Jill and Todd Beyer, owners of Wildwedge Golf Course in Pequot Lakes/Jenkins, are fast approaching their anniversary of 25 years of marriage. They’ve been partners in business almost as long.
Jill was raised in Pequot Lakes. The granddaughter of the founders of Arvig telephone company (now TDS), you could say she has business ownership in her blood.
Todd was born in Milbank, S.D., but moved around a lot as a child.
Jill and Todd met after Todd moved to the Pequot Lakes area and attended Pequot Lakes School starting in seventh grade. It was then that they went on their first date. They had no way of knowing they would eventually end up married.
“Jill and I had a movie date at the Pine River movie theater in seventh grade,” Todd said. “Some people marry their high school sweetheart. We married our middle school sweethearts.”
“It took us a while to get around to it,” Jill said.
Once married, business ownership and traveling continued to be a passion to the couple. They lived in Colorado for eight years and owned multiple businesses during that time, including a gift shop, an art gallery and a home construction business.
“When our oldest boy (Drake) was about ready to start kindergarten we decided we wanted to move back home,” Todd said.
Business ownership soon followed. Jill and Todd built the AmericInn Lodge and Suites at the intersection of Highway 371 and County Road 16, where they thought the convergence of traffic would attract decent business. They weren’t long satisfied with one business venture, but set out to create a business that would compliment their hotel.
“We built the golf course and the mini golf as an amenity for the motel, and had no idea about the golf course industry, and never worked at a golf course. In fact, when we lived in Colorado for eight years we never even owned a lawn mower because we were so far up in the mountains,” Todd said. “I thought erroneously, ‘How hard could it be to grow grass for a golf course?’ Needless to say, growing grass for a green is very different than growing grass for a fairway or for your yard.”
The couple had a lot to learn about running a golf course, but they did it with the help of local superintendents, golf pros and plenty of books. They even received valuable information from competing golf courses.
“The golf course industry is very unique where people that are in the industry help each other out. They’re not afraid to give advice, especially to a newcomer like me,” Todd said.
In 2006, they sold the AmericInn but maintained ownership of Wildwedge. Today the golf course has a full-size golf course, a mini golf course and even a maze. The course hosts the middle level Pequot Lakes girls’ golf team and has had the patronage of some big name individuals, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Perhaps its biggest claim to fame is that it was named one of the best mini golf courses in Minnesota by CBS Minnesota in 2012.
The Beyers run the business together, but that’s still not enough for the couple. Todd has been working for years to open an RV Park next to the golf course, and this year that dream will become a reality. Jill has her own line of golf bags called Birdie Babe Designer Golf Bags for Women.
“I started it more than two years ago. I got the bags about a year and a half ago,” she said. “I was just looking for cute golf bags for women and didn’t find anything out there.”
They still find time to travel. When they travel, they often go house boating on Lake Powell, Utah, the Florida Keys or in Mexico, though they usually travel to Canada once a year.
“I just enjoy house boating and the relaxation that goes with just being alone,” Todd said.
They don’t find much time to golf, and Todd considers himself the worst golfer to own a golf course, though Jill does have the distinction of a hole in one at Deacon’s Lodge.
July 2 marks their 25-year wedding anniversary. Most years Jill and Todd travel to Jill’s parents’ island cabin in Canada to celebrate their anniversary, though they wait until after the July 4 holiday rush.
“We’ve been working together basically the whole time,” Todd said.