Archive for Brad Salmen

Working the game from a different angle

By Brad Salmen

The year was 2005. Natalie and I were living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where I worked as a sportswriter for the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.

One of my beats was the Michigan Tech men’s and women’s basketball teams, where along the way I became well acquainted with Mitch Lake, a veteran radio broadcaster who called the games on WKMJ. I was joking around with him at halftime one game, when he asked if I wanted to join him for the second half as the color commentator.

Sure, why not, I told him. And sure enough, he pulled out a spare headset, and minutes later was introducing me to the listening audience.

“Well fans, we have a special treat for us today,” he said. “Joining me for the second half is Mining Gazette sportswriter Brad Salmen. Brad, welcome aboard.”

<Insert deer-in-headlights.gif here>

The realization that I was live, on the air, and totally unprepared came washing over me like a crushing wave. I honestly don’t remember what I stammered out, but I’m sure it had listeners at home wondering if Mitch was doing some sort of bit.

The second half began, with a nice pass for an easy basket for Michigan Tech. I vaguely remember Mitch calling the action, and pausing to turn to me expectantly, waiting for my brilliant analysis.

My response, unfortunately, is not a vague haze. It is one of those embarrassing memories seared crystal clear into your brain, the kind that haunts you for the rest of your life. The kind that your brain likes to bring up and taunt you with at odd times for the next 15 years just for fun, like in the shower, where you mumble what you should have said, leading to your wife knocking on the bathroom door asking who you’re talking to in the shower.

Oh you don’t have those types of haunting memories? It’s just me? Oh.

Anyway, what my brain came up with, after an agonizing pause, was, “That was a nice play.”

That’s it. “That was a nice play.” Insightful, descriptive commentary, brain!

I’m sure, at that moment, Mitch was kicking himself for inviting me on the air. But as the half wore on, I started feeling more and more comfortable, and by the end of the game was starting to enjoy myself. After that initial synapse misfire, I did well enough that Mitch invited me back on the air for the next game, and we went on to work six seasons together calling Michigan Tech basketball.

I can truly say it was one of the more enjoyable endeavors of my career, as it included two trips to the women’s national tournament. Mitch and I got along well, and more importantly worked really well together, with solid on-air chemistry.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and my radio broadcasting career was put on hold when I moved to Minnesota in 2011. The fond memories always stuck with me, though, and when the time came for me to move on from the ED Sports Editor position, I put some feelers out to the local radio stations asking if they needed any help this fall and winter.

Joel Niemeyer, the sport director at KDUZ/KARP, took a chance on me. Quite literally, actually, as try as I might I couldn’t find any clips from my time at WKMJ, so he was taking my word for it that I had any experience.

He offered me the chance to do color commentary for the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity football game Oct. 10, with veteran broadcaster Steve Friendt.

Pretty much nobody outside my immediate family knew about it. I didn’t announce it on Facebook or even our family GroupMe, as I knew I would be nervous for my first time back in the booth, and didn’t want any additional pressure.

Sure enough, for the first 10 minutes or so, I was pretty shaky. But Steve’s a good guy, easygoing and laid back, and soon it was just like old times, and we fell into a rhythm.

I did well enough that Joel offered me additional football gigs this season, including some DC games. I was still riding that high, when I got an email from Brian Johnson at DCHS.

We have an opening to do the play-by-play for the Charger Game Day football broadcast against New London-Spicer, he said. Are you interested?

Gulp.

***

For those of you unaware, Charger Game Day is the video broadcast of DCHS sports. It is run by Justin Larson, the district’s Technology Integration Specialist.

As any parent or fan of girls swimming and volleyball will tell you, we are lucky to have him.

With no fans allowed (girls swimming) or few fans allowed (volleyball), Justin and his students have risen to the occasion to put on what can only be described as a top-notch operation. The girls swim meets have featured high-resolution video, student/athlete interviews, the whole nine yards. The volleyball games have featured the same high-quality video, with play-by-play announcers.

Thursday’s New London-Spicer game, the first home game of the season, would be Charger Game Day’s first foray into football. With only 250 fans allowed into the stadium, this meant that hundreds of fans who normally would be in attendance would be tuning in on Youtube to watch the game online.

DC’s first game at Holy Family was similarly broadcast on Youtube, with the host school providing the video and play-by-play. I’ll politely say it could have been better, and leave it at that.

I knew the video/audio quality of Thursday’s broadcast, with Justin at the helm, would be high caliber. But would the announcing be the same?

Truth be told, I had never done play-by-play before – I’ve only ever been the color commentator. I was nervous, so I called in the big gun for help: Jerome Lindquist.

Jerome and I have known each other for years, since we played for the Saints together some 20 years ago. More importantly, he’s done a number of radio broadcasts for DC football games, and I knew he would be a steadying presence in the booth.

As game time approached, I dove into preparation. I pulled up stats, printed out stat sheets, read game articles, everything I could think of to be as prepared as possible. I even printed out an initial script for right when we got on the air, so I wouldn’t stammer out something that would haunt me for the next 15 years. Not this time, brain!

Jerome and I arrived early, got set up, spread out our stats and notes, talked about our approach, riffed a little pregame intro, and waited for the signal. Ten minutes before game time, we were on the air, and away we went.

Two-plus hours later, we were done. The Chargers won, 34-18, and I think we did a decent job of describing it.

A couple days later, Justin gave me a copy of the video, and I sat down to watch and take notes. Here are some observations:

  • Calling the game on Charger Game Day is a bit different from radio. The biggest difference is there were no commercial breaks, which actually makes things harder than I expected. During radio broadcasts, you get a chance to take a break during the commercials, but on Game Day we had to fill in all the down time ourselves.
  • My opening was a little wooden, but not too bad. I’m still glad I wrote out an intro, as it gave me some confidence to get rolling.
  • I had every intention of keeping stats during the game. As color commentator at the LPHT game, I was able to keep rushing/passing/receiving stats that actually ended up being pretty close to the official totals. But as I started play-by-play, it was a quick “nope, not going to happen.” I did manage to keep scoring plays.
  • I say, “ah” a lot, I need to work on that. Also, instead of saying “taking the snap, and handing off”, I said “taking the hand off, and handing off” at least three times.
  • I also noticed I called the game as if it was a radio broadcast, instead of video. The viewers probably didn’t need to hear me say, “Eli Gillman under center,” when they can see it themselves. I also kept repeating the score and time left in the quarter, which is good for radio, but unnecessary when the scoreboard is in the corner of the screen.
  • I’m so very glad Jerome was alongside me. He was a pro. Calm, funny, and brought a personable presence with a local touch. He was reading texts and chats from the Youtube stream throughout the broadcast, and needling friends and community members, which was great. Some gems:
  • “Bonni Halverson checking in, we must be doing a good job as she gave us a thumbs up. As [husband] Marcus will tell you, she’s a hard woman to please.”
  • [After the cannon went off following a Chargers touchdown] “Sounds like we finally got a competent cannon guy, taking advantage of Nick Corbin being in Florida.”
  • “Back when Paul Halonen was playing that end, it was just a swinging screen door.”
  • [After I misread the score, looking at my scoresheet instead of the scoreboard] “A Macalester education, ladies and gentlemen. That’s what you get for 100 grand a year.” (The other guys in the booth, Darren Olson, Mark Herman, and Mike Lhotka, got a kick out of that one).
  • Jerome also did a halftime interview with Activities Director Perry Thinesen that I think was very informative, as they talked about all the changes in the school and MSHSL due to Covid.

With the help of Tristen Pieti, Mason Schroeder, and Sydney Nelson running the cameras, and Zach Morris running the board, the audio and video turned out great. And while I cringed every time I heard myself trip over a name or otherwise awkwardly call a play, all-in-all I think we did ok.

Holy Family could learn a thing or two.

In which I bid adieu for good, mostly, for now, anyway

By Brad Salmen

(Former) ED Sports Editor

So one night early this summer, I came home late from the Enterprise Dispatch office.

I had worked hard that day. I had tapped extensively on two different keyboards, one at home, one at the ED office.

I had produced a large number of letters, words, and sentences. Some were even coherent. All in all, I felt satisfied. I’d thrown some solid ones and zeros into the cloud.

I was about to hop in the shower when I happened to catch my side profile in the mirror. Which, as any fellow dad bod will tell you, is enough to ruin any good mood.

That day, however, I was genuinely shocked. I pulled out the scale, and was shocked even further. Suffice to say, I’d put on a good Covid-19, or 20. Or 25, if I’m being honest.

I resolved at that moment to do whatever it took to get back in shape. So, I started biking more, eating a little healthier, and adhering to intermittent fasting.

It’s been a long grind, but slowly I’ve been chipping away. I’ve lost those 25 pounds, and my goal is 25 more.

One thing I noticed, however, is that working evenings and weekends as the Enterprise Dispatch Sports Editor often meant two steps forward, one step back as far as unhealthy habits.

Then, a month ago, I realized this September would be six years as Sports Editor, and it just … hit me. It was time.

Time for a change for my health. Time to spend more time with family. Time to try something different.

I don’t know what that will be, yet. But I’m excited to find out. Maybe it’ll be a different kind of writing. Maybe it’ll be radio – I called Michigan Tech basketball games for three years, and really enjoyed it. Or maybe it’ll be nothing, for a while. Goodness knows I’ve let all kinds of house and yard projects pile up with the convenient excuse of having to cover a game.

It’s a cliché, but it really is bittersweet, saying goodbye. Overall, being the Sports Editor was very enjoyable and satisfying. I’ve witnessed some amazing moments, some heartwarming moments, and even some heartbreaking moments. I’ve met some amazing people, and I feel blessed for having been a small part of their lives.

I’ve also been blessed to have a wife, Natalie, that has supported me throughout.

Now, it’s my turn to support her.

A big reason I feel ready to quit the Sports Editor position is that Nat’s energy healing business, Tranquil Energy, has grown in leaps and bounds over the years, to the point where she’s had to turn many people away because she had a household to run.

After six years of her supporting me while I gallivanted off to a hockey game, the time has come for me to take over some of those duties, so she can fully pursue her dreams and goals. I can’t wait to see how high she can fly.

And in the end, I’m not going away entirely. I’ve agreed to help take photos of local games and events, and I may continue writing the occasional column here and there. And who knows, maybe I’ll be back some day.

But for now, I bid adieu as Sports Editor of the Dassel-Cokato Enterprise Dispatch. Thank you all for your support. What a fun ride it’s been.

A life-changing victory: Koivisto wins Northern Ireland Open to move into top-500 in the world

By BRAD SALMEN

Sports Editor

Tyler Koivisto trophy

BALLYMENA, NORTHERN IRELAND – Tyler Koivisto was a last-minute addition to the Northern Ireland Open, the crown jewel in golf’s European Challenge Tour.

The term “long shot” underestimates the odds for the 2011 DC graduate – at least, for those who don’t know him.

After the Northern Ireland Open, however, the golf world now knows his name.

Koivisto seized his opportunity in a big way to win the Northern Ireland Open in true underdog fashion, shooting a 13-under 267, two strokes ahead of closest challenger Kristian Krogh Johannessen of Norway.

The win inexorably changed his life. Consider:

• Koivisto now has an automatic card for the European Challenge Tour through 2021. (The Challenge Tour is one step below the European Tour, the Europe equivalent of the PGA Tour).

• It catapulted him to sixth place in the Challenge rankings. The top 20 finishers in the Challenge Tour are granted membership in the European Tour.

• By winning the tournament, Koivisto is now ranked #495 in the entire world, ahead of such notables as Ernie Els (#514).

• And, oh yeah, he won 32,000 Euros ($38,803).

“It’s been a crazy week. I’m just trying to process everything,” said Koivisto. “I’m a long way from the Cokato Town & Country Club.”

 

***

Koivisto had a stellar amateur career, starting at Dassel-Cokato High School. He took fourth in the state tournament as a senior at DC, and won sixtournaments at St. Cloud State, including an individual conference title.

But after graduating, Koivisto put any dreams of a golf career on hold for three years, instead becoming a teacher at Pinewood Elementary in Monticello.

However, in the summer of 2018, Koivisto was given a good opportunity to play full time, and quit his teaching job to focus solely on golf. With his wife Jane (Pietila), the two moved to Arizona, where he embarked on a wide range of Mini Tours, State Opens, and Monday PGA Qualifiers.

Over the past two years, the two have worked in tandem. Jane, a Registered Nurse, worked when necessary, and other times accompanied Tyler to his tournaments to caddy for him.

The Koivistos have worked together on the Dakota Tour, the Outlaw Tour in the Southwest, the Golden State Tour in California, and numerous other mini tours and state opens.

Tyler said he would not have been able to pursue his dream without Jane by his side.

“She’s been unbelievable since Day one, when I was still teaching and I got this inkling of an opportunity to play full time and give it a shot,” he said. “She was on board right away. She always believed in me, I think even before I believed in myself. It’s been amazing, how supportive she’s been.”

 

***

In pursuit of his pro golf career, last year the Koivistos ponied up the money for Tyler to attend the European “Q School” in Austria.

“Q School” for the European Tour is similar to the “Q School” for the PGA Tour in the United States. The top golfers are granted membership to the top league (European Tour, PGA Tour), with the next-best golfers making the second tier league (Challenge Tour in Europe, Korn Ferry in the USA).

The European Q School has three stages. The top-25 golfers make the European Tour, the next 25 get full cards for the European Challenge Tour, and the next cut get “conditional status.”

Koivisto played well enough to make the first Q School cut, and get conditional status. This gave him “A1” membership to the Challenge Tour, meaning he would be first in line to be called to play if there were late cancellations at a Challenge Tour event, whether it was a player getting called up to the European Tour, an injury withdrawal, or a sponsor invite.

“It was the bare minimum, the least amount of status [on the Challenge Tour],” said Koivisto.

And thus it was nothing more than kismet that Koivisto received a phone call on Friday, Sept. 4, letting him know there he was second on the reserve list at the Northern Ireland Open, and would he be available?

The next day, the opening was confirmed, and Koivisto booked the next available flight for Dublin, Ireland.

“I told them, yes, I’m going to take any opportunity I can get,” he said.

He arrived in time to unpack and put in a couple practice rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday, before the tournament began on Thursday.

 

***

Koivisto did not know it at the time, but the Northern Ireland Open is usually the marquee event in the Challenge Tour. In years past, golf fans from throughout Northern Ireland have packed the grandstands.

This year, with all the Covid restrictions, there were no fans. In fact, there were not only no fans, but no caddies, and Jane had to stay at home. Only event workers and media were allowed. Golfers were in a “bubble”, only allowed to travel from their hotel to the course at Galgorm Castle, near Ballymena, Northern Ireland.

Koivisto said the restrictions may have helped his overall performance. With less outside distractions, he was able to concentrate on his game.

“With everyone carrying their own bag, it was kind of like old times, grinding away solo,” he said.

He started the tournament with a three-under 67 Thursday, one stroke off the lead.

He then shot a one-over 71 Friday, and fell four strokes off the pace.

Then came Saturday. Koivisto had a round for the ages, shooting an 8-under 62, putting him in the lead by three strokes.

“Saturday, I hit the ball a little better, and got the putter rolling,” he said. “I really was focused on each shot, not getting caught up on results, and what it might mean. If you start thinking like that, you’re in trouble.”

Koivisto started Sunday’s final day by parring the front nine, before birdieing holes 10 and 11.

Andrew Wilson (England) and Johannessen each came within a stroke of Koivisto as he played the back nine, but after a bogey on 14, Koivisto birdied 15 to take control.

“That birdie [on 15] was huge. I kinda knew at that point I was going to get it done,” said Koivisto. “On 16, 17, and 18, I hit the best drives of my life.”

Koivisto made the green in two on the par-5 18th, knowing he needed three putts or less to win.

He put his first putt within two feet of the hole, and tapped in for birdie, and a two-stroke victory.

“It was pretty cool coming up 18. Even though there were no fans, there were cameras, and the volunteers, staff, everyone was out there to watch the final hole,” he said. “To see your name on top of the leaderboard, and hit the green in two on a par-5, knowing you had four putts to work with … once I nuzzled it up close, it was more relief than anything.

“I was done with a long week, and then at that point I was able to think about the results,” he said.

Koivisto said the moment didn’t fully hit him until after he had hoisted the trophy, and talked to the media.

“I got done with all the press stuff and interviews, and got back to the clubhouse and turned my phone on. I had 105 messages. I started bawling,” he said. “It was so encouraging to see all the support, from people who care about you and what you are doing.

“It was really special for me,” he said. “It was a dream week of golf. Hopefully, it was just a start.”

 

***

There can be no other way to put it. The Northern Ireland Open was lifechanging for Koivisto.

And it was, indeed, the startof a new path.

As mentioned, Koivisto has a full card for the Challenge Tour through 2021. With that, he will also get a few chances on the European Tour.

The first opportunity for both comes next weekend, in the Open de Portugal at Royal Obidos. The tournament will be co-sponsored by the European Tour, and the Challenge Tour.

Koivisto said his wife Jane will be allowed to attend and caddy for him, pending a Covid test.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing her, and sharing this with her,” he said.

Beyond that, his future is in his hands.

There are a few Challenge Tour events remaining in 2020, with most likely 20-30 tournaments in 2021, depending on scheduling (and Covid restrictions).

Koivisto said he plans to play as many of those events that make sense to hopefully keep his top-20 spot – which will give him a card on the European Tour.

As for his winnings from the Northern Ireland Open, Koivisto said the prestige and confidence from winning such a big tournament means much more to his career.

“It’s a tough grind. There are a lot of expenses in chasing professional golf to its highest levels,” he said. “The money [won] helps, and we’ll use it to pay some bills, but ultimately it’s knowing you can win big events at the big stages that is the biggest motivator.

“We kind of went from zero to 100. It was a dream week,” he said. “But it’s part of the process to get to your final goal.”

A life-changing victory: Koivisto wins Northern Ireland Open to move into top-500 in the world

By BRAD SALMEN

Sports Editor

BALLYMENA, NORTHERN IRELAND – Tyler Koivisto was a last-minute addition to the Northern Ireland Open, the crown jewel in golf’s European Challenge Tour.

The term “long shot” underestimates the odds for the 2011 DC graduate – at least, for those who don’t know him.

After the Northern Ireland Open, however, the golf world now knows his name.

Koivisto seized his opportunity in a big way to win the Northern Ireland Open in true underdog fashion, shooting a 13-under 267, two strokes ahead of closest challenger Kristian Krogh Johannessen of Norway.

The win inexorably changed his life. Consider:

• Koivisto now has an automatic card for the European Challenge Tour through 2021. (The Challenge Tour is one step below the European Tour, the Europe equivalent of the PGA Tour).

• It catapulted him to sixth place in the Challenge rankings. The top 20 finishers in the Challenge Tour are granted membership in the European Tour.

• By winning the tournament, Koivisto is now ranked #495 in the entire world, ahead of such notables as Ernie Els (#514).

• And, oh yeah, he won 32,000 Euros ($38,803).

“It’s been a crazy week. I’m just trying to process everything,” said Koivisto. “I’m a long way from the Cokato Town & Country Club.”

Check out Friday’s Enterprise Dispatch for the full story.

Goudy named new boys varsity golf coach, replacing 20-year vet Johnson

By BRAD SALMEN

Sports Editor

COKATO – Longtime DC teacher and coach Todd Goudy has been hired as the new boys varsity golf coach, Activities Director Perry Thinesen announced.

Goudy will be replacing 20-year veteran Brian Johnson, who announced his retirement earlier this year due to health concerns.

Goudy has an extensive coaching career at DC. He has been a football coach all 13 years of his tenure at DC, starting with six years at the junior high level, two years as the ninth grade coach, and for the last five years he has been the JV football coach.

He has also coached 10 years in the basketball programs, including seven years in the boys program, and three years in the girls.

It was not an easy decision for Brian Johnson to turn over the reigns for the boys golf program.

Johnson started his coaching career at DC as the middle school coach for two years from 1998-99, spent one year as the girls varsity coach in 2000, and for the last 20 years has been the boys varsity coach.

During his tenure, eight of his golfers have made the state tournament (one girl and seven boys).

Check out Friday’s Enterprise Dispatch for a full recap.

Cross Country splits at HLWW

By BRAD SALMEN

Sports Editor

HOWARD LAKE – The DC boys and girls cross country teams traveled to Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted for a dual meet Thursday, Sept 3 for their second meet of the season.

The boys won handily, taking places 2-5 in a 21-40 victory.

The girls ran up against a tough team that could be top-10 in the state, according to head coach Brian Bessingpas, and lost 15-42.

The varsity boys were led by Soren Bortnem (2nd), Haydn Veith (3rd), Dylan Seaberg (4th), and Brandon Bollman (5th).

Emmanuel Johnson (7th), Ryan Johnson (8th), and Soren Olsen (9th) also had top-10 finishes.

The Laker girls took all five of the top spots against the Charger girls.

Lydia Niemela was named runner of the meet for DC. Niemela took sixth, followed in order by Lily Kraemer, Kate Jenkins, and Carlie Tormanen in the 7-8-9 spots.

Check out Friday’s Enterprise Dispatch for a full recap.