving to Iowa in 1981 ahead of spending the last 26 years full time in Arizona, first came to the Resorters because of her dad, Neil Croonquist. Croonquist won the Resorters Men’s Division four times and is a member of the Minnesota Golf Association’s Hall of Fame. Bro, who has won nine amateur state championships in three different states, followed right in her father’s footsteps in terms of her competitiveness.
That competition at the Resorters drew Bro to Alexandria for the Resorters, but it was only part of it. Her family rented a big cabin on Lake Darling during the week. They would fish, swim, and simply have one of the best weeks of their summer with friends and family.
Alexandria native Jim Lehman served as her caddy as a young kid. Then there’s tales from the calcutta and other events on and off the course that still make her laugh as she recalls them.
“Just story after story,” Bro said. “The whole thing is just a memory of wonderfulness and just good feelings. I wish I had something more profound to say, but it was a terrific time in everyone’s life.”
Bro, 75, plays golf four times a week. The sport is her passion. A prior commitment is keeping her from being in Alexandria during Resorters week this year, but she was thrilled to be thought of as an important piece of the history for a tournament that meant so much to her.
“I was just flooded with memories of good times and family,” Bro said. “The lakes, the competition. I live in a desert now, and it’s a totally different feeling, and there is nothing like memories. I was thrilled and very touched by the honor because I loved competing up there, and it was really good competition.”
Better with age
Clayton was 50 years old the very first time he played in the Resorters, and it took a little encouragement from a good friend to get him here.
Clayton has lived in Florida for 53 years after being a four-year letterman on the Mankato State University golf team during his college years. He spent a lot of time in Minnesota during the summers, and a high school friend of his had consistently asked him to come to Alexandria to play in the Resorters field.
“I’m so glad I finally did,” Clayton said. “I’m very competitive, so just the whole tournament (was a draw). Plus, it’s really fun. My wife and I made a lot of great friendships and acquaintances there. We really looked forward to it as the highlight of our summer.”
Clayton became a fixture in the field. He won his first of nine Resorters championships in 1994 when he took the Senior Division. Clayton added another championship in the Senior field in 2000 before winning seven Masters Division titles that ranged from 2004 to 2015. Clayton won six straight Masters titles from 2004-2009.
“As I got older, I became a better player,” he said of that success. “Particularly in my age groups. I first became a scratch player at age 41.”
The Resorters Tournament became a big part of Clayton’s life each summer, and he said he was humbled to be named an honorary starter during the centennial celebration. Clayton, 82, still plays a couple times a week near his home in Sarasota, but said his days of competing in a week-long tournament are behind him.
Clayton and his wife, Kathy, sold their place in Minnesota two years ago and had no intentions of coming north again. That changed with this honor as the couple makes the trip to the Alexandria Golf Club where they will stay with Alexandria’s Tom Eidsvold -- a good friend and fellow Resorters champion.
“We always looked at it as a reunion besides the competitive golf,” Clayton said. “All the wonderful people that we met there, the friendships we acquired. There is something very special there, and it’s something we enjoyed for many years.”