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Jeff Kolpack, Published June 23 2012

Next generation will be key to longevity for Maris golf tournament

FARGO – This weekend’s Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament is in its 29th year. Already there is talk of making the 30th annual an extra special affair with marquee guests.

And what about beyond?

Committee chair Dustin Mitzel is 37 years old, actively courting the younger generation to get involved.

“That’s my goal, to get my generation and generations below to embrace it for another 29 years,” Mitzel said.

On the other end, the Maris family flew into Fargo this week in much the same manner as the other 28 years. The family has grown from the marriage of Roger and Pat Maris to 15

grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

The four sons of Roger and Pat – Roger Jr., Richard, Randy and Kevin – all can see the day when the youngest generation continues the tournament tradition.

“We hope so, that’s the goal,” Roger Jr. said. “After 29 years, things are going to change. We’ve lost some people, and the committee will always change over time. But every year it’s continued and we haven’t had a drop off at all and in fact, at times, it’s gotten better.”

Tournament festivities begin this morning with the first flight of golf at 7:30. The silent auction starts at 12:30 p.m., the live auction at 1 and the annual banquet is at 5:30, all at the Fargo Holiday Inn.

The tournament’s second and third flights are at 7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Monday.

All of the golf is at Edgewood in Fargo.

“As long as the community supports it, we’re going to keep it going,” Roger Jr. said.

The community continues to see more members of the Maris family come north. Two grandsons attend North Dakota State. Richie Maris, Richard’s son, is a student manager for the Bison men’s basketball team, and Grant Maris enrolled in summer school and will walk on to the NDSU football team this fall as a freshman.

He’s already working out with the returning players.

“He works hard and was motivated to come up here,” said Randy Maris, his father.

As it has for many years, the tournament field is full. It’s been 51 years since Roger Maris, a Fargo Shanley graduate, hit 61 home runs in 1961 to break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record.

Fifty-one years later, there are Maris’ buzzing around town for another weekend of golf and fundraising. For the grandkids, it started as a weekend in a swimming pool, drinking milk shakes and running around the hotel.

Now they’re older and seeing more of what the event is about – honoring their grandfather who passed away in 1985 at the age of 51, after a bout with cancer.

“It’s quite cool to bring your younger kids up here to hear stories and t expose them and to see the legacy that dad laid here in Fargo,” Roger Jr. said. “These kids look forward to coming up here.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia

Kolpack is the host of the WDAY Golf Show Saturdays from 8-9 a.m. on 970-AM.