PRIOR LAKE, Minn. — Drives, irons, chips and putts for 18 holes were joined by fellowship and fundraising at the Minnesota Vikings Foundation's Golf Tournament presented by Molson Coors.
The Meadows at Mystic Lake hosted the May 31 event for the seventh consecutive year, and it raised more than $250,000 for the Minnesota Vikings Foundation's efforts to fight food insecurity and boost educational opportunities.
More than 30 Vikings Legends attended, turning foursomes into fivesomes for the rounds of golf. Some of the Legends — ahem, John Randle — would fall into the ringer category; others — thinking of you, Ed McDaniel — delivered some riotous humor for their teams, but all were pleased because they know what will be accomplished in the community.
View photos from the 2023 Minnesota Vikings golf tournament hosted at The Meadows at Mystic Lake
SCHEELS, Viking Lakes, Little Six Casino, Mystic Lake Casino Hotel and Molson Coors offered fun activities for golfers to play for chances to win prizes between holes).
Greg Coleman joined Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Chairman Keith Anderson on a team that finished second. The former punter enjoyed seeing teammates including Scott Studwell, Joey Browner and Carl Lee who are part of a "special fraternity."
He's enjoyed seeing the Minnesota Vikings Foundation sprout from community-minded efforts of the former Vikings Children's Fund that began in the late 1970s.
"When I came as a young lad, [Mick] Tingelhoff, [Jim] Marshall, [Carl] Eller, [Fran] Tarkenton, that whole crew kind of guided us in the right direction. They talked about community, they talked about staying together," Coleman said. "What the organization does to bring us back periodically to be a part of history, they call us Legends, but we're just trying to continue the legacy of the Minnesota Vikings."
Steve Hutchinson was highly involved in community efforts during his time with the team. He enjoyed returning again this year and seeing Jamarca Sanford for the first time "in forever."
"This is great for multiple reasons," Hutchinson said. "You get to come back and support the Vikings Foundation and all the charity work they do in the community, you get to catch up with guys I haven't seen in years, and you get to reminisce and check out how the families are doing. With social media, you get to do it to a degree, but there's nothing like sitting around for a couple of nights and catching up in person."
Hutchinson credited the Wilf family ownership group of the Vikings for enhancing the team's culture of giving back.
"I think it starts at the top. I think the Wilfs couldn't be anymore genuine, good-hearted people who want to leave an impression and a legacy in this community," Hutchinson said. "Obviously they're not from the state of Minnesota, but they've really made this place their second home, and I think that trickles down. I had done charity events when I was in town at the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital, and I think that legacy was passed down to some of the linemen and some of the guys. The more guys get involved and really take ownership of that, it kind of goes hand-in-hand and is synonymous with the Vikings organization and their impact in the community."
Sidney Rice returned to Minnesota for the first time since 2015.
"It's absolutely amazing. It's always great to see old faces, familiar faces around; a lot of people that were in the organization when I was playing here are still here, and that's great to see," Rice said. "I'm super excited for what's being done not only on the field but off the field. I think the Wilf family is doing an amazing job with the projects they're doing, building up the team even more, and just being here to support a great charity event is always good.
"It's always good to be able to have somebody that has a little stature in the community get involved in something like this because it brings more attention and awareness to what's actually being done," Rice added. "I'm blessed to be here."
The day capped with an awards ceremony, as well as a chat with Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell and General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah led by Vikings Entertainment Network's Gabe Henderson.
O'Connell and Adofo-Mensah were unable to get away from the office last year, but they made it a point to attend this year after the fifth Organized Team Activity practice of the offseason. They revisited a few highlights from helping Minnesota win the NFC North 2022, including the historic comeback against the Colts to secure the division title, and described what they are looking forward to this season.
"I remember the feeling of being in that locker room down 33-nothing," O'Connell said. "It was really a first for our team at that moment. We had the chance to win the division at home, and just feeling like that was one of those really weighty moments, where all the stuff you talk about is just 'coach speak' if the players don't believe it. If they can't activate through adversity, it's just like all of us in life, you find out who you are when adversity hits, which it will for all of us.
"The way that locker room came together, the way Patrick Peterson screaming across the locker room, 'Hey fellas, it's just five touchdowns. You guys have done that before.' What he wasn't saying is, 'We can only let them score three more points when they just hung 33 on us,' " O'Connell said. "It didn't go perfectly in the second half. We turned the ball over in the fourth quarter, but we just kept grinding it out and making the plays, overcoming the officials, overcoming whatever adversity hit. They demonstrated why they were NFC North Champions in that game."
Adofo-Mensah said he was recently working through a few things and stopped to ask O'Connell what he was thinking when the team was down 33-nothing.
"He broke it down, 'Hey Kwesi, these are the three things I was thinking,' so I actually have those three things on my board [in my office]. They are things to keep in mind in life," Adofo-Mensah said. "I remember watching him stalk the sideline and saying to my guys, 'We might win this in regulation.' It wasn't because I knew anything.
"It was 33-7 at the time I said it. I just knew he wasn't going to go down, and I knew the group of people weren't going to go down," Adofo-Mensah added. "It was a really connecting moment. We won the division, our road scouts who are never in town were in town, just a lot of things combined to make a special memory."
As for the upcoming season, O'Connell said he's excited about players who have been brought in through free agency and the draft, as well as players ready to take the next step. He did acknowledge the fact the Vikings will be replacing some key leaders.
"I'm excited about the fact that we've got some young players who have really established themselves in the league and are ready to take the next step as leaders, continue to do what they've done on the field but help their teammates along," O'Connell said. "I'm excited about where Kirk [Cousins] is at in his career. His ownership of our offense and his comfort in being the leader of our team is shining through, and then some really good young talent on defense to put a stamp on what [new Defensive Coordinator] Brian Flores wants to do.
"There's just a lot to be excited about. That doesn't mean anything when it comes to the work we have in front of us," O'Connell added. "It's all going to be earned for that Game 1 back at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers."