Player and caddy security and safety at the 3M Championship is the No. 1 mission of committee co-chairmen Bill Breemeersch and Capt. Kerry Fenner.
In 1993, Breemeersch became involved with the tournament during its original Bunker Hills run.
Fenner started working the tournament when it came to Blaine in 2001.
Breemeersch has been a Blaine resident since 1967. He was hired in November 1965 as a full-time officer and became the department’s fifth full-time person.
Back then, Blaine had about 3,500 people.
“Over the years, I’ve seen an unbelievable amount of growth,” he said.
Breemeersch retired in 1998 after 33 years.
Fenner said Breemeersch still remembers when the Blaine Police Department operated out of a bottom level room inside of the Aquatore Park water tower.
“I’ve been volunteering every year,” he said.
His original tournament ties evolved from marshaling. The task wasn’t law enforcement related, however.
Breemeersch was a member at Green Haven Golf Course in Anoka, and he worked Hole No. 8 at Bunker Hills marshaling with other volunteers.
“When the tournament moved over to the Tournament Players Club (TPC), the Coon Rapids Police Department no longer wanted to do security,” he said.
According to Breemeersch, the 20 to 22 members of the 3M Championship security committee, namely the player escorts, make his job much easier.
“We only get involved with players after they arrive at the golf course,” he said. “Our basic job is to see that they get around the course in a safe manner.”
Breemeersch said improper use of cell phones and cameras are two of the biggest player distractions, especially when weekend tournament play begins.
“The Pro-Am tournaments are one thing, but once Friday gets here and their living is made on the course, they don’t want cell phones going off,” he said.
Cell phones need to be set to vibrate and spectators need to use a little common sense when it comes to snapping the camera shutter, Breemeersch said.
“We’re out here to make it comfortable for the players, especially on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There’s a time to mingle and there’s a time to make a living,” he said.
Once players arrive at the TPC, some request that an escort meet them right away at the clubhouse. Others don’t request an escort until its practice tee time.
“We have a couple of players who’ve had the same escort,” Breemeersch said. “Some players want us to ‘be there’ but not really ‘be there.’ in terms of overall visibility.”
Getting players and caddies off the course if there is severe weather is handled by a special 3M Championship tournament committee, Breemeersch said.
“We have vehicles set strategically throughout the course to move them,” he said. “Our player escort work picks up again when they decide to resume play.”
Breemeersch said he and Fenner work closely together during the tournament. The Blaine Police Department provides an active security to cover the course.
When the tournament came to Blaine, former Police Chief Dave Johnson and Fenner had meetings with Tournament Director Hollis Cavner regarding logistics, Fenner said.
“He [Cavner] understood they would be getting billed for the city’s actual hard costs for providing officers,” Fenner said.
When it comes to organizing and the time Fenner and department lieutenants put in planning and setting the event up, the city of Blaine contributes that amount toward the greater whole as in-kind.
“I’ve been with the event since it moved to Blaine,” Fenner said. “Luckily, I got the opportunity to go over to Bunker Hills two years before the event moved and I spent two years shadowing Capt. Paul Johnson of the Coon Rapids Police Department.”
One of the historical differences associated with moving the golf tournament to Blaine involved the use of a private golf course [the TPC] versus a municipal golf course, Fenner said.
A key 3M Championship concern is week-long high temperatures and high humidity, which create uncomfortable as well as dangerous heat indexes.
“Allina Health has a medical tent that’s probably as well staffed as any medical clinic,” he said. “It also has specially equipped medical golf carts. We do see some heat exhaustion. Some of our worst cases have been our people working in the parking lots.”
According to Breemeersch, a couple of years ago, a group of professional autograph seekers came up from Chicago and crashed the tournament in a big way.
“That was probably one of the more difficult situations that we’ve had to deal with,” Breemeersch said. “There were 10 or 12 of them and you could pick them out immediately. They worked in pairs, If you got one, another one would just slide right in. It was a terrible problem and police had to concentrate on that.”
Breemeersch is proud he’s able to provide security for golfing legends Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Chi Chi Rodriguez when they return to Blaine.
“They need special care, because people just want to get to them all the time,” Breemeersch said.
“They have their autograph sessions down on the grounds, and we have to have a lot more security around them,” he said. “Those three do everything they can to get everybody autographs. That’s why we want to keep them safe.”
Tim Hennagir is at [email protected]