Monday, May. 19th, 2014

New app available to identify Montana grasses

A new app is now available for identifying more than 100 grasses and grass-like plants in Montana and nearby states and provinces.

Designed for beginners and experts alike, the app will work on iOS and Android devices. An Internet connection is not required. The app provides images, species descriptions, range maps and other information. It was produced by Montana State University’s College of Agriculture and High Country Apps in Bozeman, with plant expertise provided by MSU faculty and staff in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences and the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology.

“Grasses are economically and ecologically vital to our state, and are iconic of Montana’s open landscapes,” said Matt Lavin, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology. “’Montana Grasses’ brings a wealth of information to your mobile device in an easy to use format helpful to landowners, researchers, and the general public.”

Users can browse the species list or search for specific plants by common or scientific name. The app provides 13 sets of characteristics to help define a search, including overall appearance, seed head, blade width, habitat, elevation and origin (native or introduced). 

Montana Grasses allows users to select a custom list of species for future reference and sharing via email and social networks. Detailed information on grass identification basics, sources and resources, as well as a glossary of botanical terms and diagrams of grass anatomy are also provided.

Montana Grasses is available at Amazon, Apple, and Google app stores for $4.99. The app will be updated on a regular basis at no additional charge. High Country Apps will dedicate a portion of the revenues to support plant conservation in Montana.

For more information, go to High Country Apps at

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Tuesday, May. 6th, 2014

The Barn Doors are Open Again for the 2nd Annual Barn Tour

Montana’s landscape is peppered by history. Old barns scatter the plains and help us remember the first farmers and ranchers that supported themselves on the agriculture business that keeps the state thriving today.

The Gallatin Historical Society & Pioneer Museum will be hosting its 2nd annual Barn Tour on May 10th to allow the general public take a peek behind those respected wooden doors and into the past.

“Barns are tied to Montana’s history. One of the most important industries both in establishing Montana and keeping Montana’s economy going is agriculture. The barns tell the story of agriculture in Montana,” said Christine Brow, one of the authors of the book that inspired the first barn tour, “Hand Raised Barns of Montana.”

The fundraiser includes a lecture and guide from Marie O’neill, a professor at Montana State University in architecture, lunch at one of the barns, a bus ride and four historically preserved barns.

Not all barns in Montana were constructed exactly the same way, and O’neill will guide the tour by connecting the architecture of the barn to where the settlers who built the barn were originally from.

“Marie O’neill is amazing. She not only knows about the architecture of the barns but the history of the people…We thought we knew a lot about our land we live on and the barn that’s on it, but she is so knowledgeable. She told us things we couldn’t of taken a guess at,” said Jane Quinn who is part of the board of development committee for the Pioneer Museum.

Quinn helped organize last years’ Barn tour, which turned out to be a huge success with 60 people of all age groups participating. She is also a large part in the organization of this year’s event.

“We had no idea how successful it would be…but it turned out to be a big success,” said Quinn. “We are hoping to have more people participating this year.”

School buses will transport participants from barn to barn in order to cut down the impact on the farms from too many vehicles. This also allows participants to not only share the experience of what went on inside the barns, but also the view of the landscape that shaped the livelihood of Montana’s farmers.

“We had a lot of fun on the bus, too,” stated Quinn. “It’s part of the experience.”

But wait! Before you hop the bus to tour the barns, a new edition to the event has been organized. A Barn dance the night before the Barn tour will kick off the event this year. It will host three different sessions and be held at the “Big yellow barn” on Springhill Road. The three sessions include a family dance session from 6:30 to 7 p.m., an introduction to dancing from 7 to 7:30, and then the evening dance session that starts at 7:30 to finish the night off.

“There will be a high school band for the family part and then the Unusual Suspects playing Bluegrass, Old time, and Americana for the evening session. It should be a lot of fun”, said Quinn.

The cost for the family session is $15 per family, while the introductory and evening session costs $10 for adults and $5 for students.

The Barn tour costs $45 per person and while the Barn dance is open to everyone, the Barn tour is reservation only. Everyone will meet at the Pioneer Museum to catch the bus. The event will be over at 4 p.m. All age groups are welcome.

For tickets, call the Pioneer Museum at 406-548-8122 or stop by the museum at 317 West Main Street.

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MSU Gold Rush t-shirt design contest

Bobcat football fans have the opportunity to design Montana State University’s 2014 Gold Rush t-shirt.
All designs must feature the current MSU Bobcats logo and the phrase “Gold Rush 2014.”  The logo will be screen-printed on a gold shirt, and may include up to four colors. The winning design will be chosen from entries submitted by 5 p.m. May 12. to MSU Associate Athletic Director Scott Jurgens at
The winning entry will be announced on the MSU Bobcats official Facebook page on May 19, with the design unveiled on July 14 when shirts become available at select retail outlets and on-line. The winner receives a $250 cash prize.
MSU’s 2014 Gold Rush game is slated for Saturday, Sept. 6, when the Cats host Black Hills State. The Gold Rush game, now in its eighth season, has become one of the traditions most treasured by Montana State fans.
For more information e-mail Jurgens, or visit

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Help MSU Lacrosse club get to the MCLA National Tournament in Irvine, CA

The Lacrosse club at Montana State University is a MCLA Division II team within the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference (RMLC). This past weekend, the team won the 2014 RMLC Playoff Championship in Colorado and will continue their season at the MCLA National Tournament in Irvine, CA.

Only 32 teams in the United States make it to Nationals and this is the farthest the Cats have gone in program history. The Bobcats are very competitive and an integral part in the tournament, however they cannot afford to travel all the way to California and pay for accommodations as well.

Being a club team, the Cats do not get any help from the University itself. Please consider a contribution towards the team’s travel and lodging for the MCLA National Tournament - anything will help MSU Lacrosse get to California.

The tournament is next week so please go to as soon as possible to donate. Thank you so much!

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Bozeman Backpacker’s Hostel Now Open

Some people call it summer, but not us Montanans. That impossibly short season sandwiched between mud and skiing is best known here as visitor season. And, it’s right around the corner. The bravest out-of-town guests will start arriving in May under the misguided assumption that, since it is spring everywhere else, it will surely be spring here. Instead, they’ll find that the rivers are blown-out, the hiking is unbelievably muddy, and even the backcountry skiing is slushy.

By June, conditions improve and the less hearty visitors begin to arrive in droves. Keeping them entertained during the day is a cinch. Endless hiking trails, hundreds of river miles, awesome restaurants, and interesting museums often make visitors consider staying here forever. But, finding enough beds for everyone to sleep in can be a little more challenging. Bozeman’s hotels and lodges get expensive, especially for those who want to stay a while. 

Thanks to Bill Butler, there is a new, lower cost option for those out-of-town visitors that you just don’t have room for (like your sister’s boyfriend’s cousin’s friend). The Bozeman Backpacker’s Hostel recently opened in downtown Bozeman. The rooms are simple and sparsely furnished, but cost only $28 per night; a week’s stay costs just $210. The hostel’s 16 rooms do not have private bathrooms; those are shared along with a library, patio, kitchenette, and living room with a TV. Visitors must bring their own sleeping bags, or be willing to rent blankets and sheets. The entire place is underground, but skylights in shared spaces create an open feel.

And, you can’t beat the location. The front entrance opens onto Main Street, just west of Black Avenue at 27 E. Main. There has been a lot of talk about the need for a hotel in downtown Bozeman, and the city has been asking for upscale hotel proposals for years. The most recent prospect, the conversion of the old armory building on W. Mendenhall, is still in the planning phases. The hostel may not be the luxury accommodations anticipated by some, but it fills a need for affordable lodging in the heart of the city and offers travelers a unique experience.

The Bozeman Backpacker’s Hostel will run just like most European hostels in that the minimalist accommodations encourage guests to gather together in the common rooms. Part of the allure of staying in a hostel is the opportunity to meet someone from the other side of the world. Hostels tend to attract younger, adventurous travelers and can be perfect for those long-lost acquaintances that start appearing on the doorstep during the summer months.

We are lucky to live so close to Yellowstone National Park and so much mountainous beauty, but there is no denying that all this natural splendor attracts a lot of visitors that are just passing through and need a roof for a night. I used to love these pop-in visits, before my spare rooms were filled with kids. Now, it’s a scramble to find space for visitors, but the hostel should help. The only other inexpensive options, campsites and Forest Service cabins, tend to be booked well in advance and hard to find at the last minute.

The previous Bozeman Backpacker’s Hostel on Olive Street closed permanently, leaving the area’s happy wanderers with no place to rest their heads. The new hostel will surely provide a welcome roof for many of the summer’s backpackers. Some of the rooms are private, while others are shared. Sharing a room with a stranger can be a unique and enlightening experience. Sure, they may snore or keep odd hours, but chances are, they have an interesting story to tell.

Stories are infectious in hostels and most guests have a few more to tell once they leave. You might meet someone who has been biking across the country or someone who has been traveling overseas. Hostel stays are a unique experience and one that is difficult to find in the state of Montana. Other than a few youth hostel rooms in West Yellowstone’s Madison Hotel and Gift Shop, the new Bozeman Backpacker’s Hostel is the only hostel in the southern part of the state and anywhere near Yellowstone National Park.

Most of Montana’s other hostels are concentrated near Glacier National Park; one other is located in Fort Benton and one is on the plains of Ingomar, a small, eastern Montana town with a resident population of nine people.

Once your guests have exhausted their stay in Bozeman, send them to Montana’s most serene hostel, the Granite Park Chalet in Glacier National Park. Now a National Historic Landmark, the chalet was built in 1914 by the Great Northern Railroad. It now has beds for hikers, a full kitchen, and a dining room with stunning mountain views. Perhaps its best feature is its inaccessibility. It is a moderate, seven-mile hike from the park’s Logan Pass. Boisterous bar crowds and rumbling vehicles will seem a distant memory.

Granite Park Chalet visitors need to pack in their own food and bedding, but can use the kitchen facilities to make meals. There is a linens service for those who don’t want to pack in bedding and packaged meals are available for purchase during the summer.

Between the Bozeman Backpacker’s Hostel and the Granite Park Chalet, Montana visitors will see all that the state has to offer. The hostel in Bozeman gives guest access to western city life with its proximity to fine restaurants and museums, while the hostel in Glacier gives guests a taste of Montana’s tranquil wilderness.
For reservations at the Bozeman Backpacker’s Hostel, call 406-580-3330. For reservations at the Granite Park Chalet, call 888-345-2649.

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Sunday, May. 4th, 2014

Hutterites: Nine Who Left

Over 400 colonies of approximately 45,000 Hutterites live in Western Canada, Montana, the Dakotas and other various places. Many look at the Hutterites with awe and fascination. Their traditions, old-fashioned ways, communal lifestyle and Hutterish accent set them apart from the rest of us, but little is known about them.

Some may inaccurately depict them on tv shows and in paperback romances. Many will say one thing, yet others will say something different. Really, few know.

Nine ex-hutterites try to describe how life really was for them in their book Hutterites: Our Story to Freedom ( available online or in bookstores).

Each tell his or her story through their own eyes. They relate their struggles and victories, and their ultimate discovery - Jesus Christ.

Most of The Nine are related by blood or marriage. All left because of their faith, and some were excommunicated and forced to leave their homes in Manitoba and North Dakota. Most of the Nine live in the States now.

Though life does vary from colony to colony, they expose the basics of a Hutterite life. Some may think their story is too harsh and unjust, or overly dramatized, but those that are familiar with the Anabaptists will see just how real their stories are.

The Nine share how they each were able to find a fulfilling life, and use the gifts and talents they were given to please God, others, and still be joyful and satisfied. They take pleasure in being creative with their time and dress, and consider the little things we take for granted miracles, such as swimming, horseback riding, driving or shopping.

As they explain in their book, the jobs that each one is assigned for life in the Hutterite colonies depends on their status or relationships with those in charge. Jason Waldner, one of the nine, had always been interested in construction and graphic-design. He was not consulted or asked what he wanted to do with his life, but assigned to work in the chicken barns. Not that this job in and of itself was bad, but it was not something that fit his personality or interests.

But, as they will say, these weren’t the only reasons they left. Far from it. They said “Many youth leave to work and make money, and find freedom, and soon return.Without Jesus, you won’t have a successful life anywhere.”

The book tells how the Hutterites aren’t what they started out to be. In the 16th century, Jacob Hutter, their founder, travelled and preached, and was burned to death for doing so. Nowadays, the Hutterites do not try to share the gospel, and most consider themselves holyier than the “English” world. Also, the early founders were against drunkenness, and this now is very common among the Hutterites.

Their book is a heartfelt plea that should be heard and appreciated. They want others - Hutterites and non-Hutterites - to know that there is always another way. Sometimes it may take great sacrifice and perseverance, but in the end it is well worth it.

They hope that you will be encouraged, and maybe even be inspired to help others.

When asked if many leave the Hutterites; “Yes, especially in the last decade” said Sheryl, Karen and Cindy Waldner, three of the nine. “Two families left just this last couple of weeks.”

There will be some that will be bothered by the Nine’s decision to press a lawsuit against one of the colonies. They said “We did everything we could biblically. We tried to talk to them, but they would not listen. And already they had made it very clear that they did not want to be our brethren. We felt that we could make them hear us in the courtroom.”

According to the Bible, it is wrong for one Christian to sue another Christian. We should be more willing to be hurt ourselves rather than to hurt another. That is where much trouble comes. Who is or is not a Christian? A brother or sister in Christ?

If we remember the parable of the Good Samaritan, we should treat all good..not just those that are similar to us, or even just those that like us.

Also in the story of Cain and Abel, Abel never did anything back to Cain. It was Cain who killed his brother and said “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Something evil never makes up for many good deeds. And, yes, maybe the Hutterite life is not fair, but if one chooses it, it is their life, and they should be allowed to live how they see best for themselves and their family.

Despite their mistakes, you can see that The Nine are trying to serve their Lord with all their might. Besides reaching out to those here, they have traveled to Liberia to help the people there. They are active in their ministry and church. Their utmost goal is to bring peace and freedom to everyone.

The Nine also stress the importance of forgiveness. They say that they hold nothing against their Hutterite friends. In fact they say that they did learn many good things from the Hutterites, such as working hard and cooking well.

“No, it was God’s plan for us to be born there” they answered when asked if they felt their time with the Hutterites was wasted. “Even though we may not understand His reasons, it was God’s specific plan for us.”

To get the other side, I called a Hutterite relative in Manitoba. When asked what his opinion was on how the Nine live their lives and why they left, he answered “I have no association with them. They left and made their decision. You would have to ask them why they left.”

They are currently working on their second book Since We Told The Truth which will be available in bookstores and online July 1.

The Nine are having a book signing in Bozeman at Barnes & Noble on Saturday, May 10, 2pm-4pm. If you have any questions, or just want to see them, be sure to stop by.

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New Kid on the Block: Townshend's Teahouse

Visiting Bozeman's new teahouse will bring instant calm to anyone walking in. No one is in a hurry in Townshend’s Tea and the relaxing vibe is pervasive. The open and inviting room smells earthy and herbal and there is an assortment of vintage chairs seating hip-looking Bozemanites sipping various brews. This shop is the Bozeman offspring of a popular Portland tea shop. Connection with the Oregon locations give Townshend's access to more teas, better prices, and a house line of kombuchas. Scott and Melissa Herron, the husband and wife team who own and operate the shop, provide a local flavor that makes the teahouse feel right at home in downtown Bozeman. 

Walking up to the counter and scanning the wall filled with many different varieties of bulk teas can be intimidating. So can the 20-page menu filled with numerous categories: black, green, white, oolong, rooibos, chai, máte, herbal & apothecary, kombucha, and bubble teas. Luckily the warm, helpful staff is there to help you make an informed decision. If you are, say, looking for something simple, like an Earl Grey or English Breakfast, they have it. If you are looking for something a bit more complex, possibly a specific chai blend or an exotic Chinese varietal, the Townshend’s staff is more than happy to help you find what you are looking for.  Scott and Melissa have put in solid work helping their staff understand the lengthy, and possibly daunting, menu. They are also both at the shop during business hours if you have a particularly esoteric question.  

Another way Townshend’s ensures you know what you are ordering is the wall of smell-able samples. Each of the drinks on the menu has a number. The number corresponds to a small glass jar with the tea components in it. I can easily imagine myself coming here in the winter to check out their apothecary teas in an effort to find relief from the inevitable cold.
Scott, Melissa and the staff are more than happy to give you an in-depth understand of what you order. After asking about brewing techniques I was given a detailed description of the specific times and temperatures that the different teas require.  Any time an establishment pays that much attention to the little details, you can be assured that the product you are drinking is top notch.
On my first visit I tried two of the Brew Dr. Kombucha flavors; Lemon Ginger Cayenne and Superberry. The Lemon Ginger Cayenne had excellent bright lemon rind and ginger spice with a hint of red pepper from the cayenne, and none of the searing heat normally associated with the spice. The Superberry tasted strongly of sweet, fresh, dark fruits with a pleasant offsetting acid. Both of the kombucha varieties I tried had an excellent balance of sweet and acid that is commonly lacking in most store bought kombucha. On my second visit I tried two of the chai varieties on offer; Masala and Yerba Máte. Both were head and shoulders over comparable chai offerings from other coffee and tea shops I’ve visited over the years. There are numerous dairy and non dairy milk options for the milk component of the chai, from whole milk to coconut to almond.
The laid-back vibe of the shop makes it a great place for quick business meetings, informal dates, writing the great American novel or, alternately, a convenient spot to break up with your significant other, (“Don’t make a scene!  We’re in a tea shop!”).  It offers a nice alternative to the many coffee shops that populate the area. With the knowledgeable and dedicated owners and staff, excellent selections, and high quality products, Townshend’s Tea, (named after the author of the act that precipitated the Boston Tea Party,) is an excellent addition to the growing downtown strip.

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Gallatin Valley Land Trust Hosts Two June Community Trail Events

National Trails Day: Every year, GVLT participates in a nationwide event called National Trails Day. On June 7th, Bozeman community members will volunteer their time to work on the Main Street to the Mountains Trail system.  This year’s volunteer work projects include new trail construction at Highland Glen Nature Preserve and family-friendly trail resurfacing around Lindley Park. Volunteers will meet at 9:00am at the Lindley Park Pavilion to get tools and trail assignments.

Projects will wrap up around 12:00 and lunch, donated by Baja Fresh, will be served at the pavilion at 12:30pm.  There is no registration necessary for this event and it is free and open to the public.  Volunteers are asked to bring sunscreen, layers for weather, sturdy shoes, hat, and gloves. GVLT will provide some tools, but if possible volunteers are asked to bring shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows.

Many thanks to generous sponsors: Rocky Mountain Credit Union, 360 Pet Medical, Allegra Marketing, Amatics CPA, Baja Fresh, Crowley Fleck Attorneys, McKinstry, Stockman Bank and others.

Longest Day of Trails: Join GVLT supporters for a dawn-to-dusk biking celebration on June 20th.  The event kicks off at Montana Aleworks with guided bike rides throughout the day on various town loops from sunrise (6:00am) to sunset (9:00pm).  Rides vary in ability and length. Spin around the Main Street to the Mountains trails for a few miles, a single loop, or the entire day. $35 GVLT memberships are encouraged for participants.  Members receive gift certificates to a number of other local businesses at the event. From 4pm-10pm, riders and onlookers will enjoy music from Jawbone Railroad and outside dining at Aleworks.

For more information on either of these upcoming GVLT events, please contact EJ Porth at or 406-587-8404 ext. 8.

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Bozeman Pond Property Turned Over to City of Bozeman

Bozeman just officially gained its first new park using the Trails, Open Space and Parks bond funding. In December 2013, the Bozeman City Commission unanimously approved using approximately $600,000 funds from the Trails, Open Space and Parks Bond to purchase nine acres of land just north of Bozeman Pond Park. Yesterday the Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) sold the land to the City of Bozeman.

Recognizing the land as critical open space in an underserved and quickly growing part of town, the Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) purchased the land in December using financing from The Conservation Fund and privately raised funds. GVLT filled a unique role in this transaction by stepping up to swiftly purchase the land, which had other offers from residential developers, and aligned partner nonprofits to help create even greater public benefit. HAVEN has purchased 3 acres of the 12 acre parcel as a site for a future new shelter for domestic violence victims. Run Dog Run has agreed to create a fenced, off leash dog park on another portion of the park.

What’s next? The City of Bozeman has taken over ownership of the property as a city park. GVLT will remain an integral part of the next stages of the design and planning process and has long held a vision for trail and park connections in the area of Bozeman Ponds to provide recreation, transportation, and safe non-motorized routes to schools and other community services.

The City of Bozeman’s Park and Recreation Advisory Board has begun coordinating the master planning process. A public survey will be released in May and two public meetings will be held at City Hall on May 20 and May 27. The community is encouraged to participate and provide input about the development of the new parkland. An additional $400,000 of Trails, Open Space, and Park Bond funds have been allocated to improve the parkland for public use. GVLT, Run Dog Run, and other partners have matched a total of $130,000 privately funded dollars to create additional improvements in the park.

Current proposals for the park include a natural area, paved and natural surface trails, stream enhancements, picnic facilities, and a natural playground. It will also include a paved parking area and restroom facilities. Additional acreage will be dedicated to a fenced off-leash dog park. Trails will connect the current park with the newly acquired park land totaling a combined 24 acres, to create one of the largest city parks in Bozeman.

The public is invited and encouraged to participate in the master planning process. Kelly Pohl, Associate Director of GVLT, says “we’re excited that this project is moving forward so quickly. We anticipate that this park will be the first TOP funded projects that the public can use and enjoy.”

For questions or comments, please call Penelope Pierce at 406-587-8404 ext. 5 or

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Big Sky Resort Golf Course opens for public play Friday, May 23, 2014

Big Sky Resort Golf Course opens for public play Friday, May 23, 2014, along with the Bunker Bar and Grill. The 18-hole Arnold Palmer designed resort course is the closest Montana golf course to Yellowstone National Park’s West Entrance. Big Sky Resort Golf Course hosts seven tournaments, women’s and men’s clinics and offers online tee time booking.

“The course crew has done a fabulous job bringing the golf course out of its winter slumber,” says Mark Wehrman, PGA Head Golf Professional at Big Sky Resort Golf Course. “The greenside bunkers have all been upgraded with lighter quality sand and the fairway bunkers will be completed this year.”

Course tournaments will increase this summer with the new Two Player Spring Draw Tournament on Saturday, June 7, 2014 which is a 27-hole tournament with the first 18 holes as a Two Player Better Ball and the last nine holes as a blind draw partner scramble. The season long Match Play tournament signups begin opening day for a 32 player field and each player is guaranteed two matches.

Wehrman coaches 13 weeks of golf clinics with the Saturday clinic open to all at 12:00pm, Ladies’ clinic each Tuesday at 10am or 5:30pm and Men’s clinic each Wednesday at 5:30pm. Drop-ins welcome and discounts are available when purchasing the 13 week clinic series. Wehrman also provides quick golf tips via YouTube at Big Sky Resort Golf with new tips being added throughout the summer.

“I believe in building upon the natural swing and ability of the golfers who take my clinics,” said Wehrman. “I don’t overload my student with too much information. Swing and shot diagnosis will be made through ball flight tendencies, divot examination and a strong focus on the fundamentals. I explain what they need to do, to improve, and how to execute it. It’s about the long-term enjoyment of the game through short-term results and success.”

Big Sky Resort Golf Course received the 2012 GRAA Top 50 Range in the Public Category award and Wehrman received the PGA Horton Smith Award recognizing PGA Professionals who are model educators of their fellow PGA Professionals. The golf course is 6,600 feet above sea level offering longer drives, spectacular views of Lone Peak, and winds along the banks of the West Fork of the scenic Gallatin River.
Contact the Pro Shop at 406-995-5780 or visit for more information. Tee times can be made online at

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