Origin Story

History of the State Fair Open 

It is “the most recognized event in Minnesota” ….as we like to call it . For those who don’t know the history  of this event, it wasn’t always this big. For everyone, whether having played for years or those new to the event,  I thought I’d give a little history of how this event began in 1988. 

Many years ago, there was a group of us who decided to get together for a night out. We decided to go the “great  Minnesota get together” otherwise known as the Minnesota State Fair. For some reason, we chose to go out on  the opening night of the fair, which is on a Thursday. Back in those days, the beer gardens stayed open until  12:00. Our group never seemed to get out of the Fairgrounds until they told us we had to leave. Needless to  say, it made for a long, miserable day at work the next day.  

After a couple years, a few of us finally got smart and planned a vacation day (or sick day for some) on the  Friday following the guys’ night out. Rather than let the whole day go to waste, we decided to get a tee time and  play a little golf. We figured out that golfing was less painful than working after the guys’ night out at the fair.  So, we decided to plan it again the next year. It was in year two that we decided to try to make it an annual  event. Sometime during that round in year two, I jokingly called it the State Fair Open. The name stuck and we  never would have imagined that we would still be getting together, much less with 100+ golfers for the past  several years.

The original founding fathers are: 

Tom Folska Mark Goertzen Scott Pavel Tim “Barney” Wurst 

The SFO executive team members are: 

CEO and Commissioner Tom Folska 

President of Entertainment Mark Folska -out of retirement 

VP of Fun Matt Folska 

Secretary of Good Times Brenda Folska 

The idea of taking the day off became more popular. Here are some milestones of the SFO: 

1988 1st three annual SFO’s were held at Keller Golf Course with the four founding fathers. All four were  winners. 

1991 4th annual SFO grew to 16 golfers. Majestic Oaks was the site. This was the year of the big thunderstorm  that threatened the cancellation of the tourney. The first and last time the format was a random draw at  the end of the round to determine partners and winning team. 

1992 5th annual SFO was the first year of the current format of 2-person scramble. Again with 16 golfers. The  Folska Modified Handicap system was born. The tourney was moved to Greenhaven in Anoka. 

1993 6th annual SFO grew to 28 golfers. Greenhaven was the site again in Anoka.

1994 7th annual SFO grew to 44 golfers. The 1st at Oak Glen in Stillwater.

1997 10th annual SFO grew to 52 golfers. 

1999 12th annual SFO grew to 60 golfers.  

2000 13th annual SFO (Millennium Edition) grew to 80 golfers. Jim Flesher and I finally won the tourney  with a natural 8 under. The pressure is off and my scoring system seems to have gotten more  liberal. If I never win again, at least we are on the SFO Champions Plaque of fame!!! 

2003 16th annual SFO moved to Sawmill. Oak Glen “double booked” and told us they were moving our  date…..not! I bet they wished they hadn’t done that; we’ve never been back. 

2006 19th annual SFO had the first female winner and the first husband wife winners: Jim and Shelly Beard.

2007 20th annual SFO introduced the next generation of players: Jake Folska (age 13), Gino (age 13) and  Marco Lucarelli (age 12). 

2008 21st annual SFO has another of the founding fathers (Mark Goertzen) and his long-standing partner (Pat  Mascia) win. It was the first SFO held at Logger’s Trail. 

2009 22nd annual SFO had the first Father/Son winners with Ron and Adam Johnson. Loggers Trail set up  beautifully for Adam’s big drives. 

2010 23rd annual SFO was back to the friendly confines of Sawmill where the Beard’s were “licking their  chops” as they went on to win their 2nd championship. 

2011 24th annual SFO was won again by Jim and Shelly Beard. They seem to “tear up” Sawmill as partners as  this is their 3rd win at that venue.  

2012 25th annual SFO had long time partners Randy Mauer and Jeff Ford win their first SFO championship.  They were deserving winners as they play with a very low number of handicap bumps. They really  earned the 1st place trophy and their names on the SFO plaque of fame. 

2013 26th annual SFO had a breakthrough having the first teenage winners. Gino Lucarelli and Jake Folska  prevailed by 2 strokes as they “ham and egged” their way to victory. As the story goes, Jake’s drives  were long and straight and Gino made every putt. I guess that’s a pretty good formula for winning.  Sadly, Sawmill’s uncertainty with their change of Management has given me cause to seek another  venue. The great staff that has been so accommodating to our tournament moved to Logger’s Trail.  They were very eager to host the SFO and were again accommodating to our needs. They promised to  make it a great experience.  

2014 27th annual SFO went back to Logger’s Trail. The winners were Geoff Kuppe and Chad Dahly. These  first-time winners held off an overachieving, hard-charging Folska / Flesher team, trying to get their  second title. 

2015 28th annual SFO again at Logger’s Trail saw an epic round by Mike Martinjako and Scott White. They  took full advantage of their bumps by arguably playing the round of their lives. The Folska Modified  Handicap system worked out as intended. It is supposed to make an even playing field for all. 

2016 29th annual SFO at Logger’s Trail was a happy day for Team Fun. Matt “Zeke” Folska and his long-time  partner Jimmy Maietta finally took advantage of the generous handicap that they’ve earned from their  tenure in the SFO. Even with the handicap, they still had to play well and they were rewarded with the  win and their names of the coveted SFO Champions plaque. 

2017 30th annual was again at Logger’s Trail. It was great to see so many younger players. The winners Steve  Oczak and Chris Koniar have been loyal players for several years. Congrats to these first-time winners.  

2018 31st annual was to have another large turnout, and the earliest registration. 56 teams registered.  Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. The start of the event was postponed, yet many loyal SFO  players elected to brave the elements, only to have another round of storms cut our tourney short.  Players got anywhere from 10-13 holes in before having to get off the course. The winner of the 2018  SFO was Mother Nature. May she never win again!

2019 32nd annual was back upon popular demand. And it turned out to be a fantastic day. Glad that we made  it another year. There was no drama, everyone had fun. And it was great to see a long time dedicated  SFO team win their second championship trophy. Congrats to Randy Mauer and his partner Jeff Ford.  They are like a fine wine…..getting better with age! 

2020 33rd annual was an uncertainly due to the whole Covid situation. But we decided to give it a go and had  another amazing turnout. A late entry team ended up winning the Championship in a very competitive  SFO. Two more Mauers get their names on the Champions Plaque. Congrats to Matt and Nate Mauer.  

2021 34th annual was an uncertainty because of weather concerns. Every forecast leading up to the SFO was showing a washout. It rained 3-4” in the 24 hours leading up to the SFO, including the morning of the  event. But, as faith would have it, the weather cooperated and only a few sprinkles and showers but  otherwise good. And even with the weather forecast of gloom, we did not have anyone cancel in  advance. In fact, we had 112 golfers. That speaks to why this event endures. Congrats to a young team  of Frank Lang and Spencer Hysjulien for their first SFO Championship, shooting an SFO tying net 60.  Looks like they will be contenders in years to come.

2022 35th annual could arguably have been the best ever. It was a top 1 or 2 best weather days. The tourney  was full to capacity. Everyone was in good spirits (the weather sure helps with that). The course was in  great shape and with a warm, not hot, day with no wind, I suspected there would be some low scoring.  And I was right, there were 35 of 54 teams at par or below (net score of course). And as I always hope,  a team that exceeds and overachieves in the tourney is the winner. That was the case this year with Kyle  Folska and Noah Xiong winning their first SFO. They finished their round birdie-eagle to edge out the  second place finishes by a stroke. Congrats to another young team with many years ahead of them.

2023 36th annual saw a return to Keller, where the SFO was born. They were happy to have us and were very accommodating. It turned out to be a great venue for our event. Everyone who I heard from absolutely loved the change. And we had another 100+ turnout and a perfect day of weather. It’s nice to see the number of younger players growing each year. We had another first-time winning team, Tom Welty and his son Tommy. They played great with a chip in eagle and several long putts made. That what it takes to take home the trophy. Congrats to team Welty.

The reason I have kept this tournament going, despite my annual threats to let it drop is for the opportunity to  see people who I may not otherwise get to see. It’s just sort of grown legs as now the next generation of players  is keeping this going. It kind of marks the end of summer for me. Now I have the dream that this golf  tournament will continue to the next generation of Folskas and friends and that my son and his cousins might  someday take it over and let their “old man” play, with a generous handicap. 

Some notes and classic moments that don’t mean much to some of you but will get a smile from those that have  played for years. 

As a result of the wide range of golfing “experience” I had long ago adopted the Folska Modified Handicap System. It’s not exactly a perfected science but it tries to do what a handicap is supposed to do – put everyone on sort of an even playing field and with a chance to win the prestigious SFO Championship . The system has been surprisingly functional, despite that it’s all on the honor system. For the most part, the winners have played better than their normal game and thus should have a chance to win. If nothing else, it sure gives us all something to talk about each year leading up to the SFO. There’s been some interesting tactics to “improve” the bumps as we call them. All for a shot at taking home the SFO trophy and a place on the SFO Champions Plaque of Fame.

Despite the amount of time and energy that it takes to put this together, it has been worthwhile. I hope everyone enjoys getting out and having fun. Life is short.....enjoy it to the fullest.

Thanks to everyone for being a part of making these memories; and to all of you who have helped me over the years.

SFO Commissioner and CEO

Tom Folska