One of the highest honors awarded to any member of our Braemar Golf Community is the Distinguished Service Award. And this year there have been not one, but two, recipients of this award: Mary Wooldridge and Rick Ites. This is a rare honor– and even more rare to be awarded twice in one year. Over several decades, each of this year’s honorees has made significant and lasting contributions to Braemar golf.
Braemar has maintained a long tradition of granting special recognition to those individuals who have made particularly noteworthy contributions to Braemar golf. Recipients of this award are commemorated on a plaque located in the lower level of the clubhouse near the Cooper Room. These awards are made through the Braemar Golf Association (the “BGA”), a longstanding support association organized to assist and promote golf at Braemar. Most recently, Pacey Erck was recognized in 2013for her service, but since then there have been no Distinguished Service award recipients until this year.
Mary Wooldridge has been part of Braemar golf since she was a teenager. Her first job was serving up drinks and hot dogs at the turn, back when a snack shack called “The Pit” was sited between nines. At 16 years old, Mary wouldn’t have imagined that, all these years later, she’d be serving as Braemar’s Assistant General Manager.
Over the years, Mary has done just about every job there is at Braemar, short of being a golf pro– even including a brief stint mowing greens. She’s flipped burgers, worked the cash registers, and eventually took on full-time positions ranging from selling merchandize in the golf shop to her current position as Assistant General Manager. Mary served on the steering committee that selected the new General Manager in 2014, and now seems to be just about everywhere when something needs to be done at Braemar. She handles outside events, continues to assist with handling merchandize orders and inventory in the clubhouse, does marketing and works regularly with the website. Mary is the primary contact person for the many leagues at Braemar, helping, among other things, with the transition of several leagues to Golf Genius, the fast-growing scoring and payment technology now used by the MPGA and numerous golf courses around the country, both public and private. And Mary has not just taken on the challenges of learning this new technology– she has embraced it with enthusiasm and helped Braemar golfers to benefit from its many advantages. Numerous league managers have credited Mary with helping them adapt to this powerful technology and reap the benefits of real-time scoring and league and tournament organization.
An accomplished golfer herself, Mary learned the game from her grandfather and played on the Edina High School team all four years. She even met her husband on the golf course. Mary grew up and still lives in Edina, has two sons who are avid golfers and continues to find her work challenging and fun.
In the words of Braemar General Manager, Joe Abood, Mary is on her game every day. For all of us who are part of Braemar golf, let’s hope Mary will continue her work at Braemar for many years to come.
If there’s such a thing as a fixture at Braemar, then it would have to be Rick Ites. Rick has been part of Braemar golf for several decades, having been a member of the Men’s Club since 1996, and having served as Men’s Club President in 1999, 2010, 2013 and 2014. In 2015, the Men’s Club honored Rick by naming him a Distinguished Member, a distinction awarded to only seven others over the years. In 2010 Rick joined the Board of the BGA and remained on the Board and served as President from that time through 2021.
When the City of Edina decided in 2013 to undertake the renovation of the golf courses and practice facilities, Rick was named Chair of the Renovation Task Force. For his work in connection with the renovation Rick received the Mayor’s Individual Service Award in 2018. Rick has served as Chair of the Edina Park Board, a municipal enterprise of the City of Edina, since 2020.
Rick is an avid golfer, plays Braemar several times a week and can be seen most days on the practice green. Any chance you get, say hi to Rick—and don’t hesitate to ask him about Braemar and its history as one of the country’s foremost public golf courses. There is no better fount of Braemar knowledge than Rick.