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. 

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. 

There have been 4 back-to-back winning teams thus far (of course including the Founding Fathers  wins….*asterisk*). 

There have been 2 players to win with 2 different teams. 

The original SFO traveling trophy actually began as a joke. The trophies were given to me by Robin  Larson out of his office. Since 1991 there was only 1 year that the winners didn’t get their nameplates  made for the trophy (1998). I am not even going to name them…they are forever forgotten, I guess. The  trophies ran out of room for name plates despite a makeover that allowed for a few more years. The  trophies, as gaudy as they are, have been returned to me and rest peacefully in storage, awaiting the  Smithsonian to call me. 

A classic moment was in 1992 when Bill Lechner met Mark “Donk” Folska and Dale Hurt and others  from the 1985 Hill-Murray class in the parking lot at Greenhaven. They hadn’t seen Bill for awhile and  the looks on their faces were priceless (something to do with his “haircut”). Donk and Dale went on to  be the huge underdog winners that year. They must have been inspired by Billy. 

1995 – Todd Dahlin and Dan Lundgren forgot to get the nameplates and had to go to a specialty store on  the way to the golf course. I think it cost them $20 each (a lot of money in those days…..when gas was  $1.50 / gallon) 

Todd Dahlin broke his wrist ramming his cart into Tim Wurst’s cart trying to be a funny guy.  There has only been one female winner and husband/wife team that won: The Beard’s (Jim and Shelly) There has been only one Father/Son winning team in 2009. Ron Johnson and his son Adam. In 2010 the SFO has gone high tech with the new web site. Plus, we saw a new phenomenon with some  

teams dressing in theme costumes. We had the Where’s Waldo foursome, the cowboy and cowgirl, and  the John Daly attire. Hopefully this tradition will respectfully continue in the future.

2011 was a record turnout with 110 golfers. It was probably the nicest weather we’ve had for the  tournament and everyone seemed to enjoy the day. The old traveling trophies have given way to a  winner’s plaque with all of the winners displayed and individual trophies for each to keep for proud  display and loads of memories. We also had an optional and very successful food drive. We donated  over 400 pounds of food to the Ralph Reeder Food shelf. 

2012 had a terrific turnout, the theme costumes continued for a few, the State Fair prizes affixed to the  golf carts, and yet another Mauer making news……but for all the right reasons. 

2013 was a beautiful day for golf with another good turnout. It was great to see more and more young  golfers join the fun. There were more father / son teams than ever. We had our first teenage team win  the tournament. I don’t think it will be the last. Congrats to Gino Lucarelli and Jake Folska for the round  of their lives. And thank you for the generous food donations. We donated over 500 pounds of food to  the Ralph Reeder Food shelves. 

2014 was a picture-perfect day. The Nocturnal Emissions band arrived in a limo and played the round.  The Ice Bucket Challenge was also the fad and we had at least one person who was honored with the  challenge. It was such a nice day it would have been tough to not enjoy the day regardless of golf score. 

2015 was another great weather day for the event; I hope the streak continues. Everyone had a good  time. The feedback is to keep the event going.  

2016 marked the 29th annual and another great turnout - 53 teams (106 golfers). The consensus from  the group was to return for another year…..the 30th annual. 

2017 was the 30th annual SFO – 54 teams (108 golfers). I just can’t believe it. Our streak of great  weather was in jeopardy, it turned out to be OK, not great. We again set our own course records for the  most food and beverage purchased. I think they enjoy hosting our tourney. The feedback again was  very positive; everyone truly seems to enjoy this event. So, God willing, the tourney may live on another  year. 

2018 should have been the 31st annual. Instead, it was a weather disaster, the end of our good fortune.  Frankly, it was the worst nightmare for a tournament organizer. It sure was memorable, not for good  reasons. However, there were many loyal SFO players who shrugged it off as “crap happens”, see you  next year. Hopefully, we will indeed shrug it off and not have it leave a bad taste. Will there be a 32nd?  We’ll see how the registration goes. 

2019 was back to the type of weather we expect in late August. We had a great turnout, great weather  and a nice mix of younger players who will be the future of the SFO. Sadly, it was the last time that I will  be playing with my forever partner and life time friend. Jim “Flesh” Flesher was killed in January 2020  in an accident near his home in Florida. I miss my buddy and the many memories. 

2020 is going to be a memorable year, not necessarily good memories……losing our friend Flesh, Covid,  protests, riots, elections……yuck!!!. It will be a year best to have in the rearview mirror. However, the  SFO will be a good memory. The day was beautiful, the turnout was great, and everyone had smiles on  their faces. That’s what it’s all about. And we gave a try with Venmo to use a little technology for paying  the entry fee. It really worked slick and helped the check in process tremendously. Cheers to better  years ahead and more memorable SFO’s. 

2021 was an interesting year. The State Fair is back….now with metal detectors at the gates… Covid is  still a thing. The world is sort of a mess. But, for one afternoon, the SFO remains an event to forget  about all of that and have good old-fashioned fun. 112 people came out to have fun! And we had our  first ever hole-in-one at the SFO. Congrats to Nick Kelly on Hole 13 and it was on a closest to the pin  event. The weather cooperated with only a couple light showers. The course was wet, but playable from the 3-4” of rain the previous 24 hours. The group seems to want this to go on another year. 

2022 was fantastic. The traditional opening day at the State Fair on Thursday was great. The Midway  Men’s Club was buzzing with people. The whole Fair was packed with people. The SFO had a couple of  highlights. After 33 years of having no holes-in-one, we had our second consecutive year with a hole-in one, and on the same hole 13. Congrats to Randy Mauer for his first hole-in-one. No better place to  happen and to a much deserving player. One little funny incident to mention. One of our long time  players and past winner, Dale Hurt, made his way to their starting hole only to notice that he didn’t put  his clubs on his cart……too much pregaming I think!!! And last note, it was good to see Mark “Donk” Folska come out of retirement as President of Entertainment to be at the event and ride around the  course visiting (or bugging) old friends. And he got to see his son Kyle win the SFO.

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. Shout out to The original Founding Fathers, Patti Feero, my sister Brenda, Shelly Beard, Jeri Espeseth, my  late friend Ron Johnson, my late partner Jim Flesher, the voice of the prize raffle Dale Aukee, just to name a few). 

I especially thank my wife Mary, and my kids Kaitlyn, Jake and Anna for putting up with the chaos each year and  for helping make things happen at the course.  

SFO Commissioner and CEO 

Tom Folska