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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Breezy Point

Local Golf
August 17, 2017

By R.J. Smiley

"You are old when regrets replace dreams!" - Jimmy Carter

All of his life John Lieser has been chasing dreams. Since he first got serious about golf in 1960 he has been dreaming of having 18 one-putt greens in a single round. That dream almost came true recently during a scramble round at Territory Golf Club outside St. Cloud. More about that round later.

John's newest dream is to referee the first Minnesota High School 5-A Football Championship game ever held in the Vikings' new US Bank Stadium. At age 72, Lieser was honored to be chosen to referee the 2015 5-A Championship game held at TCF Stadium. (The 2015 Championship game was undoubtedly the final high school Championship game ever played at TCF Stadium.)

When asked how he stays out of the way of today's amazing young athletes, he chuckled, "For an old guy, I am still pretty quick on my feet."

Lieser proudly states, "I have been refereeing football games for the past 51 years." Then with a twinkle in his eye he says, "But I have been refereeing basketball games for 56 years." Lieser also has coached the Apollo High School golf team for 53 years. "I am the only coach that Apollo High School has ever had. I coached the junior high for a few years prior to that."

Lieser grew up near Albany, MN. "They opened the Albany Golf Course in 1960, that's when I really started playing golf. I went on to play on the golf team for St. Cloud State from 1961-1965." Lieser has carried a scratch handicap for most of his career, winning numerous short stop tournaments throughout Minnesota. Among his proudest golf achievements was winning the very prestigious Pine To Palm Championship in 1971. Lieser beat Bill Waryan, of the famous golf Waryan family, 1-up.

Ralph Anderson, who for years published the Pine To Palm Newspaper, sent a letter to Arnold Palmer about Lieser's victory. To Lieser's surprise, the famous, Palmer sent Lieser a hand written note of congratulations. The Palmer's note hangs proudly on John's wall to this day. "I am especially proud to have that letter, now that Mr. Palmer has passed." Lieser also possesses a very legible autograph from Mr. Palmer from the 1965 St. Paul Open.

Lieser can identify with most senior golfers. "Putting is a huge problem." As his age has increased his ability to get the ball in the hole has decreased. John has attempted to find the answer to this illusive problem for years. Then on a recent weekend playing his home course, Territory Golf Club, in a Sunday scramble everything came together. Not only for John but also for his entire team.

The miracle team was made of Lieser, Ray Sauer, Andy Cleland and Andy's dad, Mike Cleland. On any given Sunday, this team would be picked to win a scramble. Andy, a really long hitter, has the second longest hole-in-one in Minnesota golf history. Ray and Mike are among the very best senior golfers in Minnesota.

On this particular team, our character of the month, John, was the "D" player, meaning he would hit first from the tee and putt first. Our miracle team started on the second hole, a par-5. Putting first, Lieser made a 15 footer for an eagle. Six holes later Lieser had been the only player in the foursome to putt. SIX IN A ROW! On their 7th hole, John's six footer went all the way down but spun out hanging on the lip. Andy drained the simple putt to keep the string of under par holes alive. On the 9th Ray made a 30 footer, the longest of the day, after John and Andy had missed.

The final result, this miracle team had three eagles to go along with 15 birdies for a 21 under par GROSS SCORE of 51. John putting first had 14 one-putt greens, by far an all time record. Andy made two putts and Ray also made two putts. Mike the cleanup hitter in the group never had to putt. Wow, what a round!!

In retelling the story Lieser likes to boast, "We bought two mulligans. But we never had to use them."

John Lieser, who has a Fit-Bit, walks at least 10,000 steps every day to stay in shape. He does not have time for "Regrets," he is "Dreaming" of making 18 putts in a row and refereeing the Championship game at age 73!

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