West River golf tournament turns 30

Born from humble beginnings, the annual West River SDSU Endowment Golf Tournament and Auction is one of the largest golf outings in the state and a major fund-raiser for the University.

The tournament observed its 30th birthday July 15. Spearfish Canyon Country Club was the golf site and the First Gold Hotel in Deadwood held the banquet and auction.

The event annually raises between $4,000 and $7,000 from entry fees and items sold at the auction. Throughout the years, monies have gone to a cross-section of SDSU clubs and organizations, among them the Pride of the Dakota’s Marching Band, Harvey Dunn restorations, Staters for State, Rodeo Club, engineering programs, pharmacy clubs, nursing programs, music groups, the Collegian, cheerleading, scholarships, and the Jackrabbit athletic teams.

The tournament is run by a devoted group of committee members that include Bob Ehrke ’54, Doug and Lori Peterson ’64, Howard and Mary Rice ’60, Dixie Serr ’62, Dave Strain ’53, Dan Dryden ’75, Ron ’67 and Luanna Pahl, and Wayne Tidemann ’91.  Ehrke, Serr, and Strain are the original members.

“I feel we have a very dedicated group of committee members and alumni who are proud of SDSU and its tradition and reputation of being the premier university in the state,” says Peterson of the tournament’s on-going success.

“Our tournament has always been the West River link to the University,” adds Peterson, who has been a committee member for twenty-eight years. “Faculty and people in the eastern part of the state really enjoy coming out west to relax and have fun. It’s also very gratifying to help those at the University who are in need of financial assistance.”

Spearfish has been home

The tournament, with a four-person scramble as its format, averages close to 100 golfers and about 150 attend the banquet and auction every year. That’s in contrast to the first tournament held in 1981 at Arrowhead Country Club in Rapid City, where twenty-nine golfers participated.

“We’ve come a long way, and it takes a lot to run a good tournament,” says Strain. “A few of us got together and wanted to raise some money for our alma mater. It has turned into a special event. It gives us a good deal of satisfaction to provide funds to those SDSU clubs that need it.”

From Arrowhead, the tournament moved to Meadowbrook Golf Course and then to the Rapid City Elks Club. After a stay at the Tomahawk Country Club in Deadwood, the tournament moved thirteen years ago to its present location in Spearfish.

“We kept outgrowing it everywhere we went,” points out Serr, who remembers it was a chance meeting with Ehrke and Strain that spawned the idea for the tournament.

“They were having lunch one day and I happened to be in the same place,” she adds. “They asked if I would help so the three of us put it together. We thought it would be fun to organize a tournament for West River alumni and get everybody together to benefit the University.”

One-third to one-half of the golfing contingent hails from East River. Among those is Sioux Falls resident Dana Dykhouse ’79, who has played in the tournament fifteen times.

“It’s a great opportunity to connect and reconnect with our SDSU friends and alumni in western South Dakota and enjoy a weekend in the beautiful Black Hills,” he says.

“The main reason why the tournament has been so successful is due to great people who are passionate about SDSU. The committee goes all out to make the event an annual tradition. Also, those fabulous homemade ham sandwiches are wonderful!”

Learning from veteran members

Committee members meet in early spring, planning for food, beverages, and prizes to be awarded. They also search out merchants in the Black Hills area and ask for items to be sold at the auction. In addition, the date of the following year’s tournament is penciled in.

Tidemann, in his third year on the committee, says he sometimes feels like a rookie, especially when attending meetings and sitting next to committee veterans.

“I’m taking notes and still learning,” he says. “It’s fun being at the meetings because these people have done the same thing for so many years. Everyone has certain duties and everyone knows their roles. They are all dedicated to putting on a first-class tournament. That’s why it’s been so successful.”

Along with financially supporting SDSU groups, the committee pays tribute to individuals by donating $1,000 to the University in their name. They in turn designate the SDSU entity that the money should benefit. This year’s recipients were Wendell and Carol Peden ’51.

The committee/tournament’s success has been aided by a loyal benefactor’s generosity during the last ten years.

William Burkhart ’71, a native of Dell Rapids who currently resides in the Black Hills, has annually donated between $5,000 and $10,000 in support of the tournament and banquet. The funds, which are matched by the Raytheon Corporation, are dispersed at the committee’s discretion.


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