Links Legacy: Family grew in step with Big Lake Golf Club
Nearly 50 years ago, 450 trees were planted, rocks were picked, berms were built and a family dream was coming true.
Hundreds of memories were also built over those years.
"My mother bought a family membership in the early 1970s," Philip Wodny said. "Joyce and Jalmer were great people. Chick Oist was a fun golf coach who took his golf professional role seriously, with a good amount of enjoyment. My brother, John Wodny, learned perseverance and success at Big Lake Golf Club."
Joyce Angell still remembers moving to Cloquet after graduating from Superior High School in 1946. She moved with a friend to get jobs at Diamond Match, also known as the "toothpick factory" at the time.
At an employee picnic at Big Lake Resort, Angell met the love of her life, Jalmer.
"I thought to myself, who in the world would have a picnic way out in this Godforsaken country," Angell said. "But a year later, I was living out there."
Her future husband asked her to dance at the picnic.
"We both loved to dance and danced well together," Angell said. "We hit it off immediately and talked for hours."
Joyce and Jalmer married the following year. Joyce continued to work at Diamond Match until her oldest child was born. Then she became a stay-at-home mom for her family, which eventually grew to include five children.
Jalmer's family bought property on Big Lake Road in 1939, where they had a farm. In 1960, his parents gave the farm to the young family and they later built a home on the land.
Jalmer was quite the entrepreneur. He decided to build a go-kart track on their property to supplement the income for the growing family.
J&J Kartway became a success. Families came from all over to ride in the go-karts at the bargain price of 50 cents.
"You had to watch them — they got crazy," Angell said of go-kart drivers.
Next, a driving range was added. A bucket of balls cost only 50 cents at the time.
Once that was done, a friend mentioned to the busy couple they needed a par 3 golf course.
Not ones to sit still for long, the couple spent their spare time reading how to build golf courses. They also toured courses in Minnesota and Wisconsin with their five children packed into the family station wagon.
"It kept the family closer," Angell said of the projects.
The children, even the youngest, helped with the projects every step of the way.
"I stomped on the dirt after my dad planted the trees," Penney Prevost said.
The kids helped pick rocks, plant 3-foot-tall pine trees on the course and whatever else was needed.
"Where other kids had after-school activities, we didn't. We came home, we changed clothes and went out and picked rocks until night time," Prevost said. "I'm not saying it was bad, but we worked every night after school."
Finally, the big day arrived: On Aug. 4, 1968, the Big Lake Golf Club officially opened.
"My mom and dad, Marge and Einar Simonson, were members in the '70s," Julie Vincent said. "I have a lot of fond memories from that time. Joyce, Jalmer and Chick. Poor Chick. He tried to help me learn how to drive, but I was a lost cause.
"My parents have long passed, but the memories live on," she said.
Pat Kubis remembers the annual "Fun Day" for club members.
"There were goofy things at each hole," Kubis explained, laughing at the memory. "At one hole, there was a toilet seat you had to sit on. Another, you had to hit with a hockey stick instead of a golf club."
Even though the club was finished, their house was not. The family lived in tents until their home was completed the following month.
The ambitious family was not done building. In 1972, they added a 125-seat dining room onto the clubhouse. They began renting the space for receptions, banquets, class reunions and whatever customers needed.
Joyce cooked for many years, becoming best known for her amazing wild rice dressing.
"I did all of the cooking," Angell said. "My husband ate anything; he was easy to satisfy."
"And from scratch," Prevost added a bit proudly.
According to her mother, Prevost would come home from college, change her clothes and work at the grill seven days a week.
The Angells loved camping, so it was fitting that a campground was added next in 1998.
"The relatives all got together. That was enjoyable," Angell said.
All five children and their families would converge at the campground every summer for many years. All of the kids had jobs, of course. The oldest son, Tom, was a greenskeeper; daughter Pam was a cook; son Dick was a maintenance man. Terry was a bartender. The youngest, Penney, was a waitress.
Joyce, who was second oldest of 11 children, also stayed close to her own siblings.
Several tragedies hit the family over the years, resulting in early deaths for four of the siblings and Jalmer.
In 2009, after 40 years of running the family business, Angell decided it was time to sell the golf course and retire.
She moved to Inter-Faith Care Center in 2015. Since she moved in, several newcomers have recognized her from the golf course and excitedly shared the happy memories of days gone by, especially Angell's cooking. One even told staff they should hire Angell to cook.
One of Angell's 17 great-grandchildren worked at the facility. Before she left work for the day, she always stopped by and gave Angell a hug.
Angell also has eight grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
"I don't know what I would do without my daughter," Angell said as she smiled fondly at Prevost.
Prevost visits her mother daily. Her husband, Del, often comes along.
Angell looks forward to the wheelchair rides around the facility every time Del visits.
"I am so proud of her," Penney said, smiling at her mother. "She buried four of her five children and her husband. She could have crawled in a hole and felt sorry for herself, but she didn't. She just kept going."
Angell will be 90 years old in April.
"I feel it sometimes," Angell said.
Still, Angell appreciates her life and the friends she made over the 40 years she owned the golf club.
"I had a good life," Angell said. "I would like to say 'thank you' (to the customers) for the years and just being friends."
The family has a birthday party planned for Angell at Inter-Faith on Saturday, April 28, from 2-4 p.m. The public is invited.