Area Golf: Golf a key to Simmons’ longevity

At 87, John Simmons isn't ready to retire nor is he ready to give up playing golf at his favorite golf course -- Cuyuna Rolling Hills.

John Simmons, shown here Thursday, July 18, at Cuyuna Rolling Hills golf course, has been a member at the Deerwood golf course for 66 years. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

John Simmons may have found the fountain of youth.

Its location might be in the northwest corner of Cuyuna Rolling Hills in Deerwood, where Simmons has been a golfing member for 67 years.

The father of five, grandfather of 14 and husband to Nancy purchased his first membership in 1953 when he moved to the area to work for the mining company.

Despite the closure of the mining industry in the area and being 87 years old, Simmons hasn’t slowed. He owns a couple of companies based in Bismarck, N.D. One is Thermo Technologies, which manufactures and markets firefighting chemicals used to fight forest fires in California, Washington and Australia.

Another business venture is involved in the iron and steel business and is building an iron plant in Burns Harbor, Ind., that will convert steel mill waste into pig iron.


He said he’s able to remain an active entrepreneur because of golf.

“Some people retire just fine, but I happen to enjoy doing what I do,” Simmons said. “Being able to get away from the desk and go out and golf you get exercise and it’s so much more than just walking down the street. It’s a game.

“I have a pretty good work ethic and spend a lot of time with the businesses, but you get out on the golf course and you forget about that. You’re golfing with friends and the biggest challenge is trying to beat your score from the day before. It’s a very relaxing time. You get away from business and everything else.”

In 1953, the course was named Cuyuna Country Club. It had just nine holes before it expanded to 18 holes in 1986. The current 10th hole used to be a trap shooting range.

“On men’s night, some guys would be shooting trap and the other fellows would play golf,” Simmons said. “After, we would all get together and have dinner at the club.

“It was a pretty close group. There was a Crosby group, Deerwood group and an Aitkin group, but everybody got along. Golf is a good thing for people to get together. Thursday night, that was men’s night, and we would play golf in the afternoon and have a drink and dinner at night and then everybody would stay and play poker. Nobody would leave.”

Simmons recalled the sixth hole being a par 3 with a pump near by. On the pump hung a tin cup that everyone used to get a drink of water.

In 2014, the membership chose to sell the course to Terry and Tom Thompson. It was a business move Simmons believes benefited both parties.


“We are as happy as can be that Terry and his brother bought it because they’ve done a very good job,” Simmons said. “I would say Cuyuna is in better shape than it’s ever been. The greens are really nice and they work very hard at doing it. They have a good crew out there and it’s a big job for them. I think they’re doing very well.”

Simmons started golfing in college and still plays three to four times a week. He played sports in high school and was on the boxing team in college, but said golf is the one sport he’s able to continue with. All five of his children play to varying degrees and Nancy was a pretty good golfer before she put away her clubs.

He believes his best round at Cuyuna was an 81 and he is still searching for his first hole-in-one at his favorite course. He does have a few favorite holes and they all seem to be located in the northwest corner of the property.

“There are several nice holes,” Simmons said. “On the back nine, 11 is a challenging hole -- the dog leg. 12 is a par 3 and 13 another dog leg par 5. There are some nice holes out there.”

Simmons praised courses like The Classic at Madden’s, Grand View Lodge’s The Preserve and Golden Eagle. He said he likes having Ruttger’s close by for a bit of variety, but concluded there is no place like home.

“At that time when we joined, there was Cuyuna and Ruttger’s close by, but we joined Cuyuna,” Simmons said. “We liked the course. We liked the people especially. We’ve stayed there. We’ve played some of the other courses, but still my favorite course is Cuyuna.”

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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