PIERSON, Iowa | Karl Bahrke peered through a small weather window on Wednesday morning. And blasted away with his 7-iron.
Bahrke, a retired teacher who resides in Alton, Iowa, beat the winter storm by driving 40 miles south to play 9 holes of golf at the site of his 80-month links streak, the Pierson Golf Association's 9-hole golf course in Pierson, where Bahrke was raised.
The course, which features rare sand greens and, thus, a wintertime player in Barhke (you can't hurt sand greens this time of year) has been a recreational institution in this Woodbury County community since 1953 when veterinarian Dr. J.P. Woodbridge donated land at the city's southeast corner for a golf course. The land donation was matched with a parcel the city had used for years as a dump.
Bahrke, 61, remembered paying an annual $5 membership fee as a lad and teeing it up here throughout the summers of the 1960s and 1970s. Back in those days, he'd often play golf or baseball throughout the summer with pals such as Lloyd Jenness, Greg Mahnke, Paul Johns, Kevin Law, Bob Spooner, Tom Spooner and others.
"Growing up in Pierson, you could play baseball, play golf and go swimming," he said. "Those were our choices."
His baseball days long gone, Bahrke still enjoys golf, though not on a daily basis during warm weather. He's a bogey golfer whose local claim to fame involves playing at least once per month, no matter what time of year. He's done so since June 2011. That's 80 straight months with at least one round of golf at the Pierson Golf Association, or "PGA" as locals call it.
Bahrke teed off No. 1 at 9 a.m. Wednesday. He shot a 48. He went back out and replayed No. 9 at 10 a.m. when I showed up for the interview.
"I heard Bob Jensen (a retired school principal from Moville, Iowa) once say that he'd played golf (locally) 12 months in a row," Bahrke said. "I thought that was neat and figured I could do it, too."
The winters of 2011-12 and 2012-13 were mild, allowing Bahrke to get at least one round recorded at Pierson in November, December, January and February, the months you might not think one would tee it up around here.
"The coldest I played in was a 15-degree day," he said, detailing how that particular round, completed at the end of a month, helped keep the streak going. "I lucked out because the sun was shining and it wasn't windy. I wore mittens that day, because it was so cold."
Bahrke often wears gloves, a stocking cap, a sweatshirt, coat and boots to keep his feet dry. He carries a hybrid club and a 7-iron, both of which are shelved once the weather warms. He bought the 7-iron for $3 in Wisconsin. "They're good clubs to use in the winter," he said.
He also uses yellow or orange balls to avoid the pitfalls of losing a golf ball in the snow.
"I try to take a picture each time I'm here to record my visit," said Bahrke, who enjoyed a 36-year teaching and coaching career with stops at Iowa schools in Cherokee (1 year), Lakota (2 years) and at Woodbury Central (33 years). He retired from Woodbury Central in 2015 and has spent the school years since serving as a substitute teacher. Bahrke also coaches the sprinters at his alma mater, Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, where son, Scott Bahrke serves as head track and cross country coach.
This avid winter golfer was asked at 6:12 a.m. Wednesday by Principal Rob Wiese if he could serve as a substitute teacher that day at Kingsley-Pierson, his high school alma mater. Bahrke returned the text, apologizing while telling Wiese he couldn't due to "an appointment."
An appointment, I asked?
"Yes, I had an appointment here at the golf course with you," Bahrke said with a smile.
The retiree lost out on a chance to earn $100 while educating young people at Kingsley-Pierson on Wednesday. And that's OK, as there will be dozens, if not hundreds, of other chances Karl Bahrke will get to teach.
What did he gain? The chance to play a round of golf on Jan. 10 at his home course, the "PGA" in Pierson; and the opportunity to beat a winter storm while extending one of Northwest Iowa's unique athletic streaks.