The Great Crusade—Ivar’s Crew Prevails

by Bill Pearson

The armor was cleaned and polished. The tools of battle were honed with great love and respect until they shone brighter than the mid-day sun. The battlefield was chosen, measuring some 6200 yards in length by 32.6 yards in width. Nerves were taut. Emotions ran high. Last letters to loved ones were penned and signed. Soon it would begin. At 11:00 AM straight up, the first shot would be fired. The battle would rage throughout the heat of the day. With water bottles filled to the brim, green fees paid, carts loaded with warriors, the tense first-tee combatant meeting took place. The hand shakes were brusk and the pre-joust “play-wells” were issued through tight, non-smiling jaws.

Months, yea years of intense training had led to this very moment. Pulsating muscles trembled in anticipation, anxious to be set free. This was the moment. This was the fight. This was the Ivar Wistrom Challenge, a celebration by those who knew the man known as “The Teacher” —the man who taught and led the boiler-room innocents. Ivar had passed away one week earlier.

Teams of three would meet in competition this day in a scramble. Each team member would hit a tee shot. The best tee shot would be selected and each member of the team would then hit a shot from that position. Thus, each team played its best ball each stroke. Three ordinary North Park graduates challenged three former members of Ivar’s crew. The challengers (2-1 favorites in Las Vegas): Bruce Carlson, Arthur Mampel, and Arvid Adell; Ivar’s Crew: Bill Pearson, Ralph Sturdy, and Phil Johnson who could boast of a combined 12 years of service with Ivar and each with a Wistrom degree.

Bruce, Art, and Arvid gathered together briefly on the first tee. Arvid reported that Ivar once chastised him for using the wrong paint on the walls of a Sohlberg Hall bathroom. He said: “Adell, you are the worst worker I’ve ever had.” Arvid seemed to be without shame and willingly agreed to be a challenger.

Bruce proudly carried a well-worn and tattered leather club sheath from the mid-30s filled with persimmon woods with hickory shafts believing that this battle would be won by the mind, not the accoutrements. His shot, the first of the fray, flew 162 yards, straight and true to the middle of the closely cropped short grass of the fairway. The competition shrank back in sore dismay. Surely this will not be the story of the day. Art followed with a soaring sphere, somewhat longer and with a lovely curve to the right, settling gently into the short rough. Arvid then loosed the dagger with a deft-hook around the corner into optimum position.

The Challengers smugly drove away. Mampel, regaled in confidence, had not seen the need to bring his own tools of war and thus was sharing Adell’s. They drove on in full pompousness unaware that their tool bag had fallen out the back of the cart, splaying equipment behind them for a full fifty yards. The stage was now set. The game was on.

The Johnson-Sturdy-Pearson team then huddled on the first tee. They agreed that Ivar liked Bob Bach best but since Bob was not available, they decided that Ralph should lead the way. To the middle of the fairway he went with a lovely three wood. Phil and Bill followed with their meager attempts and after insuring their bags were securely attached to their carts, they headed down the fairway.

The battle raged. Shots rang out. Loud cheers and muffled groans wafted through the lofty pines. Sweat ran; shirts were soiled. Water bottles refilled. And they played on.

The gathering at the end-of-day was complete with the excited chatter of the competitors; the volume amplified by several cool beverages of choice. Ralph had chipped in from the deep rough on the third hole and was knighted for the shot of the day, an honor that kept him smiling throughout the evening. Others spoke of kicking the ball from behind trees or hitting it into the water with no penalty.

No matter the liberties taken with the rules of the game, it was great fellowship among old friends—some who had not seen each other for 45 years. Everybody looked much as they did back then and some had “not changed a bit.”

And Ivar Wistrom lives on in the hearts and minds of all. We will remember him for years to come—especially one year hence when the annual remembrance of his life and his boiler-room teachings will again be celebrated.

Bill Pearson is Manager of a Retirement Residence in Madison, Wisconsin.

See all articles by Bill Pearson