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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 26 2013

Lehman lends a hand to Fargo Country Club

FARGO – Tom Lehman is a decorated professional golfer who has won a British Open and a Senior PGA Championship. He’s also an accomplished golf course architect.

His Lehman Design Group has won several awards for projects across the country. Last week, he and business partner Chris Brands came to Fargo and gave the Fargo Country Club a morsel of knowledge on how the course can further address its flood issues.

He’s offering the advice on his own dime, telling FCC head professional Mark Johnson he just feels a tie to the area.

Lehman, from Alexandria, Minn., won area amateur tournaments and played in the North Dakota Open as a young professional. The connection to help the Fargo Country Club came through the course construction company Duininck Golf, which did some work at the Country Club.

“They shared with him the summer flood damage,” Johnson said. “So Tom reached out to us through Duininck and asked if he could take a look. He’s not looking for business. … He has a sincere interest in the Fargo Country Club and what he can bring to fix it. He said he’ll put his heart into it.”

Giving of himself is nothing new to Lehman, who was the 2010 recipient of the Payne Stewart Award that recognizes a player’s charitable support and respect for the traditions of the game. He was the 2001 winner of the Charles Barlett Award that goes for “unselfish contributions to golf.”

His charity tournament in Minneapolis has raised millions.

Johnson said Lehman looked at topography maps of the course before he and Brands toured it on a golf cart. The plan would be to find some sort of configuration that would get the course above a 32-foot flood stage, with the biggest issue being summer nuisance floods that cause permanent damage.

Currently, the course starts to have water issues at a 25-foot flood stage, with holes 17 and 18 the most affected.

Most likely, a change would involve re-routing holes all the while keeping a par-3 course and a driving range. The next step would be to present a master routing plan and to get feedback on that.

And Johnson said any changes wouldn’t be monumental.

“He also realizes it needs to be realistic,” Johnson said. “It’s not like they’re going to blow up the front side. They’ll try to keep changes to a minimum.”

Johnson said cost estimates or a timeline were discussed.

The FCC does have an alternate flood layout that uses three holes of the par-3 course.

Johnson said Lehman spent about the first hour and a half of his visit listening to others talk about the course.

“He would like to come back and visit with the membership,” Johnson said. “They’re confident they can get it to 32 feet or higher.”

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